Who Has to "Be the Brand"

I was speaking yesterday morning to a group of HR-types about how to encourage employees throughout a company to support a brand strategy, i.e., how employees can "Be the Brand." One participant asked about how to deal with outside contractors who represent your company.

Then, later in the day I received a telephone call from Sears that really brought home how important this is.

A woman called saying she was from Sears, and that she could offer me a special deal if I would extend the service agreement on my hot water heater. I was actually interested, because it's 5 years old and I sense it's starting to have some problems.

I noticed that she started referring to Sears in the 3rd person—"they," "them," "they're," etc. Then she asked, "Is the hot water heater that thing in your basement that heats the water up?"

The answer to my audience member's question is simple: Help the contracted employees understand your brand and what it is you do for your customers. Your customers will not evaluate contracted employees with any less scrutiny than they evaluate your "real" employees.