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The notion that you can manage your brand by simply crafting messages onto print and digital materials and then handing them down from headquarters is becoming more outdated every day. Today, monologues need to be replaced by dialogues; formal market research needs to be paired with attentive listening; participation in social media is now both de rigueur and high-stakes; and constituents who before trusted only close friends to help them make decisions now have a huge, portable social network they can call on for round-the-clock consultation.
What you plan and execute from your conference room can be either reinforced or undermined by what you don’t plan and execute. And anyone can create a brouhaha.
How to cope? More important: How to succeed?
Start by thinking of your brand as a mosaic. You place some of the tiles, then the rest are placed by others. Your job is to place enough tiles to control the context of your mosaic so that the brand picture you’ve outlined (and partially filled in) will influence how those extra, external tiles are seen and understood.
How do you make that happen?
1. Craft an irreducible—and indestructible—core message. Your message must be able to survive today’s social equivalent of the telephone game you played in 6th grade if it’s going to emerge from the Tweeting-blogging gauntlet intact.
2. Evolve an approach to visual brand expression that will hold up across different media. Create a system for your use of color, type, imagery, and design that will connect your many different communication initiatives. You can’t come close to owning your identity—or achieving higher visibility—if how you look in print differs wildly from your visual presence on the Web, or face-to-face impressions at a trade show.
3. Engage in the dialogue. You’re much less likely to get dissed if you’re perceived to be listening, learning, and participating. Sincerely solicit input. (Trust us, you’ll learn a lot.) And remember that transparency is your best form of brand protection: People can’t unearth something that’s in plain sight.
4. Give your constituents the thinking and tools—and encouragement—to participate in your brand and to place tiles in your evolving mosaic. Not only will you tilt conversations in a favorable direction, but you’ll set your feet firmly on the path towards building a community of engaged advocates who will Tweet, blog, and share … all to your brand’s benefit.
President and Chief Executive Officer
Sametz Blackstone Associates
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