In PR, perception is everything. Your brand is the sum of every interaction, conversation, praise and criticism customers have with or of your company. In the startup years, your customers are everything, usually because you have so few of them. Gaining a reputation as a customer-centric or mission-focused or value-driven organization is often a worthy perception of a brand.
During periods of high growth, however, a company may scale so rapidly that it loses a piece of itself that influenced the perception customers had. This is when dreams turn to nightmares, and is usually caused by a lack of coherent, clear messaging and resilient goals and values that can endure an influx of new employees, a change in management or organization-wide failures.
Everything that happens after: the slogan, alterations to brand colors or fonts, language used in press releases, in ads, in social channels and similar methods of communication all hinge on a company’s ability to communicate its message internally first.
Maintaining a consistent brand identity as you scale is as crucial to success as a thriving sales team, and begins with three core ideas:
Align every employee—especially those at the top—on brand messaging and company values. Every employee should be able to provide a brief description of your company and its values, what audiences it serves, the products it provides and other basic ideas and information. The answers can vary slightly, but should all contain the same core elements of who you are, what you do and why you do it. Your employees are your best brand ambassadors. When everyone at your company buys into your way of operating and of achieving a clear set of goals, they’ll begin to display it in customer interactions and in public.
Scale your internal communications. This topic is addressed in a different piece of this content series but is worth noting again here. The methods by which you used to communicate with employees may not necessarily work during times of rapid scaling. Identify the tools and methods you used, ask yourself if they will continue to work after you’ve grown 5x, 10x or 20x. If the answer is no, start looking at new tools and best practices immediately, before it becomes a problem.
Hire for your values. Tech companies in particular face stark talent shortages, so it can be tempting to hire the first candidate who meets your hard skill requirements. This might be a good temporary fix to address your short-term business needs, but hiring people who don’t align with your values at scale can lead to a dilution of your company’s culture, decreased collaboration and productivity and create a more hostile work environment.
When all of these elements are in place internally, you’ve established a foundation for the characteristics and qualities you want the public to notice about your brand. For many, that means a reputation for great customer service, delivering great products or maintaining an authentic brand that remains true to its values and mission even in times of rapid scaling or turbulence.