When we formed Outspoken Media last January there was a point when Rae looked at me and asked, “So, what do you want to be called?” Rae was CEO. Rhea was COO. We had to find the corporate sounding title that described what I did. Otherwise, Rae feared people would assume that I was an employee and I may grow to resent Rhea and Rae. And while both of these things have already happened, we eventually settled on the term Chief Branding Officer. It seemed to encapsulate everything I planned to do with Outspoken. It was either that or The One Constantly Kicked.
I stumbled across a Forbes article yesterday entitled ”Chief Reputation Officer: Whose Job Is It?”. The article is written by Anthony Johndrow and discusses the importance of a Chief Reputation Officer to any organization. And though Anthony uses the term Reputation, while I use Branding and others have longed used Chief Listening Officer or Community Manager, the position we’re all talking about is really the same. It’s mine. And it’s going to become more important over the next year.
Here’s why I think your company needs a Lisa in 2010. I know it’s a scary thought.
Earlier today, Seth Godin wrote about the importance of putting a name on it as a way of ending the era of faceless bureaucracy where “important people” do “important things” with absolutely no accountability for how stupid they are. The days where you can get away with that are ending. In today’s environment, people want accountability. They like doing business with small companies because they know that Ed, the owner, is the one that decided to turn the WiFi off between 12-3 or that Mary is the one who just raised the prices by 10 percent. Electing a Chief Branding Officer who can be accountable for any changes your company makes, good and bad, is an important step in customer relations. Without it, people just stay angry. Your Chief Branding Officer is your resident fire fighter. Reward them with combat pay.
You know what sucks? When you have a question about a product and have nothing but an 800 number to find a resolution. That’s a turn off for people. They want to know that if they have a problem, there’s someone, with a real name and face that they can go to for help. And while you may work from 8am-6pm, your community never sleeps. They want someone who’s going to be around the moment they have a problem. Rhea may be the perceived nicer one of the Outspoken organization, but I am the approachable one. I’m the one you know you can always get a hold of. If you have a question about Outspoken, even if it’s meant for Rhea or Rae, you’re going to email me because you know I’ll respond back, probably within minutes. If you want to know what Rae’s latest Twitter rant was about, you’re going to DM me to find out. I’m always popping into Twitter when people mention me or Outspoken. I have my email address directly on my Twitter profile. I’m really easy to find and there’s a trust indicator in that. You know that if you have a problem, I’m here to help. That’s what the Chief Branding Officer brings – they’re the go-to person for the community.
A Focused Brand
It makes sense that there should be someone in charge of building your brand, right? I mean, the complete brand you create will be affected by many things, but someone needs to be in charge of shaping it and creating something that resonates with customers. Your Chief Branding Officer is this person. Your CBO should be consulted on not only what to say, but how to say it, when to say it, where to say it and who to say it to [waves to Rae]. This person is the anchor for all those conversations. While brand and reputation are not the same, you need to be developing both, not just leaving them to chance. Your CBO is responsible for helping to plot the course.
A Louder Voice
Dedicating someone to listening in to the conversations happening around means you’re left better able to respond to them and direct where things go. It gives you a platform to get your side of things out and to keep everyone on track if things start going astray. Being part of the conversation gives you a chance to shape it. Your brand is already being talked about whether you realize it or not. At least put someone in charge of direction that conversation. Because ignoring that it’s happening doesn’t make you invisible, it makes you mute. The person you assign with your CBO duties is going to have to find the line between “having a voice” and “annoying people with spam”. Make sure you bring someone on who knows how to talk to people and will be able to tell the difference.
A New Company Culture
That sounds horribly cheesy, doesn’t it? I know, I’m sorry. But I think that’s what social media is really about. It’s not about creating a Twitter account and using scripts to grab followers. It’s about making listening and transparency part of your company so that you bleed it out. That’s where companies find great success. And by electing a Chief Branding Officer to be those ears and the voice behind you, you bring that feeling and spirit inside and change the way the company works from the core out. The Chief Branding Officer is responsible for everything listed above, but they’re really responsible for bringing everyone – customers, clients and stakeholders – together so that everyone’s on the same page and standing behind the same core values. Tony Hsieh of Zappos mentioned this idea a lot during his kickoff keynote in Vegas. It’s something that really stuck with me.
Whether you find an unofficial Chief Branding Officer in your company or hire someone to do it full time, someone has to be in charge of creating the voice and brand of your company. Your Chief Branding Officer should be someone that embodies the company culture, that people will relate to and that genuinely enjoys reaching out and engaging with people. Without assigning someone the role, you leave it up to chance. And as the article in Forbes concludes, in 2010 that’s just a recipe for disaster.