Tag Archives: engagement

What if your mother ship’s digital? How to build corporate culture for virtual employees.

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Digital homes for virtual workers






FastCompany Design recently talked about 3 ways Angela Ahrendts might influence Apple’s new Cupertino HQ ‘mother ship’ building on her experience of bringing the Burberry brand together under one physical roof:

  1. Office culture is crucial to creativity and product
  2. Corporate structure and symbolism matter
  3. There are no satellite offices.

But what if you have so many employees, they won’t all fit under one roof? What if your employees are ‘remote/mobile’ workers and live under their own roofs? Or what if you’ve got a mix? The same principles you’d apply in physical environments, you need to apply in your digital environments. Let’s look at Angela’s key points:

1. Office culture is crucial to creativity and product

Providing a clear sense of ‘home’ where your employees feel they belong is the start, the next is embedding your brand to build your corporate culture by making sure your ‘medium is the message’. Your intranet should have a clear ‘look and feel’ of your brand, have a tone of voice that sounds like your brand and functions in line with your values. This will help your digital brand to ‘feel like home’ for your virtual employees.

2. Corporate structure and symbolism matter

Angela Ahrdents talks about the importance of entrances and the organisation of the floors of the offices reflecting importance within the company with design at the top supported by merchandising and then marketing. In the digital world, this is your site navigation – think about having your strategy as your ‘home page’ where all employees see the same messages – then arrange your navigation to reflect your organisation structure. In offices, it’s easier to design gathering points to ‘keep the energy flowing’, in a digital environment, this needs to come from web meetings, ‘face to face’ meetings (think Google Hangouts and Skype calls), and profiles that can be personalised and which facilitate employees finding each other, building networks and engaging.

3. There are no satellite offices.

Each of the Burberry offices is designed to look like an extension of each other. Consistency is key in brand building to help employees “feel the brand” wherever they touch it – and the digital space / intranet is no different to a physical office. Every employee needs to access one intranet where the experience is consistent no matter where in the world they are, what department they work in or what task they’re trying to achieve.

My take outs:

  1. Your intranet ‘home page’ is your virtual home – build your digital environment to mirror a physical environment in a way that looks like, sounds like, performs like and ‘is’ your brand.
  2. Keep the energy flowing in your intranet – design meeting places and personalisation enables employees to build a sense of belonging and to find and engage with each other.
  3. Consistency is key – every employee needs to have the same experience to feel equally at home.

How at home are you in your digital work environment? If you have corporate offices, is the experience the same – or does it differ?

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10 social steps to build a brand – what Angela Ahrendts’ move from Burberry to Apple can teach us.

On 15 October Angela Ahrendts moved from CEO, Burberry to SVP Retail and Online Stores,  Apple. This Burberry’s Social Story video for SalesForce neatly picks out the ten steps in Burberry’s digital strategy which have made the brand so successful, and signal what we might look for in Apple retail soon.

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  1. Reinvent constantly
    It all started with an appreciation of the need to constantly change to stay ahead of the fast moving digital curve.
  2. Unify the culture
    People are the lifeblood of any organisation and when they’re aligned around a common culture, they become a powerful force. Ahrendts mentions that the first digital platform that Burberry implemented was “The greatest uniter of culture of any platform that had been put in place”.
  3. Enable dialogue with and amongst employees
    The common platform brought the employees together because it let 11,000 associates around the world talk to each other – enabling dialogue unlocks the energy within the organisation – best practices can be shared, ideas can evolve, collaboration can flourish, stories can be told.
  4. Visible, accessible leadership
    The platform also provided employees direct access to the Leadership Team.
  5. Clear strategic direction
    The Leadership Team in turn were able to provide real time communication and strategic direction to the workforce – Arhendts and Bailey spoke to their associates directly once or twice a week.
  6. Engaged employees drive great customer experiences
    Knowing that employees had to be on board first, and having put that in place, Burberry then turned their united employees’ focus towards their customers.
  7. Employees are empowered with the tools
    11,000 employees are enabled to respond near instantly to customer interactions in the digital space – a superior level of customer service.
  8. Weave digital into the fabric of the company strategy
    From social to physical, the Burberry digital strategy has been thought right the way through the customer’s journey
  9. Create memorable customer experiences
    Digital elements are added to the physical shopping experience, tags in garments trigger video mirrors, and trays tell stories of the provenance of products placed on them, Burberry’s flagship retail store in Regents Street, London, England is more an adult retail theme park than a department store.
  10. Don’t rest on your laurels
    Go back to step 1 and keep reinventing yourself at the speed of social.

I wonder how long it will be before the we see the first signs of an Apple make-over?

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Corporate stories – where’s the drama?

Good stories have drama and drama comes to life in the action between characters. If the last corporate story you read was more fact sheet than blockbuster it was likely missing the vital personalities and perspectives needed to elevate it beyond corporate reflection.

Graphic showing how to build drama into corporate stories

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Common pitfalls in story telling

Following my last blog on bridging the gap between good and great stories, inspired by a series of four short videos by Ira Glass, in the final part, ‘On Two Common Pitfalls‘ Ira points out a couple of pitfalls to watch for:

  • Pitfall 1 – you feel you need to sound like other presenters
  • Pitfall 2 – you focus solely on one perspective and lose the drama

There’s a tendency to take on ‘reporter voice’, mimic the intonation, build the same peaks and troughs of speech, and in the process your own voice gets lost. Audiences like individuals, and the more you put of yourself into your piece, the more you’ll give them to connect with.

Corporate ‘tone of voice’ or your own?

This rings true in the corporate world where there’s often a ‘house style’ or a corporate ‘tone of voice’. This works great for official communications like annual reports, thought leadership pieces, white papers and fact sheets, but when it comes to story telling, it’s your personal perspectives that create the engagement. If you report the facts alone, you’ll sounds like a fact sheet. If you only provide your opinion, you’ll come across as self-absorbed and the purpose of your story will get lost. You need to find a balance between these two to engage your audience and deliver the purpose of your story.

You need characters to create drama

Ira reflects that even if you’re producing a first person story documenting experience, what’s interesting is not just your take on things, it’s seeing how you interact with other people; seeing other people through your eyes seeing what you deal with – otherwise there’s no drama. You need all the things that happen between people. It’s not going to work if there’s too much of you and not enough of the other people, and it’s not going to work if there’s too much of the other people and not enough of you, because there’s not enough characters to make a drama.

How do you balance corporate reporting and personal perspectives?

Think about your last corporate story – how much was setting the scene, reporting the facts and concluding with the outcome? Did you mention how you felt? Did you recall your interactions with anyone else? If you’re not including other characters and creating some drama, you’re not really telling a story, you’re just recalling an experience.

My take outs

  1. Don’t lose your own voice amidst the corporate house style – one size does not fit all communications.
  2. Good stories have drama, drama needs action, and action needs characters – ensure your stories have the drama that creates the engagement.
  3. Balance your content between your subject and your perspective, all subject will read like a fact sheet, all perspective will sound like a soliloquy, both approaches will lessen your reader’s attention.

Think about the last corporate story you read – on a scale of ‘corporate fact sheet and business blockbuster’ where did it sit?

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