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New Year, New Outlook: A 12-Month Transformation toward a Responsible Brand

Filed in Organizational Culture

Teresa Coles

As one who lives to help organizations align success and social good, Teresa has shaped purpose-driven brands at the firm for more than 20 years. She’s known for her ability to help clients artfully leverage organizational health, business strategy and brand marketing to their advantage. As co-founder of CreateAthon, she has led the program’s transition from a single-market event to a global service network that has delivered more than $24 million in pro bono marketing services to the nonprofit marketplace.

Uncertain. Unprecedented. Unfathomable. We’ve all felt the emotional, physical and financial impact of 2020, and at times, may have given in to the thinking that there’s little we can do to plan for the future.

Yet here we are in 2021 with a path toward a more certain future manifesting before us. It’s a path through which we can answer some of the great business questions of 2020: What does it mean for our organizations to be more effective, more understanding, more human? How do we shape and lead so that our organizations stand for something that matters? How do we reflect those values via our brands? 

We do it with the intention and follow-through of building responsible brands, that’s how.

And what does that journey look like?

It’s a question I get every day: the how, the who, the what, the how much and the inevitable how long. It’s why we developed the Responsible Brand Toolkit in the first place, a 52-page how-to that outlines a sure-footed path toward building a more conscious organization. It’s no quick fix by any means; you can’t simply march into a conference room for a couple of hours and get it all figured out.

What you can do, however, is commit to a 12-month plan of action that can transform your organization and position your brand for a new day. You can be not only competitive, but leaderly, in the post-COVID world where our work lives, and where customer expectations and ways of doing business have already changed.

If you’re ready to grab the proverbial bull by the horns and set a new course for 2021 and beyond, download our free roadmap and get going. To give you a preview, here’s a quick look at the process you’ll find outlined in the Responsible Brand Toolkit, with a month-by-month breakdown of what it will take to get you there.

Jan: Form a Responsible Brand Team

Gather the best and brightest in your organization and charge them to set the course for transforming your brand from the inside out, with the intent of emerging stronger and more strategically relevant than ever. This team should serve as the “UN” for strategic planning within your organization, at the highest level.

Feb: Study the heart of the organization  

Engage the team in a series of cultural exercises and homework assignments (included in the toolkit) to help articulate what your brand stands for and how it needs to behave moving forward in the “new normal.”

March: Look at how you work with each other

Charge the team to work with HR to explore and study the methodologies than can help take the pulse of the organization, from traditional employee surveys, group roundtables, behavioral assessment tools, digital communications software, and others. 

April: Determine where you want to be 

Assign the team exercises to help them articulate a bold new vision for the organization, one they can lead their peers toward.

May: Determine your signature accomplishment 

Have the team identify the ONE BIG THING, or BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) that is necessary for the organization to fulfill its newly defined vision.

June: Map out your cultural platform

Here, the team will develop a platform that codifies your core ideology and envisioned future. Protecting your cultural core while envisioning your future will be key to helping you make wise operational decisions as a result of COVID-driven change.

July: Unleash your cultural champions

With a newly crafted cultural platform, now’s the time to ask the Responsible Brand team to reach out and bring others into the movement by forming a Cultural Champions team. Their role is to develop a cultural matrix that identifies all the areas in which the organization’s cultural standards should be communicated and upheld. 

August: Demonstrate early cultural shifts

Challenge the Cultural Champions team to work with other leaders in the organization to implement some immediate action items outlined in the cultural matrix. This kind of swift, demonstrable action will set the stage for adoption of long-term cultural change.

Sept: Start your strategic planning process

If you don’t have a specific strategic planning schedule, this is the perfect time to start. Work with the Responsible Brand team and other leaders to form a Business Strategy team to build a new three-year plan rooted in your organizational purpose. Be sure to have this group complete the Business Strategy matrix to identify key operational areas that are vital to operating as a Responsible Brand. 

October: Codify and assign resources to the strategic plan

Have the Business Strategy Team refine the new three-year plan and ensure all appropriate approvals of the resources (time, money, human capital) it takes to implement it.

November: Assess the health of the external brand 

With a new cultural platform and a strategic plan ready for take-off in 2022, create a specific Brand Strategy team to assess the external brand. Does the brand reflect the culture of the organization? Is it demonstrating the value of its business strategy? Does it clearly articulate its value to the market? How does it need to be refined? 

December: Announce your cultural vision and strategic plan

Celebrate the end of a good year’s work by sharing the new cultural vision and business strategy with everyone in the organization. It’s the perfect way to close out the year while preparing hearts and minds for a certain, bright future.

January 2022: Re-craft your brand

How did the Brand Strategy team rate the health and alignment of your outward-facing brand with its new internal realities? If there’s a gap, engage them with your marketing and communications staff and consultants to begin clarifying your brand strategy, now that the cultural vision and strategic plan is in place. It’s key to making sure your sales, marketing and communications efforts are in complete harmony with what your organization stands for, where it’s going, and how it’s making life better for your customers and stakeholders. It’s the final stage of becoming a Responsible Brand.

NOTE: For smaller organizations, the Responsible Brand Team may be able to carry out all of the strategic initiatives associated with culture, business strategy and brand marketing. Larger organizations may need to include more people, and as a result, form the kind of additional teams mentioned here that report back to the Responsible Brand Team. 

To learn more about the Responsible Brand movement and download your free copy of the toolkit, visit www.responsiblebrand.com.

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