20 min read

Company Culture Communication

Learn how companies define, reinforce and promote their culture to recruit and retain talent.

 

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Lee Chapman, TREW Marketing President and brand guru, knows that it is one thing to define company values, but the behaviors and actions of employees shape a company's culture. When the two are aligned and differentiated, great things can happen!

During the episode Lee gives many examples of company culture in action, from keg deck parties and family picnics to service events and Trello wedding planning boards. We examine who is responsible for defining and owning culture, ways to communicate and promote culture, and opportunities to uncover and tackle culture issues. 

Employee onboarding, six-month reviews, and exit interviews are all good touchpoints to seek out culture feedback. Is there alignment between the company's core values and the culture? Misalignment may be the catalyst for an operational change, such as adopting a new software tool, or an outdated notion of values, such as evolving workforce needs. 

Content plays a significant role in defining and reinforcing culture, both internally and with external stakeholders such as prospective customers and new hires. Communicate about your culture through the "about us" company page, employee videos, blogs and social posts (just to name a few). 

Resources

 

Transcript

In today's episode will be focused on all things company culture. What is it? Why is it important, who owns it, and what is Marketing's role in promoting culture? You'll hear specific examples from small and large large companies of how culture manifests itself in activities the company does and decisions that the company makes. I hope that this episode you'll understand why culture is important and what specific actions you can take as a marketer to strengthen your company's culture over time. Let's do this.

 

Welcome to Content Marketing Engineered, your source for building trust and generating demand with technical content. Here is your host, Wendy Covey.

 

Hi, and welcome to Content Marketing Engineer. On each episode, I'll break down an industry trend, challenge or best practice in reaching technical audiences. You'll meet colleagues, friends, and clients of mine who will stop by to share their stories, and I hope that you leave each episode feeling inspired and ready to take action. Before we jump in, I'd like to give a brief shout out to my agency, True Marketing. True is a full service agency located in beautiful Austin, Texas, serving highly technical companies. For more information, visit Truemarketing.com and now on with our podcast. Hey, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Content Marketing Engineered. I'm joined today by Lee Chapman. She's True marketing President and lead brand guru. Lee, so excited to have you on the show today. Hello.

 

Hello. Thank you, Wendy. Glad to be here. Like being on the show.

 

I know. I'm so excited to have you back. This is, I think, your second time. Is that right?

 

I think it might be my third, but maybe it's my second.

 

I don't know. We'll go dig up those episodes and put those on the show notes so people can do the best of Lee on the podcast. Well, before we get started, we have some fun. True marketing news to share. Last week, the Austin American Marketing Association held its annual awards ceremony. And Lee, you were there along with another couple of folks from the company, Jennifer and Aaron. It looked like a lot of fun. Look at the pictures.

 

We had a lot of fun. It's been a while. I think maybe since before the pandemic that we've been to an awards event. This was downtown Austin in a new kind of hip part of South Congress called the Soho House. So if you ever watch Sex in the City, you might have seen that episode where Samantha and the guys are trying to get into the Soho House and they can't get in there's. Not enough membership. Anyway, this had a back elevator we went up in that we felt really special. Anyway, we had a lot of fun, and we were so privileged to be named as a finalist in two award categories, and we ended up winning in both categories. So first off to you, Congratulations, because the podcast was the best podcast. Amazing.

 

I can say award winning podcast nice rerecord my whole intro now.

 

And the second category that we won was for best B to be branding. And so last time I was on the podcast, I think I was on with Jeff Gray, Toddman Gilder from Genuine. And we were talking about rebranding their company from WTI, Cirtec and Butterfield into one brand, Genuine, that launched right about a year ago now. And that branding campaign brought us home an award. So it was great. A lot of, as you know, blood, sweat and tears go into building these campaigns. And it's about a year's worth of effort and just renaming the company, doing a brand identity, their website, a lot of content. And so to have the whole team, the Genuine team included, be a part of that.

 

That'S really cool and be recognized. Well, Congratulations to you and that team for that project. And what a nice little segue into today's conversation on corporate branding. But more specifically, talking about culture. And you and I were chatting a little bit before we hit the record button and we said maybe we need to start out with defining what is company culture. So, Lee, that could be an easy or a hard question to ask you, but I'll put you in the hot seat.

