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Is It All About Relationships? by Suzanne Elshult, Executive Coach, HRNow

Last week we had a session on “Keeping Your Brand Authentic: Is It All About Relationships? As always, this group of executives had a truly authentic dialogue that sprang from a number of powerful questions covering a spectrum. For example, we discussed how we all deal with change, we explored whether marketing at the core is about cultivating relationships and we engaged in an inquiry around our organization’s (and our personal) why’s (“why we exist” ). Do these questions resonate with you?

• Do you stay reserved and cautious – a natural inclination when you’ve achieved some measure of success – or do you embrace change? How many of us worry about the legacy of our organizations and thereby shy away from change because our natural reaction is to be cautious.
• Should we not instead be doing whatever it takes to keep (or make) our organizations the very best?
• We all know marketing is no longer about broadcasting the brand in one-way communication to your target market. Is marketing instead about cultivating relationships? If the “customer experience” is made up of (1) what we say, (2) what our clients see and (3) how we treat them, then as marketers, how are you actively tending to all three aspects of your brand?
• Has your organization articulated the “why” behind its mission? How does considering “why we exist” change how you approach your organization’s brand? What about your own personal why?
• What is it that makes (or keeps) a brand –organizational or personal – relevant amid constant change?
• How do you filter through all the communications options available to us as marketers to find the “sweet” spots where an authentic relationship can be built?
• Where and how does your organization find the space for real conversations? What are your filters/communications strategies that help narrow your options? What role does social media play in your strategy? How is it impacting relationships in general and between brands and consumers?
• How do your hiring practices support your brand values? What strategies do you use to develop team members and how does that relate to your marketing strategy?

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

  • It is universal. People determine if companies succeed or fail!
  • I am intimidated by the expertise and knowledge in this room. I take comfort in the fact that you are all people!
  • The most valuable possession we have as people is relationships, not money.
  • In our business people let us hold their memories. We cannot screw it up.
  • Every business exists for a higher cause than you think. Lancioni
  • You cannot change until you know who you are. You have to become more of who you are.
  • We do our most dramatic changes when we are at the top of our game. We know it is time to change when we have done something great.
  • Just focusing on “relationships” is almost a commodity – it is the space in between – why we do what we do – that makes us unique and is not copiable.
  • Values can make things more difficult, be freeing or helping focus.
  • We need to hire and fire with respect. The moment someone is fired they become an ambassador for our brand. We invite all ex-employees to our company parties.
  • You have to understand who you are before you can answer the “why” you exist question for your company.
  • We don’t make change just to change. We do it because our mission is people based and people change.
  • Our restaurant servers are the best because they know how to break the rules. They think for themselves.
  • Chef-driven restaurants are lacking. How does a chef that lives in the kitchen know how to create lasting memories for guests in the restaurant.
  • In five years we will have an authenticity revolution. You cannot build relationships with 140 character updates.
  • How do we do social media that is authentic and “other-centered.”
  • How do we get our brand out in a way that is not self-serving?


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