What Is Branding
The term “brand” is often mistakenly used to describe a company’s reputation, mission statement, or core competencies. Rather, your brand is the unique value proposition that you offer to your customers. Used to promote the value generated by your IT functions, an effective branding campaign can help mold users’ perceptions of your department, your services, and any major initiatives that you undertake.
Brand building has traditionally been a marketing initiative. However, many of the same concepts that apply when marketing your company’s products or services externally also apply when promoting your IT department internally. Use the following branding advice to help communicate your department’s value to the rest of the organization:
1. Start with alignment. Aligning IT initiatives with strategic business objectives is a precursor to effectively branding your department. If you are not aligned, then no matter how you spin it, business users will be able to see right through your “pretty package. “
2. Assign a brand manager. This need not be a formal position, but you need a sociable, value-driven individual within your department (this could be you) to monitor the perception of IT within the company and develop strategies for promoting IT value.
3. Identify your target audiences. Understanding your audiences, their concerns, and their desires can greatly improve your branding efforts. Take some time to survey users and identify differences between how the enterprise views IT and how IT views itself. What is the perceived value of IT within the organization (i. e. your current brand image)?
4. Define a value proposition. Outline the value that you create for the organization, and decide on what perceptions and images you would like to change. If you don’t work to build a strong brand (and implement practices that support it), employees within the company may develop their own, less than favorable, views of what IT is all about. In a worst-case scenario, you risk being viewed as a costly commodity or necessary evil instead of as a strategic differentiator.
5. Measure your successes. Use IT metrics to track and highlight IT value. Measures of success might include satisfaction surveys, productivity metrics, reduction of downtime, improved help desk efficiency, or quantitative analysis indices, such as ROI, TCO, payback, etc. Track those metrics that help improve your image. For example, if IT is viewed as a cost center, use ROI and Economic Value Added metrics to illustrate how IT has contributed to the bottom line.
6. Communicate at the executive level. Actively promote IT successes to business leaders. Use executive committee meetings as a forum for promoting IT value and convey benefits in terms of the achievement of specific business goals. Focus on what is important to executives and put together a presentation that relates to their needs.
7. Use branding campaigns for major project launches. Your users are constantly bombarded by vendor campaigns on the Internet and in trade publications. These campaigns often set unrealistic expectations and make idealistic promises. Manage your own expectations and help facilitate change management by building brand management into your own projects. For example, if you are going to be launching a large ERP project, wrap this in a branding and communication campaign. Without getting too techie, outline the work that IT is doing to help improve processes, and then advertise the benefits to users.
8. Deliver. This is key to the ongoing success of your brand image. If you are positioning your department or certain projects in a certain light, then be prepared to deliver on your promises. Failing to do so will undermine your credibility. If you’re engaged in activities that are not creating value, be strong enough to admit your faults and identify new ways in which you can advance your company’s goals.
9. Give out free samples. In the IT world, this means pilot projects that involve end users. In the same way that free samples are used by marketers to woo skeptical customers, pilot projects can be used by IT departments to help communicate the benefits of a new investment and help build a positive image for the project.
10. Treat your employees well. IT staff members are your department’s ambassadors within the company.
If they are dissatisfied, then they are more likely to complain to fellow coworkers and work against the positive image that you are trying to convey. Grumbling employees are also less likely to provide internal users with friendly customer service and helpful support.
Being the best at what you do often isn’t enough. In many cases, it’s also necessary to communicate the value that you create. Market and brand your IT department internally so that others within the organization are aware of the value your team creates.