3 steps to increase brand-positive engagement.
I was talking with a friend recently about a job I once had that I truly, truly hated. Now, I’ve never worked in an industry I didn’t enjoy—it’s the people, and the relationships built, that make or break the experience. In this particular job, it was my relationship with my boss that made the experience completely miserable. Have you ever found yourself in a situation where the relationship just wasn’t working? You go through all the “maybe it’s me,” and “maybe it’s them,” or “maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.” You talk to friends and family, and your therapist for perspective, and then you come to terms with the fact that you have to make a decision to either stay where you are and try to make things work, or leave. And that’s exactly the position I found myself in with this job. You wanna know how long it took me to leave? Three months.
It took me three months to do something I knew I needed to do after just two weeks. Leave. And the main reason it took so long was because of an emotional investment that was made long before I joined the company. Well that, and I needed to replace the income before stepping off. (See? I’ve grown a lot since that tuxedo shop story, lol.) For some of you reading right now, you’ve been in my shoes, hell, you might even be wearing these shoes right now! My advice to you is to remember your worth, and to stand your ground. But that’s not the story for today. Today we’re talking about building an engagement strategy for your own brand, because the truth is, when your audience makes the decision to leave you and never come back, it doesn’t take that long because it’s never that deep.
YES, YOU NEED AN ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
Everyone loves that saying, “if you build it they’ll come,” but no one wants to talk about how to prepare for when they get there. Like, sure, if you build it they’ll come, but if it’s boring they’ll leave. And if you engage them they’ll stay! That’s why you need an engagement strategy.
Simply put, an engagement strategy is a plan of action implemented by an individual or organization to build and improve brand-positive experiences and relationships with audience members. Acquire, a popular customer service software company, refers to engaged customers as your “biggest asset.” Now, you may have a solid service or product offering, and you may have years of experience under your belt, but are you really going to sit here and blame your audience for leaving you, or are you going to accept the fact that your engagement strategy (or lack thereof), in the current social landscape, is shit?
Building an engagement strategy to forge positive relationships with your audience can be tricky, and it requires patience, but it’s no rocket scientry, I promise. In its purest form, it all comes down to two types of communication; intrapersonal and interpersonal. A lot of y’all skip the part where you have a conversation with yourself because you think “that’s crazy!” Well, allow me to be the first to tell you, if you think that frame of mind will help you develop a successful strategy in life, then you’re crazy. Now, there are three very specific steps involved in building an effective engagement strategy, and they all involve talking. Talk Health Now describes talking as being as important as keeping good hygiene, and maybe even more. So as you prep your new engagement strategy, get ready to talk to yourself, to your team, and to your clan.
STEP 01: STALK TO YOUR SELF
6,200. That’s how many thoughts the average human has in a single day. I’m not going to try and convince you that it’s not crazy to talk to yourself. There’s simply too much research out there for anyone with sense to believe otherwise. I’m just going to point to why talking to yourself, especially out loud, is important. Talking to yourself can help you establish a sense of hierarchy in the 6,200 thoughts that come and go with each passing day, and it can help you pinpoint things quicker and more accurately. Feeling shy about sharing your thoughts in group projects or team meetings? Talk through your ideas with yourself first, and see how it enhances your confidence. If you struggle with self-confidence because of past experiences, or self-deprecating habits developed over time, read this article filled with tips on building it back. Talking to yourself is such a powerful tool, it’s often the first one professional life and businesses coaches will make sure their clients are using. My mentor, Elliot Carlyle, is a professional life coach who has worked with high profile clients for years. The first thing he’ll have his clients do before they even talk about engaging their team, or their audience, is engage with themselves.
