How Your Employees’ Public Behavior Can Damage Your Brand
Marketers spend a lot of time and money building their brands. But nothing can hurt a brand faster than bad behavior by a company’s employees in public.
Sometime that behavior makes headlines, like when employees break the law. Luckily, that type of embarrassment is rare.
More often, brands are damaged in countless small ways during everyday interactions between employees and others.
Here’s why your employees’ behavior in public is an important factor in a smart marketing strategy – and how easily employees can hurt your brand and your business.
Good Morning or Good Riddance?
The public demeanor of your staff says a lot about your business. Case in point: A professional services company in my office building in Cleveland, Ohio.
This company offers a service my marketing consulting firm might need, but I’d never consider hiring them. Why? Because their staff is so unfriendly: They rarely make eye contact, don’t greet me in the halls, and basically pretend I don’t exist.
It sounds like high school hallway drama – except it isn’t. The fact is, every impression matters and rudeness has a cost. When this company comes to mind, my first thought is not their value as a potential supplier – it’s their unfriendliness.
This is just one example of public behavior people might find objectionable. From foul language, reckless driving, and improper dress to smoking in non-designated areas, small transgressions by the individuals who represent you can have a big impact on how people view your business.
Why Employee Behavior is a Marketing Issue
Of course, rudeness and bad manners happen every day, everywhere. Is this really a marketing issue?
As a marketing strategist, I say yes. Here’s why:
- Your employees are your brand. Forget your logo and tagline: Your staff is the living embodiment of your brand identity. Even if they don’t realize it, your team exemplifies everything your business stands for. You’d better hope they’re creating positive impressions, especially if they’re wearing your name on their shirts or driving a vehicle with your logo on it.
- People remember how you make them feel. What you experience when you encounter the staff of a company determines your perceptions of that organization. Everyone has stories about cashiers and service representatives who treated them poorly. Bad experiences not only linger in your memory, but with social media, you can tell the whole world about it – and if you’re annoyed enough, you will.
- Every business encounter could be a sales opportunity. You never know who you’re holding the door for, sharing the elevator with, or cutting off in traffic. It could be a CEO, CFO, CMO, or someone who selects vendors for the exact services you offer. Treat them badly at your peril.
And unfriendly employees, like my office neighbors in the Gemini Towers in Cleveland, might very well be unhappy employees who hate their jobs. Who looks forward to working with a team like that? No one.
5 Practical Steps Smart Marketers Can Take
While no business can control how every employee acts outside the workplace, there are steps you can take to make your employees a branding asset and manage the fallout if their behavior crosses the line:
- Select people who genuinely like other people and believe in your company’s mission.
- Train every staff member about what your brand represents and how their individual actions and attitudes – on and off the job – help you deliver your brand promise.
- Teach manners to remind people of the importance of common courtesies.
- Monitor social media for complaints or comments about your staff that could signal trouble.
- Have a plan in place to deal swiftly with bad publicity resulting from a serious breach by an employee.