How to Conduct an Agency Brand and Culture Audit

By | February 17, 2015
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Agency Brand AuditWhen outlining your agency’s mission, vision and values, it’s easy to employ a top-down approach. Executives or other key stakeholders often define these statements based on their own perceptions or desires, and then force-feed them to the rest of the team.

Yet, this usually results in statements that don’t truly define the organization or aren’t adhered to in real life by employees. This is often because they lack buy in or miss critical aspects of the company that only those on the frontlines are privy to.

Before you embark on a company rebranding, culture code deck or other grand-vision piece, I recommend following the Zappos approach. Audit your current employees and build their feedback into the final product. After all—we all want to create positive and fulfilling careers for our people, right? This starts with knowing what makes them tick, and what keeps them happy and engaged.

Sample Audit Questions

See below for a series of audit questions to send your staff. They touch on key areas of brand, services and culture, giving you employee insight that can be used to drive company values, messaging and planning. 

When we conducted this exercise at PR 20/20 (@pr2020), we set up a simple Google Form with the questions (though Survey Monkey would likely work well too), and gave each employee one week to submit their responses. Answers were then compiled, with key takeaways and reoccurring themes pulled out for discussion.

Brand

  1. How would you describe our agency in three words?
  2. What are the greatest strengths of our agency brand?
  3. What are the greatest weaknesses of our brand?
  4. What makes clients sign a contract with us for the first time (acquisition)?
  5. What keeps clients coming back (retention)?
  6. What would the industry be missing if our brand didn’t exist?

Services

  1. How would you define the services we offer in 140 characters or less?
  2. When you explain to your family what you do, what do you say?
  3. What are your favorite projects to work on? In general, and which specifically?
  4. What do you see as our greatest opportunities for growth?
  5. What is our agency’s competitive advantage?

Culture

  1. As a company, what do we care about most?
  2. How do employees treat one another?
  3. What do employees at our company have in common?
  4. What values are important for employees to possess to succeed here?
  5. What factors contributed to your decision to work here?
  6. What factors contribute to your decision to stay employed here?
  7. What does the agency mean to you personally?

Put the Audit into Practice

The audit is only as useful as what happens next—How can responses be put to use in meaningful ways to improve agency messaging, processes and culture? Below are some use case ideas to get you started:

  • Define your company’s culture and values. What reoccurring words and phrases were used when employees described the company and their experiences? These comments often provide a depiction of your company culture that is much more accurate than any generic values your management team could define. Our culture and values page on the PR 20/20 website, for example, was derived using the insight we collected from our team. 
  • Attract, recruit and retain the right marketing talent. With your values spelled out and the traits of your most successful employees defined, you can make smarter hiring (and firing) decisions. Adjust interview questions and employee performance reviews to better assess individuals on the cultural elements that matter to your organization. Recycle positive comments into employee testimonials for sharing with job candidates.
  • Focus efforts on what matters. As a service provider, your talent is your product. Keeping strong employees onboard is therefore one of the most fundamental ways to ensure long-term success. As a leader, is your energy focused on the items that matter to these top performers? What keeps employees around? How can you capitalize on, or improve upon, those areas to further reduce employee churn? That should be a critical focal point for agency management.
  • Better market your agency’s services and differentiators. You may find that employees explain your agency’s value and services better than your current marketing materials. Great; use their thoughts as a way to improve your website copy and sales collateral.
  • Assure the team is on the same page. Conversely, you may find that company messaging lacks consistency across employees. Take this as an opportunity to create a standard elevator pitch, FAQ documents and other brand assets to help employees deliver uniform descriptions.
  • Proactively address weak areas. Should you find that employees are unhappy or dissatisfied with certain aspects of your agency, fix them. Actively take steps to build the type of company where you (and your colleagues) want to work.   

What Did You Learn About Your Agency?

Have you conducted an employee audit? What did you learn that surprised you? What actions did you take as a result of it? Share your experiences below.

​Image Source: Simon Cunningham

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