If you are in an industry where your business is only as good as your people – consulting, law, finance, insurance – you know that the war for top talent has become magnified by the rise of startup culture and tech-savvy candidates. Working hard has been eclipsed by the concept of working smart, leaving professional services companies no choice but to completely reengineer their image and model, or risk being placed out of contention.

Silicon Valley’s promise of purpose-driven careers and romanticized images of wide open, high-tech modern offices, game rooms and gourmet cafes are partially to thank for changing the playing field. Tomorrow’s rainmaker probably isn’t coming from the firm next door; they’re more likely the head of analytics at Google, the cyber security lead at Amazon and the inside counsel at Apple.

Driving the shift is an increasingly impact-driven generation of talent not shy about making its expectations known. According to a recent Accenture study, 71 percent of Silicon Valley professionals are loyal to their employer and that loyalty is often driven by a commitment to the organization’s larger overall cause. This sense of purpose is so important that nearly half of Silicon Valley professionals say they would work for less salary in exchange for the opportunity to work on something that inspires them, to feel they are part of something bigger.

So how do centuries-old businesses in traditionally conservative and highly regulated industries replicate this type of loyalty outside of Silicon Valley? It starts with taking a hard look at what their brands are saying about them. It’s not surprising that MWWPR’s traditionally consumer-heavy brand building offering has been inundated lately by conservative legacy businesses. These clients are coming to us because they are seeing first-hand how important it is to articulate their brand purpose in a way that resonates with young talent and gives them confidence that they can contribute to the greater good.

But far worse than possessing an outdated or stodgy positioning, the biggest mistake a company could make is faking it. For any companies in this position, there are a few tried-and-true rules to bring to the brand purpose battlefield:

Be Yourself. Authenticity Wins Every Time.

A successful brand refresh isn’t just about a new logo and fancy language about cool work perks.  It’s about peeling back the layers of your organization’s purpose and then crafting the story and messaging that allows you to substantiate your unique existence. Our proprietary StoryCore™ process helps organizations of all industries uncover and embrace the parts of their culture that are working for them and results in new positioning that helps people talk and think about the company on its best day. Affecting a certain tone, personality or even benefits that are “off brand” will ring hollow and will never create the kind of genuine connections and engagement with people necessary to build trust and loyalty in the brand.  That’s why we analyze and leverage every case study, proof point and statistic as a powerful identifier and validator of your positioning, giving your organization the swagger to proudly own what you do, why you do it and why that matters.

It’s OK to Not Be at Your Final Destination …. As Long as You Provide the Roadmap

In some cases, our clients rely on us to help them dig into and rediscover their “why.” In others, they need help connecting the CEO’s business strategy and vision for the organization to a broader story. They may not have launched the product or service or even have all of the proof points necessary, so developing the right “bridge message” becomes paramount. One that can aptly communicate where the company is today while providing a vision for what’s to come and how to get there. Part art, part science, this is a process that requires consultants with the ability to have the tough conversations internally and get the honest, hold-nothing-back insights that uncover where organizational shifts may be needed, and most importantly, where mind shifts are essential. We serve as unbiased third parties who can find the “white space” – the truly unique position where your brand can not only compete but win with talent.  We do this by analyzing marketplace and competitive positioning and resonance, and then pinpointing where perceptions on the outside match up with those on the inside.

Take an Inside-Out Approach

The most successful brand refreshes happen when an organization’s people are fully on board and invested in the process. If your people aren’t understanding your story, buying into it and sharing it, how will top talent ever hear it? The best way to ensure consistent delivery of your brand purpose is to make sure it resonates and inspires. We often work with clients on roll-out strategies and communications plans that educate and excite people internally and develop the tools and resources that will help your people be effective brand ambassadors outside the four walls of the organization.

As the rules of engagement continue to change, the first step in the talent war for any organization is just to join the fight … and with brand being one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal, make sure it’s positioning you to win.

– Dawn Lauer, Managing Director B2B, MWWPR