 

I know. And I think if we were talking, too, we were like, oh, my gosh, do we need a Wikipedia? We know what culture is. But when you think about how do you define it? And it is it's these attitudes, the behaviors and these kind of core values that are unique to your company. And they come about every day as you're doing business, as you're in internal meetings, as you're working with customers. And I think it's something that plays a big role in things like recruiting as well and just managing your team. So there's a lot of talk about culture right now, especially with the great resignation or the great reset, whatever's being called this week. But more and more, this is being front and center in the news and in a lot of HR articles. So it seems like a great topic for us to chat about today.

 

Yeah. And you know, it's always been a focus for, let's say, high performing businesses cared about their culture. But you're right. Well, it's in the news. It's everywhere you look, people are focused on it. When I think back to our shared days at Ni or formerly National Instruments, there was definitely a strong culture associated with this company. And I remember for years and years and years they were awarded best company to work for. And that had to have some association with the culture. What are some examples that you remember of that time and how the culture manifested itself within the companies and the employees?

 

Yes. And I have such a strong corporate culture, and that was always really important to their leadership team as well. And we saw it play out every year when Fortune 100 Best Places to Work announcement came out, and you probably completed one of the surveys, the employee surveys, that kind of anonymous surveys that went out to employees at the company that helped kind of gauge across a variety of categories, people's level of kind of love or affinity for the company. And a lot of that always came down to culture. And back in those days, kind of early 2000s, the average age of employees at Ni was like 28 or something like, I was very young. And so things that were really important in that culture, of course, always listening and being heard, having an ability to grow your career. Right. So many people joined and I right out of College and then grew in their careers. And so that part of the culture, that entrepreneurial spirit, that was a big piece of it. But it was also things like there were keg parties on Fridays and there was intramural sports and people riding scooters around the building.

 

And so that was kind of all a piece of it. And then as we were there longer and the average age got up into the 40s.

 

Right.

 

People had I remember Dr. Truciard, our CEO, always saying, I used to come into the office and I would just see a bunch of sports cars, and then all of a sudden there were a bunch of minivans and car seats in the back. And so then the culture. Right. Started to shift, and there were things like family picnics and we'd rent out theme parks, and everybody would bring their families. It's attitudes, beliefs, and core values. But it also has a lot to do with where your employees are at, where your customers are at. It's all of these kind of different pieces.

 

So, Lee, as we go from the 2000s to now, how is culture evolved? Of course. And then you have the pandemic on top of that. I'm sure there's probably another evolution since then.

 

Right? Yeah. I was just reading a report the other day on some recent research that's been done on this by a company called Team Stage. And one of the things that they were pointing out that I think you and I have definitely seen. So it didn't really surprise me to see. But millennials are now making up more and more of the workforce. They're the largest group in the workforce right now. And culture, this study found people in culture are prized among everything else when millennials are making decisions about where they want to work. And so I think that really kind of stood out to me. And they're wanting things like recognition and meetings and not just career growth. I think that's kind of a table stake that everybody expects these days. And it's really important to them that they work for a company with strong values. Right. And volunteering and vacation and kind of all of these things. This generation really is working to live versus living to work. Right. So that play hard, work hard culture, it's still there, but it's much more in this vein of balance and feeling like the company that you work for espouses the same beliefs that you do.

 

So that's a bit of a change, especially it feels like a switch kind of flips during the pandemic where all of a sudden that kind of came to the forefront.

 

Yeah. When I think about the companies who cater in lunch every day and have the cabaret on site, a lot of that was about keeping people at work as much as possible and bonding between employees, but it didn't necessarily give way to having a life outside of work. I think this definitely does feel like a big shift and I like it. I feel like it's more in line with how we're running through marketing today and always have strive to do so. That's great. Are there some smaller BTB companies that you've seen that are doing a good job today of highlighting culture?

 

Absolutely. A company that stands out to me that we worked with for a number of years, Halm ICS, they're headquartered out of Burlington, Vermont, but they are working all along the Eastern skateboard and they I think are one of the only clients that we ever had that came to us and said, hey, we really think that our culture sets us apart and is unique from other companies in our space. We really want to play it up. We worked with them on this culture campaign, but there were so many pieces of it that they already had baked into what they were doing. And it was such an easy campaign. Right. When you're talking about culture and wanting to market your culture, it's got to be Truthful, it's got to be authentic and real. So we started by just highlighting things they were already doing. So they had an annual volunteer day where they would bring everybody from the company together, have them go out and do several different volunteer activities. It wasn't just one activity. I think they divided into like five different groups. They went out to different volunteer activities. They really had this strong value of social mission that really drew them all together.

