Respect. Honesty. Integrity. The list of values that so many brands share goes on. None of these stand out from the bunch. None of them hit the emotional chords they intend to. And worst of all, none of these broad concepts can easily be put into action.
My agency has a unique approach to uncover and articulate values in a way that truly speaks to people. However, you need to fully understand what values are and what they are not before you can learn how to best identify, articulate and strengthen your business’s values.
Values are often confused with concepts that they’re related to but not identical to. Your values are not descriptions of what you do. That’s your mission. And while your values are connected to your mission, they’re not the strategies you employ to accomplish your mission. Finally, your values are not your technical capabilities, no matter how impressive those might be.
So, what are values? Core values are the constant, unchanging beliefs or ideas of what is good that form the foundation upon which a company conducts itself. Values are the rules you live by. They are the aspects of your identity that lead you on your mission to fulfill your purpose — the parts of who you are that enable you to achieve your vision. In essence, values are a meaningful answer to how you do what you do.
1. Own your core values.
It’s true that respect, honesty and integrity are important in business. They’re so important that every brand should value those concepts, and no brand should need to share them. We call those cost of entry or table stakes. You should share the values that distinguish your brand from the rest of them. To separate your values from others, you have to be more specific. Put your own spin on it. Tell the world the values that are unique to you.
2. Put your values into actionable words.
To simply say that you value respect, honesty, integrity or any other concept is not enough. At my agency, when we describe our values and our clients’ values, we create active phrases that enable us and our clients to put those values into action.
For example, instead of saying it values “courage,” Facebook demands people “Be bold.” In addition to giving you guidelines for your practices, active phrasing will better appeal to the people you want to attract. Actionable words enable customers to see how brands put values into action.
3. Make your values memorable.
Strong core values stick in people’s minds. The terms people hear over and over won’t do that. What customers expect to hear won’t stand out to them. When you articulate the genuine beliefs that your company lives by, use engaging words. You have to choose what you say carefully if you want to get your message across. More than simply telling people what you believe, paint a memorable picture. Give them something to remember you by.
Collaboration, for instance, is an important value of The Coca-Cola Company, but it is not quite memorable. The words its leaders use to describe it are. They declare that their company must “Leverage collective genius.”
4. Inspire people with your values.
If your values do not inspire, there is no point in sharing them. “Managing business” might be what you do, but it’s not a value and it isn’t going to emotionally resonate with anyone if you try to present it as a value.
Ask yourself what the most fundamental ethics to your success are. Share the morals that you and your company deeply believe in and care about. If you pride yourself on “Initiative” and feel it is essential to your business, then you might declare your value to be to “Aspire higher.” When you can uncover and articulate the beliefs that truly inspire you, you can inspire others, and that inspiration will draw them in.
5. Describe your authentic values, not your aspirational values.
An authentic company’s values are authentic, not aspirational. When listing your values, you shouldn’t describe an ethic that your business lacks or aims to improve on. Your company should genuinely live by the values you share before you share them. If you don’t currently embody the morals you preach, they’re not your true values. Values are a part of a company’s present identity, not a company’s future ideal.
So, how strong are your values?
Are your values better than the broad concepts that so many companies paste onto their marketing materials? Check how you measure up against our methods. If you’re lacking in any area, adjust your business and the values you share accordingly.
Your values will dictate your success, as values are an important part of building communities that customers will wish to join. If you can share values that are unique, actionable, memorable, inspirational and authentic, those values will bring a myriad of people who share them to flock to your business.
This article was first published on Forbes Agency Council, Oct 11, 2019.