You’ll have to forgive me as I share some Kool-Aid. Recently, CJP began representing an integrated marketing and technology firm. One of the things their CEO Stacey Haefele regularly talks about is the concept of front-line branding or “below the line branding.” This is the idea that every enterprise, whether large or small, must take steps to enable its employees and sales force to represent the brand in an open, honest and trustworthy way (an idea quite akin to that of our own CEO, Jen Prosek, who believes that each member of the “CJP army” must be a brand ambassador at all times). And in a recent conversation, Ms. Haefele took this idea a bit further, outlining that trust must be developed on the front line through personalization and empathy.
This idea was driven home to me over the last few days. This past weekend, I was fortunate to have been invited to participate in Quinnipiac University’s first annual “QU Media Mashup” – a conference hosted by the School of Communication for graduating seniors to learn about various media industries and what to expect as they begin their careers. Throughout the weekend, I met dozens of students, all eager to learn and eager to network.
While I do a lot of recruiting for CJP, I’ve been impressed – and maybe even a bit surprised – at how many thank you notes I’ve received over the last few days. Some basic, some very specific, they were all genuine and expressed an appreciation for the time my colleague and I spent talking with each individual. But one thank you note struck a chord. The student wrote:
“ . . . I also wanted to thank you for taking the time to talk to me at the [QU Mashup] career fair. I was very nervous that day, but just the fact that you looked over my resume and shared that you were a former student ambassador helped calm my nerves and gave me some much needed confidence. I wish you and CJP continued success and hope to have the opportunity to speak with you in the future . . .”
To me, looking to find connection with the person I am talking to is a basic and instinctual reaction. But reading this note reinforced just how far trust – and empathy – go. We all want to know that people can relate to us and want to take the time to get to know us. It is human nature to want to find meaningful connections with others when we engage in conversation.
To this end, finding connection on the front-line, away from your website, sales decks, brochures, etc., is what builds relationships and positively impacts business and brand. This is what HNW has built a business around – the idea that enterprises must equip and encourage their employees (and sales forces) to best represent their brand. While I’ve always believed employees are culture carriers, even when they’re “off the clock,” I’m now sold that business and brand credibility will almost always be won and lost on the front lines.
*Disclaimer: HNW Inc. is a CJP client.