 

And they had something like 80% repeat business. And I think on average their employees have been there 20 years or more. So whatever they were doing with their culture, it was definitely paying off in terms of not only employee engagement, but customer loyalty and retention. So really was hitting the bottom line. And so they had this whole inspired engineering campaign that we went with that just talked about how everything that they did from their professional work life to their personal life all kind of had the same thread of being inspired to get back to their communities in innovative ways. And so that was a super fun campaign to work on. Like I said, when you've got so many of these pieces to work from. It makes it really easy, but it really came from their CEO, Keith. He believed so strongly in it, as did the rest of the leadership team. And it was something that their customers, like I said, when we would do brand surveys to their existing customers and stakeholders, that was one thing that consistently came back. We looked at other companies that we could have worked with. But the reason that we come back to Holland time and time again is because of their people.

 

Their people are invested in the company. They're happy. We know we're going to be working with the same team every time we come back to them. And so that just really stood out to me as a company that was doing culture well and reaping all the benefits from it.

 

Why did they see a need to launch a marketing campaign around culture? Was there a goal or a problem they were trying to address?

 

I think they saw it as a and we advised and agreed with them that it was a differentiator and how they were running their business from other companies out there. And so we always advise our customers, play up your differentiators, your unique strengths, the things that set you apart. And so I think that was the main reason they wanted to do it.

 

Okay. Well, of course not every company is so self aware, and I'm sure maybe there's some people listening that are saying we don't really know who we are. We don't know what our culture is. So who is the person or group of people responsible for defining a company's culture, and when should that happen?

 

Right. I think it's something that it's not something that happens day one when you're forming a company or when you're in startup mode, and it's something that kind of unconsciously starts happening. Right. It's how you go about working day to day. It's how you talk to each other on your team, how you talk to your customers. And so I do really feel like it comes from the CEO and the leader and everything and how it's done. But I do think that marketing plays a very key role in that is you're marketing the company you're working with and talking to all the stakeholders. And so from our brand days, we know that your brand isn't what you say it is. It's what your customers say about you. So having that really strong culture, defined and lived every day helps you build that trust and collaboration internally that you then take externally so that you've got this really cohesive, consistent brand from top to bottom. So marketing doesn't own it. I think everybody really owns the culture, but making sure that you've got a strong one, I think, starts at the top and then needs to kind of permeate through all the different teams within your organization.

 

Yeah. I like how you put that, because it's one thing to set out your core values as a company. And oftentimes that starts with the formation of a company, but it evolves into your culture and what you're actually doing, what actions you're taking, what behaviors you have. And then your employees help to mold that over time, too. There's all these different connection points. Is there ever a time where you need to do a gut check on your culture? Maybe if there's misalignment or maybe some things need to be defined a little bit different than way back when at the beginning?

 

I think that's such a good point you bring up. I think there's a couple of ways you can do it, and you can do annual internal surveys where you just check within your company to see if people are still feeling like the culture is Truthful and consistent and positive. Right? There can be positive cultures. There can be negative cultures. You want to make sure you've got this positive culture that everybody feels good in. I think two, anytime you have a person leaving exiting your company, you want to do an offboarding discussion with them, get any feedback there to learn to see if they feel open to sharing anything with you related to culture that you might want to be aware of. When we onboard new employees, we talk about here's our culture and our core values and our motto and our mission and vision and all of these things. And then they're new. They're being fire hosed with information in the first couple of weeks. So we always go back and have a culture specific discussion with them six months in and just go over those again. And it's great to start really hopefully hearing back, oh, my gosh, I've seen that.

 

I've seen where we're striving to have this laidback excellent mode. I see that. And how kind of all of our meetings happen so that I think you want to see heads nodding. If you start having these conversations and people are kind of looking down and they're kind of quiet, that might be a trigger to you that maybe something's not right with your culture. And then I think that's an opportunity for you to kind of sit down. If you do annual planning or quarterly planning with your leadership team to just kind of talk about those elements, go back and revisit your core values, go back and look at some of those exit interviews, any feedback that maybe your employees have shared with you during your weekly one on one and kind of just have that honest dialogue with your leadership team and then figure out where you think you're strong and maybe some opportunities that you need to go back and kind of shore up. I think as much as you can include your employees in helping you cultivate that culture, I mean, they're going to be the ones that feel it, that need to help you nurture it.