In my business, we do a lot of outreach and engagement with the outside world. Anyone who’s ever worked on any kind of outreach with me can tell you, you have to read it out loud to yourself before you press send. Otherwise you’re not doing it. You have to check that it makes sense, that it conveys the point you are trying to get across, and that it’s built to connect with the party you are reaching out to. Talking to yourself is a basic practice of holistic health and well being. It also helps you to produce new ideas. Oh, did you think you had to talk to someone else to come up with something you hadn’t thought of before? Nonsense! Gary Lupyan, a professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, said it best. “You don’t know everything you’re going to say – you can even surprise yourself.”
Step one in your new engagement strategy: talk to yourself. You can take all the notes and draw up all the sketches in the world, but please don't start talking to someone else about your plans until you first have the conversation with yourself. Talk, out loud, to yourself. Try it now, and see how it goes!
STEP 02: TALK TO YOUR TEAM
Next up – team talk! Did you know that 70% of American employees are disengaged and unenthused about the work they’re doing? Seriously. How many friends can you think of right now who are dissatisfied with their job? The truth is, the vast majority of brand strategy failures can be attributed to a lack of engagement from the team. Take note: if the people you work with are not authentically engaged with your brand strategy and your mission, I don’t care how good your idea is, it’s not gonna work. There are tons of resources out there for finding ways to engage your team, and we’ll talk about these methods more in the weeks ahead, but what you need to know right now is that if your core team is not engaged with the strategy you’ve introduced to them, then you need to go back to step one and try again.
When you’re talking to yourself about your brand strategy, there’s a few questions you need to consider before taking it to the team. And remember, if your team can’t answer these questions, they can’t possibly be effective in achieving authentic, brand-positive engagement with your audience. So talk about these questions with yourself for real.
What is your mission, and your vision?
What are you trying to achieve as a brand?
Who are you trying to connect with, and who on your team is in a position to facilitate these actions or manage key projects?
Does your brand’s strategy represent the interests of the people putting it into action? The answer had better be yes, otherwise, you’re in for trouble.
Who are the leaders on your team? How can you include them in the planning process, to discuss high level brand strategy before introducing it to the whole team?
Depending on your brand type, or where you’re currently at in the process of building, the word “team” can be defined in a number of ways. In my business, KIRUNIVERSE, the average number of team members is 16, but our team network is much larger than this. What I’m saying here, is that whether you’re running a large scale business, or you’re a one person operation, you have a team. Just look around you. Your friends, family, colleagues, community, and competitors (we just like to call them neighbors in our field) all play a part in the success of your engagement strategy. So even if you’re a solopreneur, don’t skip this step unless you desire failure.
STEP 03: TALK TO YOUR CLAN
Once you and your team are on the same page, it's time to talk to your clan. Your clan is your audience, because clan is a four letter word and I thought it’d be cute for design consistency on social media when we post words of encouragement from this article. Right now, you’re in my clan, and I hope you’re having a good time :)
Whenever you lay out a strategy for your brand, it should include details on how you plan to engage with your audience. Who are they? Where will you meet them? When can you talk to them and what should you be talking with them about? What qualifies as brand-positive engagement for your brand? At KIRUNIVERSE, we talk to our clan primarily through social media, email marketing, and outbound lead generation. Our most basic brand-positive engagement can be categorised as personal + necessary, authentic + connected. We don’t sound like your average marketing company, because your average marketing company is boring, and no one needs to be contacted by another boring brand ever again. Because we are engaging as a brand, and not as an individual, we have quantifiable objectives tied to our efforts. Engagement reports are prepared and discussed every week, where we review how the actions we’ve taken drove certain results, and those results inform any modifications to our action plans for the next period. If there’s anything in particular you’d like to know about our brand strategy, comment below, or on Instagram. I’ll be adding answers to your questions in upcoming posts in both places! Right now I’ve gotta go, because this article has already gone over it’s time, and we got places to be, lol.
This article is helpful for people at any point in their artistic or entrepreneurial journey, because in today’s social landscape, these simple principles can (and must) be applied to literally any brand. In parts two and three, we’ll take an in-depth look at how these three steps play out with a real brand, and I’ll give you an inside look at the strategy we’re using here at KIRUNIVERSE to find success.