Dear Start-ups: Your Employees, Your Employer Brand

An organization has two brands: an employer brand and a consumer brand. And the two converge today effortlessly, as a matter of course. That’s because of social media generally and the web, period. For established organizations, especially large enterprises, the new dynamics are a potential liability; gently persuading all those employees’ voices to communicate a cohesive, positive message about the brand continually is an exercise in futility.

With a start-up, however, your team is by definition a core team. It’s tight, close-knit and excited about the company. The team, nimble, and its members, each spry, can pounce on opportunities online to project an image of strength and promise. And that’s your employer brand exuding strength and character; it permeates the consumer brand. The two are inseparable, and, as the leader of a start-up, you want these dynamics. The large enterprise herds cats, whereas you lead a willing, ragtag team into the heart of Mordor or a fun day at the beach. Take your pick. It doesn’t matter, and it’s the big difference.

Humans, Cats and Your Brand

enterprise brandsMuch of #CareerGravity is useful not only to the jobseeker or professional aspiring to elevate his or her game, but also to the start-up organization. Here’s why:

People power is the lifeblood of business. But that means organizations can bleed, too. The large enterprise, with its hordes of people, has an employer brand that has a tendency to bleed, to get bloody from a messy, uncontrollable message. Ultimately, it’s a liability that these organizations must manage. In contrast, however, the start-up’s default condition has the potential to be unmarred by wounds, to have no such bleeding. In both cases, humans are your brand, and, for start-ups especially, humanization of your brand is an at once worthy and achievable goal. Every productive, jazzed member of your start-up team is a dormant evangelist for your brand just waiting to be unleashed, and some may already be vocal.

“E” Is for Start-ups

start-up funA primary reason is start-up culture itself, which is by nature outgoing: If organizations had Myers-Briggs personality types, the first letter of it, for start-ups, would be “E,” for extraversion. The environment tends to attract “E” individuals (aside from the techies, perhaps). At the very least, the culture encourages “E”-style behavior: Team members enter the fray understanding that they need to be vocal about the brand.

By contrast, try marshaling the latent power of a legacy, large enterprise’s workforce around the rallying cry of online brand-evangelizing. You’ll quickly learn that much of that latency is there because larger organizations tend to be bastions for a larger variety of personality types, and a large contingent of these personality types is far less inclined to call attention to itself online. In parallel, large organizations’ ranks of outgoing employees’ outgoing communication proves challenging to harness and channel effectively.

“E” Is for Emissaries and Evangelists

And that’s the key. The start-up is home to the perfect conditions to generate company gravity: cohesiveness, shared purpose, outgoing personality types, small teams. At your start-up, recognize that your employees (or freelancers, or core team of founders, working on spec till the business takes off) are not only extroverts, but also potent vessels working under potent conditions to evangelize your message. Encourage them. Watch them. Through their organic activity, understand what your company’s employer and consumer brands really are. Hone those. Your teams are your emissaries, to attract customers and yet more employees alike, all of whom will be a natural fit for your fused employer and consumer brands.

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