Consumers are drawn to companies that share their values because of the feeling of identifying with what they do and belonging to a shared cause or community.
When it comes to ensuring that their values are aligned with clients and staff, what are these companies doing?
For instance, one international tech company, LinkedIn has been trying to translate its brand voice into campaigns and initiatives, such as #InItTogether and #PlusOnePledge to ensure its values are consistent internally and externally.
Verizon Media meanwhile, has been ramping up its efforts to ensure diversity is reflected in its workforce and in all business activities, including advertising and marketing, programming, purchasing of goods and services, deployment of services, and community-facing efforts.
Aligning values with consumers
For LinkedIn, its purpose or 'North Star' is to create economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce, says Roger Pua, the senior director of brand marketing and communications for Asia Pacific and China at LinkedIn.
“While we work hard to realize this purpose, the diverse communities on LinkedIn made up of professionals, each with his or her own definitions of success, and the willingness to help one another is a big part of it. No matter what we all pursue, no one wants to do it alone,” he explains to The Drum.
To do this, LinkedIn launched its second #InItTogether campaign in April, which aimed to let professionals know that their communities can help in the job-hunting process, as every second, 34 job applications are submitted on LinkedIn.
Pua notes that the professional networking site’s data shows that a person is nine times more likely to get hired for a job if an employee at that company refers to them.
“Through the campaign which showcases stories of professionals who got closer to or landed jobs they wanted with the help of their LinkedIn communities, we hope to inspire many other members in the same way as they pursue their professional careers,” he explains.
“These stories, together with our new brand voice and identity reflects the humanity we see every day on our platform - people coming together to help, support, and inspire one another.”
Verizon Media believes a brand has a meaning behind a product and an experience, and there is a personal connection because trust and reliability are important in life, Sandy Gould, the vice president of talent acquisition, learning, diversity and inclusion at the media company which owns AOL and Yahoo, tells The Drum.
Gould points out that, Yahoo and AOL - the companies that came together to create Verizon Media under Verizon - were the two first gateways to get on the Internet back when it was an “unknown and dark place”.
He says Yahoo and AOL allowed people to find things that mattered to them, made that space safe and fun, and created a positive experience and a way to discover, explore, share, connect and create.
“I think that meaning has carried over to now, where we still guide people to apps and to websites and to content and to technology, mail, search, video, news, sports, lifestyle and finance that matter to them. It's personal experiences that matter, and so I think brands are a way that people navigate in the world, in a world of consumer experience, in a world of business and business relationships, and it's how they know that there are trust and reliability there,” he explains.
“One time we asked users to come in and talk to us about our products, and which was like a user day. One of the users who came in, said, "I realized when I came into the building, I didn't know who I was coming to meet with. I didn't look to see which company it was. I just saw the invitation. I got a little nervous, a little worried, but after I saw that it said Yahoo and Verizon, I relaxed because I used both of them half of my life and I trust both."
He continues: “It gives you an important meaning and an important way to navigate, and know where to be connected.”
Gould’s colleague, Ramcess Jean-Louis, the global head of diversity and inclusion at Verizon Media, adds that consumers see brands as an extension of themselves, which means the brands that they are affiliated with, speaks volumes about the consumer and what they stand for.
“When you take a look at Verizon, our brand represents trust and reliability. That's how Verizon has been able to build its brand in terms of a network that is solid, that you can trust that you can rely on it, from emergency services onto personal connections, and we're a natural extension of that through our affiliation with connectivity,” he says.
Aligning values with clients
In the United States, Ogilvy came under fire internally and externally for its work for the US Department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which promoted the heavily critcized immigration detention centers on the southern border.
To avoid being in situations like these, Pua claims LinkedIn had a lot of success partnering organizations with common aspirations. For example, it showcased stories of female founders with SheStarts, an accelerator programme for women-led startups in Australia that joined its #InItTogether campaign.
He explains that as LinkedIn works to deliver its mission of connecting the world’s professionals to help them be more productive and successful, it wants its service to continue to be relevant and useful for its members.
“To help ensure this, we provide policy guidelines such as those for advertising purposes to help clients determine whether their ads are appropriate for LinkedIn and our members,” he adds.
Verizon Media firmly believes that differentiation plus imagination equals innovation, which means every difference someone brings, is going to be safe and celebrated in its culture and environment.
It does this by linking and connecting people to allow them to create an expression of their identity and find communities that they could connect to, in both similar and different communities, explains Gould.
