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Your brand is your culture in action

These days, everyone is talking brand, and everyone seems to have a different definition of what a brand is. What it all comes down to, however, is that brand is the very heart of your organization — what it stands for, where it’s going, its very reason for being. Your organization’s brand is not only experienced through communications like the website, social media, marketing materials, and advertising. It also comes through in much more important and direct ways — the day-to-day interactions customers and others have with your organization’s people.

This is particularly true of professional services firms, where the “product” is people, and expertise, and knowledge, and service. This aspect of brand — your “living brand” — is a function of culture and actions. And leading services brands know this aspect is far more essential to building and maintaining a leadership brand than websites, advertisements, and marketing communications.

Leadership brands like Four Seasons, Virgin, and McKinsey have clearly defined what they stand for and how they are different, and they communicate that brand promise effectively. But even more important, they deliver on their brand promise through consistent actions and behaviors. This helps them attract and retain talent, develop and maintain long-lasting customer/client relationships, and harness new ideas and innovate more rapidly than others.

It’s easy to say that these organizations really just are great places to work or that they simply deliver superior customer service, but it’s more than that. The key to building a category brand leader is to understand what truly makes your organization distinctive from the competition and relevant to key stakeholders, and then ensuring that your people deliver on that promise through their actions every single day.

Building this kind of brand-focused culture isn’t an overnight proposition. Once you have a clearly articulated, authentic brand strategy, you need an engagement program that helps your people understand the strategy and their role in bringing it to life. Workshops and other collaborative sessions can lead to creative and effective brand initiatives that go a long way to developing a distinctive, service-oriented culture around your brand — an integral part of building a category killer in the world of professional services.