Encourage Self-Appointed Ambassadors to Tell Your Story
BY Jamie Walters
Beyond the machinated public-relations plugs and news bites, there's a band of people who can -- and will -- genuinely advocate for your business and its vision if it's meaningful and inspiring. They might be employees, vendors, clients, business colleagues, or individuals that you have mentored -- each of whom deeply connect with and are inspired by your vision.
Why wouldn't these advocates tell your story?
If there is an obstacle that hinders these ambassadors from spreading the vision far and wide, it's that they don't feel able, empowered or equipped to do so.
Take for instance the employee who is sincerely inspired by concepts that mirror your company's vision. However, she's not aware of the vision, so fulfills her interests through a volunteering effort and considers her role at work "only a job." Her motivation isn't as high as it could be, and your company isn't tapping one of its richest resources.
Consider the manager who believes that the strategic, visionary work is performed by the executive team. He doesn't discuss the company vision at staff meetings unless he's received a memo telling him to do so. Yet another missed opportunity to build personal investment in and connection with the vision. And, as we know, this connection is what stimulates ideas, boosts morale, clarifies individuals' purpose, and builds a stronger sense of community.
Imagine the leader who is frustrated by marginal performance from a high-potential employee or group -- individuals whose potential shine is diminished by a lack of personal responsibility and motivation for their own vision for what they do and how they do it. Lacking this internal motivation, they're unable to see the opportunity for potential growth and meaning afforded by their current work.
Or consider the customer or internal client who experiences something very different in her interactions with you or your group than what is conveyed in your vision statement or daily language.
Regardless of the connection that the person has with your business, there are stepping stones that you can lay to help these ambassadors to tell your story, and thus, build your vision:
Ensure your vision is clear: A common tendency is to whittle down a vision to a neat single-sentence statement. Unfortunately, this act strips the vision of its heart and leaves behind a somewhat sterile, meaningless comment. First and foremost, ensure that your vision statement is easily understood. Use as many words as it takes. If it requires pictures, add them. If sound will help explain the vision, use it. Don't hold back on the medium -- get your point across clearly. Of course, the most inspiring "tool" of all is to ensure an excellent experience with your group's products and services on a regular -- thus consistent -- basis.
Provide the necessary tools: Talking points, visual aids, anecdotes and symbolic trinkets are but a few of the tools that your ambassadors can use with ease in order to accurately and enthusiastically share your story with others. Just as you wouldn't send a salesperson out in the field without keen knowledge of your product, don't expect ambassadors to share your vision accurately without the right information.
Bust down the walls created by job titles: The Marketing and Communication departments are absolutely not the only groups who can or should communicate your vision. That's like saying that the Information Technology group is the only one to use technology! Communicate to all departments and divisions that each employee is a representative of the company and is encouraged to discuss and share the vision with others.
Ask them to share it: Make it known to the like-minded people whom you consider part of your "circle of understanding and vision" that you welcome and are grateful for their support. Collect feedback; share the positive input with group members, advocates, and customers, and use criticism to further refine your skills, service, and delivery to earn more positive feedback. If others show interest in further advocating for the business, ask them to!
Recognize those who do: Whether acting as an individual, leader, manager, or employee, be certain to acknowledge the kind words, aligned actions and meaningful efforts of your ambassadors and advocates. A simple note, a conversation over lunch or recognition in the company publication can go a long way towards maintaining a strong relationship and nourishing similar behavior.
Jamie Walters is the founder and Chief Vision & Strategy Officer at Ivy Sea, Inc. in San Francisco, CA.