We’ve had a flurry of Brand Builder strategy sessions during the past few weeks. We started placing bets that at a certain section of each session, every organization will list Subaru as one of its favorite brands. I guess one could argue that we know our target client and our target client loves Subaru, but I would argue Subaru just gets holistic branding.
Each time we ask, Why Subaru? The client response is varied, but always clear. It can be summed up like this: I just love what they stand for.
Notice, they didn’t say “whew, they have a real pretty logo.” I digress.
If your logo helps show the world who your organization is and your brand message helps tell that story (and why it matters), then what is the glue that holds those pieces together? What breathes life into logo colors, inspiration into taglines and compels people to trust and rally behind your organization?
You see, your values — and by extension, the culture built around those values — are the heartbeat of your brand. They shape how you work day-to-day, help inform business decisions, client interactions, team hires and more.
Finding P&P’s Brand Values
Last year, before P&P’s team retreat, I began thinking about our company’s values. Intuitively, we were already living some of these values, and intentionally I began putting a few others in place. But I wanted to embrace our inner Subaru. I wanted to provide clarity to our values, empower the team to determine what that looks like in our daily work and maybe even write a P&P Manifesto from our brainstorm session.
Before the retreat, I refined a list of eight core values that are most important to me as we continue to grow P&P. I have to be honest, I love designing but being a team captain is a close second. Keeping this list under wraps until the retreat was tough! But I did it.
With the team convened around our funky dining room table at the AirBnB and eight large Post-Its on the wall, I shared the core values one at time. As we went through the list, I asked everyone to share what it looks like for them to live that value each day in their respective roles. We each wrote our ideas on the Post-It.
This exercise was so fun, bonding and insightful. It allowed each of us to understand how our teammates approach their work and how each person interpreted these values.
Some of these values guide how we work with clients; others, how we work with each other. They collectively represent what P&P stands for, and what you can expect from our team when you work with us.
Meet the client where they are.
We mean this physically and figuratively. Sometimes we are working with marketing directors and internal communication teams, other times we step in to serve as a mini-communications department. We take pride in meeting folks where they are, breaking down projects into tangible bits and making sure clients know what happens next and why. We make every attempt to travel to our clients’ communities. We also understand that organizations come in every size and budget. While we are experienced in handling large, layered projects, we know how to tackle small budgets creatively.
Do the right thing. Be honest.
We keep client needs and goals front and center in every engagement, not what will make us the most money. This means if you ask for a service that isn’t our specialty we’ll tell you, straight up. If we don’t have an answer, we know it’s always OK to say “I don’t know,” but we will work diligently to find the right solution or answer. This value also means we’re upfront about project timelines, and even delays when they happen.
Be bold and strive for excellence.
Being bold is about more than just the designs and messaging we bring to life. Some days being bold means turning off email (gasp) to give a project our full attention. Some days being bold is listening to feedback that’s tough to hear or going back to the drawing board for another attempt when the solution isn’t right. Being bold makes us better. And that is how we achieve excellence.
Stay curious and keep learning.
Staying curious keeps our team from becoming complacent. There is always something new to learn — about the world, about yourself, about your craft. So, we make space and time for learning and sharing, from books, newsletters, communities, workshops, conferences, masterminds, tutorials, and most importantly, each other.
Work hard and be passionate.
Working hard is the baseline expectation. Being passionate about what you do, that’s a privilege. We’re privileged with the opportunity to work with amazing folks each day who are doing good work in the world. We have a fun job — so it’s easy to find passion in every project. Sometimes it’s connecting with the client’s mission so deeply that you want to volunteer outside of work; sometimes it’s crafting a message that makes your chest swell with pride. Other times it’s helping to capture the perfect photo during a photoshoot, one you know will help tell the story in just the right way. Whatever way you can bring passion to the project — bring it big.
Have fun and don’t forget to celebrate.
Work shouldn’t be all creative briefs and pushing pixels. So, we’re intentional with celebrating the wins, both big and small. We’ve been known to throw a high-five or two during meetings or during those a-ha moments. And whether it is making a toast to celebrate hitting a goal or paying it forward by adding to our give-back fund, we mark successes along the way.
Trust your team.
Trusting your team means not worrying about who comes up with the creative idea but delivering the best creative direction to the client, united. It means being brave enough to own mistakes and extending grace when mistakes happen. Trusting your team is showing up and assuming everyone has each other’s best interest at heart, even during tough conversations. And at the end of the day, it means being each other’s biggest, loudest cheerleaders.
Remember to live and feed your soul.
Creativity needs fuel and we aren’t on this earth to just work. So, you won’t find our team working 24/7 and glorifying that workaholic grind. We hang it up at the end of the day, knowing we have been productive and served our folks well. We spend time away from the office refueling, with our families, our hobbies, and our self-care, so we can return ready to work hard again the next day.
What’s your inner Subaru?
If you’re like me, you want people who engage with you — team members or clients — to say they love what you stand for when asked. That starts by figuring out who you want to be when you grow up (organizationally speaking). If you know the kind of culture you want to foster, the values you want to live out each day, your brand will benefit from it. Subaru is proof.
Once you know the type of culture you want to create, we can help you tell that story through your brand. If you’ve has an exercise like this recently, I’d love to hear more about it! Drop me a line. If you haven’t, grab some extra-large Post-Its, a few Sharpies and some snacks, and gather your team around the table. I promise you’ll learn a lot.