One of our clients recently asked my advice in regards to a new business strategy they’re developing. Why you may be wondering, are they turning to a branding and communications agency like thinkPARALLAX, when the business strategy consists mostly of operational goals and targets? The short answer is anything that can have implications on the perception of the brand should be reviewed and weighed in on by brand communication experts. But even beyond general awareness, interplay and collaboration between the historically separated strategy and communication camps can help the company in a variety of ways. That said, companies should invite brand communication specialists to the table from day one. At the same time, branding communication strategists should not shy away from getting involved in the world of business strategy. However, before diving further into why communicators should be involved in strategy, let’s first dissect the difference between the two.
Brand Communicators vs Business Strategists
Brand communication specialists are all about what a brand says and how it says it. From the onset, we help define a brand’s corporate narrative, which includes its purpose, mission, vision, values, the language around what the brand stands for, and what positive impact they aim to have on society and the planet. We also are very involved in telling stories around the brand’s actions as it relates to its narrative and achieving its vision.
Alternatively, what a brand does, and how it achieves its vision is largely determined by the C-suite, the board, its investors, employees, as well as by a seemingly endless panel of strategists specializing anywhere from finance and human resources to citizenship and supply chain logistics. Strategists outline how the company will work towards their purpose by creating roadmaps, setting goals and KPIs, developing and implementing new processes and initiatives, and securing the tools and resources for the executional work to be done.
While traditionally there is a degree of separation between the business strategy and brand communication worlds, we’ve come to learn that cohesive interplay between the two better equips companies in their quest to be successful.
What brand communicators bring to the strategy table
We garner support—The earlier brand communicators can participate as full contributors to conversations around strategy, the better. Early internal input and alignment from key internal stakeholders is crucial to ensure effective implementation and adoption of new strategies and initiatives. Brand communicators are key to garnering that internal support through effective engagement during the development and implementation process.
We ensure accountability—Brand communicators can often act as guardrails on a company’s path towards achieving its vision. We help ensure that the company’s decisions and initiatives are aligned with its mission and that its actions are related to the business strategy and the overarching corporate narrative. This helps avoid misalignment and any disconnect between what is said vs. done.
We encourage transparent and authentic storytelling—The more honest and straightforward a company is with its strategy, initiatives, and progress, the more it feeds consumers’, employees’ and other stakeholders’ desire to consume more authentic and transparent content, which in turn increases their loyalty and trust. Even when a brand may not know immediately how to execute on ambitious goals or can’t report the promised results yet, brand communicators will help it remain authentic and transparent in its communications instead of trying to avoid or distract.
We aim for the moon—Business leaders are understandably and appropriately concerned with operationalizing, managing, and measuring, causing them to set typically more conservative goals. Brand communicators, on the other hand, are driven by influencing how stakeholders perceive the brand and therefore will push for loftier, ambitious heights. So while each discipline appears contradictory, there exists a co-dependent relationship that establishes a balance between conservative and ambitious strategy planning. Communication specialists will always try to push a little farther and never run out of moonshot ideas.
Overall, the importance of input from the brand communicators during business strategy development and implementation cannot be emphasized enough. As brand communication experts, we counsel our clients on the challenges and opportunities around how their strategy can affect their brand perception. If you are not already including your brand communication partner in your company’s strategy discussions, we encourage you to start now.