What is the brand?
The term “brand” is often misused 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 shape user perceptions of your department, your services, and any important initiatives 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 tips to help communicate the value of your department to the rest of the organization:
1. Start with the alignment. Aligning IT initiatives with strategic business goals is a precursor to effective branding for your department. If it’s not aligned, no matter how you turn it, business users will be able to see through your “pretty package.”
2. Assign a brand manager. This doesn’t need to be a formal position, but you do need a sociable, values-oriented person within your department (could be you) to monitor the perception of IT within the company and develop strategies to promote the value of IT.
3. Identify your target audience. Understanding your audience, their concerns, and their desires can greatly enhance your branding efforts. Take the time to survey users and identify the differences between how the company views IT and how it views itself. What is the perceived value of IT within the organization (ie its current brand image)?
4. Define a value proposition. Summarize the value you create for the organization and decide 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 can develop their own, less than favorable, views of what IT stands for. At worst, you risk being seen as a costly good or a necessary evil rather than a strategic differentiator.
5. Measure your successes. Use IT metrics to track and highlight the value of IT. Success measures can include satisfaction surveys, productivity metrics, reduced downtime, improved help desk efficiency, or quantitative analysis indices such as ROI, TCO, ROI, etc. Track the 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 to promote the value of IT and convey benefits in terms of achieving specific business goals. Focus on what is important to executives and prepare a presentation that relates to their needs.
7. Use brand campaigns for major project launches. Its 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 integrating brand management into your own projects. For example, if you are launching a large ERP project, wrap it up in a branding and communication campaign. Without getting too technical, describe the work IT is doing to help improve processes, and then announce the benefits to users.
8. Deliver. This is key to the continued 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. Failure to do so will undermine your credibility. If you are engaged in non-value-creating activities, be strong enough to admit your failures and identify new ways that you can advance your business goals.
9. Give out free samples. In the world of information technology, this means pilot projects that involve end users. In the same way that marketers use free samples to attract skeptical customers, IT departments can use pilot projects to help communicate the benefits of a new investment and help create a positive project image.
10. Treat your employees well. IT staff members are the ambassadors for their department within the company.
If they are not satisfied, they are more likely to complain to their coworkers and work against the positive image you are trying to convey. Employees who complain are also less likely to provide friendly customer service and helpful support to internal users.
Being the best at what you do is often not enough. In many cases, you also need to communicate the value you create. Market and brand your IT department internally so that others within the organization are aware of the value your team creates.