 

So I think if you can have that open honest dialogue. I think that's, again, the best way to keep it feeling authentic and again, building trust.

 

Okay, so what I just heard and just to repeat back, so marketing is an own culture, but they can help facilitate this disconnect or connection, if you will, between what leadership says the culture is and what people hear when they're onboarding to where attitudes exist and helping with that feedback loop, maybe through surveys and things like that. And of course, there's always the role of the manager, that direct manager to solicit that feedback as well. Right. And then separately, marketing can help with campaigns around culture to help with recruiting and even retention. I would think pride in where you work and reminders. I think maybe some people think back to the cheesy poster days where you'd have the posters of your core values or whatever on the wall.

 

Right.

 

So maybe we've gone beyond that. But it sounds like there's definitely a role for marketing to play here.

 

Yes. And another thing is you were just kind of recounting. That made me think, too. We used to talk a lot about in recruiting about if somebody's a culture fit. And with the discussions about diversity inclusion over the last several years, that culture fit can make it sound like we're trying to hire a bunch of cookie cutter people that are exactly like everybody else on the team. And really, it's more of a culture ad. Right. You want to find people who espouse the same values that you do, but we're not robots. Right. So we want to bring in people with different ideas and different thoughts. We always learn so much from new people that come into true, who've had different experiences or worked in different places, and that just makes us better. And so I think that's a really important key thing, too, in recruiting is not just looking for that culture fit, but that culture ad to make your team even stronger.

 

Yeah. I could see where we don't want to all be the same and homogeneous. That's not going to help you move forward as a business. So very good distinction there. So someone's listening and they're like, yeah, we don't have this to find. What can they do? What are some first steps to either solving some of these disconnects or defining this culture? What would you say do 1st, 2nd, 3rd, some tactical recommendations?

 

Yeah. I think first off, get in a room and whiteboard. Right. Get on a Zoom call and whiteboard on a Zoom call. Throw some things out, ask people, what do you think our culture is? What are the top three things that you see about our culture and then start to look at those? Are they all kind of aligning? Do they all sound kind of similar? Are they very, vastly different? But you're mainly you're going to see these commonalities. So look for those common threads, build those out, take a few of those pieces maybe and that maybe you feel like are opportunities that are there but could be stronger and then look for some new things that you can do to strengthen those. So True was kind of late to the Slack bandwagon. I would say we use chat. We've been a remote business for 14 years. We had some younger employees come on the team several years back and they were like, gosh, we feel like we're not having this connection with the team in this remote environment as much. And we really like to use Slack. And some of us older people on the team were a little slow, like, okay, but we jumped in.

 

And that Slack we've seen over the last year that we've had it implemented has really grown the connection that the team has felt. People come in on Mondays and share pictures from their weekends. Everybody on the team has a pet almost, and there's cats in our screens behind us. Everybody's got a dog. Four people on the team all got engaged last year and they started a separate Slack channel called True Love. That is so awesome. And they're talking about their wedding planning and their engagement. So we had a strong connection. But we were hearing from our team, they wanted more of that. They wanted it more frequently. They wanted to take breaks during their day and be able to chat on Slack. And so things like that that are really easy, they didn't cost us anything. Slack was free. It's been one of those culture ad things. And so look for anything that you can use. If you're a virtual business, look for technology that can help you have that connection. If you're in person, maybe it is things like team lunches or celebrating birthdays, anything where again, you can kind of find that connection and then just draw on that and then it's not something where you can build culture overnight.

 

Right? It just takes time. So just picking one or two places to focus, looking for some easy tactics to implement, and then see where you can grow from there. Great.

 

I love that very specific example, and I'll pile one on that I keep thinking about as we went through this talk today. Early on in True Marketing founding, we talked about the importance of work life balance, but yet we didn't always have the tools to implement it in a way where we could balance load amongst the team or to see when someone's overloaded. Although we wanted ideally to have this balance, we weren't executing in a way that was protecting people. And so we've now put all these operational tools in place and even meetings to review things to make sure that we're truly protecting that part of our culture and our employees time and walking the walk, not just talking the talk, and I'm very proud of that. But it was not easy getting from how do we hit our profitability goals and all of our operational goals and have this. And how do we check all those boxes? So it really involves your leadership team, involves being committed to whatever it is you set out as your core values and then implementing those in a way where it's baked into your culture.

