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Show Some Personality

Last November, just before the 2008 presidential election, Rick Davis, Senator John McCain’s Campaign Manager, declared that the winner of the campaign will be based on personality.“This election is not about issues,” Davis said. “This election is about composite views of what people take away from these candidates.” It’s safe to say the need for a highly likeable personality with whom the public could identify and engage with was not lost on either party.  Obama took advantage of every opportunity to showcase his personality and engage with Americans and, true to Rick’s point; it helped to win him the presidency.

Corporate Personality

A likeable personality can contribute to individual success – but it can also contribute to corporate success. A corporate personality provides a foundation for which your company can begin to relate to and engage with your audience. To use my previous example, Obama may have affected people with his powerful presence as he addressed thousands in a crowd, but more than that, he drew people in on a personal level. By making personal comments on things like the BCS playoffs and joking openly about his dancing abilities, he was relating to his audience and engaging with them. He was making himself likeable and, in order to compete, your company must find a way to exude a likeable personality too.

To be clear, corporate personality is not a traditional corporate mascot like Ronald McDonald, whose appeal extends about as far as a wave from a parade float and engagement exists only in the imagination when kids see images of a make-believe world where Ronald can be found romping around with the Hamburglar and Frie Kids. A real corporate personality enables two-way communication. It’s real, like walking up to a friend and asking them how their day is going – and then getting an answer. It is inviting, engaging, and responsive to the people and environment. In fact, I think the definition of “personality” describes this dynamic pretty nicely – a makeup of unique attitudes, interests, behaviors, and emotional responses.

I want to dig a little deeper on the emotional response point because I feel it gets to the root of the need for a corporate personality. For example, I’m a huge Apple fan. I love everything Apple puts out including, like most, their advertising (sorry PC). But these days I’m an even bigger fan for a different reason. When I was having trouble with my computer not long after I got it, I went online to a Mac forum to get help. I was really happy when an actual Apple rep heard my cries and jumped in to provide me the exact answer I was looking for. But then, knowing I hadn’t had my Mac long, she started chatting with me about what programs I should check out and telling me about the cool things I could do with them. It was a very personal experience. So, yes, I love Apple. In my mind, they get me. To some extent, this is what customers want and demand today. And they are online looking for it. Whether you sold them a computer, provided them with the NFL network, or accepted their donations. They are talking, asking questions, and looking for a meaningful response. A corporate personality will help drive that authentic, emotional discussion.

So How Do You Showcase Your Personality Online?

Social media is at the center of all efforts these days in providing a unique opportunity for companies to relate to their audience, respond to their needs, and show their personality. The world of online customers calls on your company every day to engage with them in social mediums. Every time a customer blogs about your product, tweets about their recent experience with your service, or responds to another customer’s review on your website, your company is in a position to have a conversation that reflects the character and the real people behind your company. So, the question is, how is your company responding? When done right, your responses can set your business apart from the rest.

Creating a Personality

If you’re trying to understand how to create a personality that permeates the web and social media, I will start by saying that, like most things, there are no hard and fast rules. As a consultant, I’ve seen companies take many different approaches to developing a personality. However, there are some integral steps that aid in success, which I’d like to share:

Remember, personality is a makeup of unique attitudes, interests, behaviors, and emotional responses. Your personality can extend beyond this, but start here.

  1. Start With Your Brand
    Your personality should be an extention of your brand. Pretty obvious, right? It should be. You should never shed your brand tenets in order to have a conversation with customers. As you begin to participate in social mediums you’ll find it’s not contrary to branding efforts, but rather a critical branding tool. Ultimately, it streamlines the communication you will have through these vehicles, adds consistency and credibility, and – ideally – instills a sense of trust and likeability.
  2. Don’t Let Your Mission Statement Go To Waste
    Customers don’t read mission statements. Well, maybe for non-profits they do. But rather than spending weekends revising your mission statement in vain, use a social media program to open doors for you to effectively infuse your company’s mission into a conversation.
  3. Pool Your Resources
    Social media necessitates a level of reputation management that is probably covered best by your PR team. However, at the end of the day, your efforts must be as warm and personable as a conversation with your best rep at your customer call center. Be sure to include these teams as you create your corporate personality.
  4. Don’t Forget Who You’re Talking To
    Remember your customers.  If you’ve done any customer segmentation or persona development in the past, use it. You’re in a great position to revisit this information and position your personality in a way that relates to your customers.
  5. Couple It With a Participation Plan
    I could go on forever about participation plans. And while I’ve decided to focus on personality here, my colleagues would have me on red alert if I didn’t at least mention the need to create a participation plan. The truth is, this plan is just as important as your personality. It should outline your online Community Managers and Moderators and articulate the logistics of participating via your personality.

However you decide to engage with your customers, you’ll need a corporate personality to guide your efforts moreso today than ever before. It won’t be easy to begin participating in real conversations about your products, services, practices, and the many touchy subjects that can and will come up; however, it is a necessity. The age of open communication with customers is here to stay, and if you’re not armed with your corporate personality as you take your company to the front lines, you will end up second guessing every step you take, and potentially causing some major faux pas when it comes to your brand. This is a time to plan and prepare.

Does Personality Pay Off?

So you may be wondering where all this planning will get you. What’s the ROI? As a consultant, it is obvious organizations want to understand the bottom line impact of their efforts. Even the largest companies are being asked to justify the returns rather than just throw money at the latest trends. If you’re looking to quantify your efforts, take comfort in knowing they can be measured. Just look at the many tools popping up that seek to measure – and not just page visits or views, but buzz and repore. To the brand marketers’ delight, analysts have caught on to how incredibly important the emotional ties to your brand are, especially as the effects are vetted more and more by your customers in the online space. In many ways, these are being looked at as the key metrics of a good social media program. And behind that, no doubt, lies personality.

At the end of the day, a good personality allows your customers to relate to you and allows you to relate to them, honestly and creatively. This is the foundation of any loyalty program or customer relationship management program, right?  Actually, it is the foundation of any relationship, period. Go figure. Your company is driven by relationships. And by that I mean personality.

And the best personality always wins. Ask Rick Davis.