“We are extremely aggressive about making sure everyone knows that they support equality, equal treatment of people and equal jobs, but also that they support diversity and everyone should feel safe and celebrated in their environment. Verizon has this great reputation as being a first responder when natural disasters happen,” he says.
“They are finding out how their network can help with emergency services or anything the community needs, but also in sponsoring and supporting rights, all three companies have been very active, whether it was marriage equality or supporting equality in terms of protection from discrimination, which Verizon right now is pushing an initiative around that in the US.”
Gould advises any company or brand that ever has any challenges or finds that they have to deal with something that is not consistent with their values, to be really honest about it and then to solve it immediately, and to own it.
Sharing the AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon example, he says whether it is making a product better or any sort of value conflict, the companies are very quick to say: "We own it, we're looking into it, we will fix it or we'll explain it and fix it and we want to make sure everyone understands where we stand on this."
As a company, Gould says Verizon always strives to get as much value alignment as it can in any partnership, in any relationship, in any consumer-facing vertical.
“When you think about the Internet and when you think about business per se, you know we have 1.7 billion monthly unique users. You can imagine, we definitely have users and clients who don't necessarily have all of the same values we do. From a product standpoint, we're more open to that. We don't dictate our beliefs to somebody using our product,” he explains.
“I'll use marriage equality as an example. We didn't post about marriage equality on the website, because we don't require our clients or any user of our product to believe in marriage equality. However, inside our company, we definitively believe and support marriage equality. It's about as much value alignment as you can in the right places.”
He adds: “And if we saw a conflict, we would have to discern it. We would have to look at it and understand it and understand if it was so significant that it was more important than the business we were doing, or prohibitive, we'd have to evaluate that. There's an important fine line there, where we don't demand that somebody has the same values as us in a certain area of values.”
Aligning values with employees
In the Ogilvy case, its chief executive John Seifert acknowledged that though many “feel strongly” it should stop working with CBP, he said he would not axe the client from the agency’s books.
However, Ogilvy’s staff questioned the values of the agency, raised serious concerns on how it might affect their careers in the long term and pushed Seifert to tell them why it had agreed to work for the CBP in the first place.
To ensure everyone in the company is aligned on values, Pua says the linchpin for LinkedIn is that its vision of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce connects and motivates all its employees. He adds the company takes great pride in ensuring this collective vision is well alive.
“Our teams around the world understand that if we are to be successful in serving over 645 million members on LinkedIn, we need to be as diverse and inclusive as possible, to create a greater sense of belonging for as many people as we possibly can,” he says.
“In the last four years, we have seen an increase of 66% in female representation within leadership in our Global Sales Organization and an increase of 193% (almost 3x) in female leadership within technical roles at LinkedIn.”
Pua adds that combined with the emphasis LinkedIn puts on diversity, inclusion and belonging when it comes to its staff, the company’s top priority is a natural motivation for employees to feel safe about having their voices heard not just within the company, but also beyond.
For example, it empowers employees to take ownership as brand advocates, and share their experiences and perspectives broadly.
“We are also working to increase the diversity of our workforce through employee and company led programs designed to create community, attract talent, and expand professional skills and networks for LGBT, women, parents, and disabled employees. I’m a member or ally of some of these groups which include Out@In, Women at LinkedIn, Parents at LinkedIn and EnableIn,” explains Pua.
Gould acknowledges it is a big challenge for Verizon Media, but also one of the biggest opportunities because it has more than a thousand staff count, which means it has to bring all the people and cultures together, and make sure everyone understands the culture.
One of the things Verizon does to ensure this is to focus on being the best talent builders in the world, explains Gould. That is not only the company’s talent strategy but also its business strategy to win by having the best people and then growing them the most because it believes if it grows them, they will come up with all the great ideas that could make Verizon successful.
“We actually believe that recruiting and learning and diversity should all be managed together. All those teams work on my team, we all work really closely together, and that means anytime we are doing training, we think about recruiting and diversity. Anytime we are doing a diversity program, we think about training and recruiting,” says Gould.
“That means we actually start learning and preparing them for our company from the moment they interview. Because we feel like that's when we have to start getting them ready for success at the company. When they join the company, we go through an intensive process during the first 90 days, accelerating their learning and accelerating their time to impact.”
He adds: “That means not only do we give them information before they get there, but on day one, they go through a day-long process where they meet with people from all over the company. What we are doing is we are mapping the company for them.”
The Drum will look at wide-ranging topics like how agencies and brands are dealing with their talent issue as churn is high and restructures are almost constant at the upcoming Agency Acceleration Day APAC.