 

Yeah. And when you're talking to that, we're a virtual business. There were a lot of companies before the Pandemic that were 100% in the office. And now there's this thing called hybrid. Right. And so you really have to have that Martex stack or your Rev Ups Stack tool stack built because you're supporting people in the office at home. Hybrid. So you're absolutely right about having all those operational pieces. I mean, the way that people feel during their work day is part of your culture. And if they're feeling like they can't find the tools and information that they need to do their job efficiently, that definitely can weigh people down and be a negative piece of your culture.

 

Lee, what are some of the ways that marketers can promote culture? Are there certain tasks or activities that you would recommend?

 

Yes. So that's a great question. So what marketing can do to promote culture can look like keeping your About US page on your website current. Maybe that's quarterly where you're adding any pictures from volunteer events, team birthday parties, engagements, weddings, things like that, anything that shows connection that drives your business. I think people really find value in that as they're going through their buyer's journey and learning about your company. We find that About US pages are some of the most trafficked pages on your website. And so really take that opportunity to showcase your culture there. And that also kind of plays a role with recruiting. Right. When prospective employees are going and learning about your company ahead of an interview or ahead of applying for a job, they often go look at this About US page, too. And they also look at your careers page. So take the opportunity to also kind of show your personality and your culture on your careers page. It's great, too, if you can take a couple of maybe recent employees and have them do short videos and talk about what their experience has been your company within their first couple of months there and what they feel makes your company unique and stand out.

 

It's great again to get it from your employees voice versus from your marketing team.

 

I'm so glad you brought up video. I think that should be right there at the top. Just hearing somebody's energy and their inflection in their voice, it just really tells a story that's difficult to do in words. And of course, audio is good too, for those of you listening. But videos excellent for this.

 

Yes. And use those videos then on LinkedIn as well. Right. And have your employees share these videos again, having it come from the employee page on LinkedIn versus your company page. I think also helps build that credibility and showcases your culture and cast a really broad net across their network as well. And then things like even blog posts on your website, maybe once a quarter you devote or once a month. Right. You have a culture blog post that somebody within your organization writes about, again, whether it's some kind of community related thing or something unique to them and their family, I think that can be a great way to add those to your website. When we've had blog posts like that on True, they perform really well. Things that show that human side versus you're just talking about your product or your service or this award or all these great things about your business. Also kind of letting your employees talk about themselves a little bit and how their work and what they do kind of impacts their view of the company. And if they've got a hobby, a really unique hobby that ties in or they've been on a pool vacation, I think things like that, again, add that human personal element that people find really interesting.

 

So great question. Don't forget to add those kind of culture pieces in your tactical marketing efforts.

 

But Lee, if we just talk about ourselves, are we supposed to talk about the customer and their pain points? Are we breaking a rule here?

 

Well, that's a great point, Wendy, but I would say, too, that you can pull in photos with your customers.

 

Right.

 

So maybe you're going to an event or you're at a trade show and you see your customers there post about that, adding in that kind of three dimensional view of your company. And it's all about balance, right. You don't want to do it every day because it's not just about you. You want to make sure that you're keeping your customer pain points front and center. But at the end of the day, people are interested in people, too. So having that mix of content, I think, is what it's all about.

 

Well, Lee, I know you ran across an interesting article recently or two on this subject, so I can't remember which publication it was from, though. I'd like to put in the show notes.

 

Yeah, I'll have to look it up. I don't have it right off the top of my head, but there are several out there. And HBR Harvard Business Review is one that always I think they have a culture piece per issue. And what's great about HvR articles, if you're not already looking at them, is they talk about what's going on in billion dollar companies and also in startups and everything in between. So you really get a good viewpoint of that. And they also have a lot of research and statistics that kind of back up all their recommendations. So I think that's one that I found most helpful over time.

 

Perfect. And we know our engineering leaders love those statistics. Great. Well, thank you so much, for coming on the show today Lee and sharing your expertise in this area. I really appreciate it. Absolutely thanks for having me Wendy thanks for joining me today on content marketing Engineers for show notes including links to resources, visit Trueemarketing.com Podcast While there you can subscribe to our blog and our newsletter and order a copy of my book. Content Marketing Engineers also love your reviews on this podcast. So please when you get a chance, subscribe and leave me a review on your favorite podcast subscription Platform thanks.