Rumormongers can sell your brands too

Published in Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 19, 2002

AN ORGANIZATION’S informal network, associated with rumor-mongering and gossiping, is often perceived to bring little value to a company.

Albeit viewed with much distrust and suspicion, it may nevertheless be a formidable avenue of communication for internal marketing efforts.

Who are behind the organization’s informal network? Terence Deal and Allan Kennedy in their book, “Corporate Cultures, The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life”, describe the informal network as made up of storytellers, spies, priests, cabals and whisperers.

When steered to the right direction, this informal network can help bring success to your brand. Using the storytellers, spies, priests, cabals, gossips and whisperers as real-life brand endorsers can be an effective way to get the product accepted, understood and promoted by the entire organization’s employees.

The company’s informal network can be your best mouthpiece ever foradvertising copy as these stakeholders spread the news about the brand’s identity, benefits, values as well as relate anecdotes and stories of how the brand has improved their lives and their friends and families’ lives.

Getting them to talk about the brand helps them live and relive the brand.

Storytellers. Found in positions that give them access to information, their stories are based on their perception and understanding of what goes on in the company. Storytellers can be great mediums in preserving institutions and brands as they narrate legends, anecdotes, real stories about the company or the brand to new employees, clients and customers.

Who has not heard of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Col. Harland Sanders successful foray into the quick service restaurant business at age 65 using his US$105 social security check to start a business.

Priests. Yes, they too, are found in companies. Priests have been with their organizations longer than anybody ever has. They have time to listen to an employee’s confession but their offered solution is often related to a historical precedent. Getting the naturally contrarian priest to your side, blessing a new marketing plan and enthusiastically preaching about the new brand’s goodness is both a signal of product acceptance and a step to successful internal marketing.

Whisperer. They are the power behind the throne and their source of power is the boss’ ears. Getting the whisperer to understand your brand’s
benefits and values, turning them into brand champions can help sustain longterm support for your brand.

Gossips. These are the strolling minstrels or entertainers in the company’s sub-culture whose steady and current diet of news is staple for many
of the organization’s employees. The gossip’s role can be positively charted to bring real time news to the storyteller’s legends. Gossips can be used to spice up the brand’s legendary benefits and values with more present-day accomplishments and testimonials from today’s ever-changing consumers.

Spies. These are the organization’s foot soldiers who generally keep managers informed of real-time incidents in the organization. Spies help verify the rumor mill or balance the information delivered by whisperers. Marketing people can use this group to report unfiltered customer feedback that can be sound basis for new or loyalty marketing programs.

Cabals. These are groups of two or more people whose intent is to advance themselves in the organization by creating a larger than life perception of themselves. Forming cabals in organizations can be a strong marketing management lever to weed out the worst performing salespeople. It can also be a strong motivation tool. Special recognition and hall of fame awards in sales is a step to creating cabals whose drive and ambition to belong to a cabal group of high achievers and performers can yet lead to the brand’s success.

The informal network’s importance in helping build a brand can not be disregarded. Getting the employees who make up the organization’s sub-culture informed about the brand’s vision and identity, keeping them posted with the brand’s improvements and new extensions, arming them with information about the customers delightful experience with the brand can only move the entire organization to become storytellers extolling the brand’s legendary attributes, values and virtues.

Quoted from Anthony Robbins, â€œTo effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”