Your actions always trump your words

Picture 1 One of the most important aspects of branding, in my opinion, is consistency.  Inconsistency makes us nervous.  It feels like something is off or wrong.  Inconsistency begs us to keep digging, to see what the "real" truth is.  Inconsistency suggests we're being played or lied to.

And…when faced with an inconsistency — actions always speak louder than words.  Ever have someone promise you something…and then not deliver?  Do you think of them as reliable or unreliable? 

The actions always win.

I spent this past weekend at the Iowa High School Speech Association's All State Festival, where the best of Iowa's drama students get to showcase their talents.  It was a remarkable display of talent and celebration for these high school kids. 

At the opening ceremony, we were told in no uncertain terms that this was not a contest.  Each of the 1,000+ students who would perform that day had already won the highest honor — they'd been invited to perform at All State.  This was a celebration — a festival where we could and should put aside our school rivalries and enjoy each other's gifts.

But….in each category of performance (mimes, one act plays, etc.) there would be a critic present.  That critic is a professional with a great depth of experience and expertise in the specific genre of performance and at the end of the day, they would select one performance as the "Critic's Choice."

Guess what — their actions (having the critics and giving out an award for Critic's Choice) made it a contest.  No words or flowery speeches about collaboration and appreciation was going to change the fact that every kid (and coach) in the place now wanted to win the coveted Critic's Choice award.  Who can blame them?

I'm not saying that having it be a contest was wrong. It was a fun part of the day.  But, what I am saying is…when you say one thing and do another….your actions will always trump your words.

So….how does this impact us?  Do you have a tagline that your employees don't really live up to?  Does your brochure or website make a promise that you rarely keep?  Do you promise to deliver on a specific deadline and then usually run a day or two later?

Words are dandy.  But they are quickly dissolved by actions that do not match up.  When protecting and building your brand…do not make promises you can't keep.

That sort of brand damage can be incredibly costly, if not downright impossible, to repair.

How do you guard against this in your business?

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7 comments on “Your actions always trump your words

  1. Justin Brady says:

    For some reason business ethics just aren’t that important to many corporate guys. This, of course, results in huge turn-over, poor customer service, and a customer that is looking for excuses to jump ship.

    Honesty, is an easy, and free way to do business and keep customers.

    I believe you can guard against this in your business by
    1. hiring ethical, honest people
    2. making sure top executives demonstrate honest behavior
    3. having a character counts training session in your office

  2. Hi Drew-

    I think one way we can guard against having our actions fall short of delivering the promises we speak to our customers; is to develop and set in place processes that ensure a quality delivery of our actions each and every time.

    Having processes in place that identify qualified prospects and then a process to cultivate those prospects into new clients is important. But also, having subsequent processes in place that will inform and engage new clients so they can take full advantage of the services we offer is just as important.

    Making sure that our businesses have nimble processes in place to quickly rectify any short comings or misgivings for the services we provide is critical to our success and can go a long way in building customer confidence.

    When developed for the purpose of better serving the customer, having the right processes in place along the path of the customer experience can be executed by just about any employee and ensures customer satisfaction.

    One of the most successful examples of how a business can benefit from having the right processes in place to better service customers, is demonstrated every day at McDonalds. A McDonalds franchise in a less privileged area of town does just as well as a McDonalds in a more affluent part of town-because of the time tested processes they have in place for servicing every customer all the time

  3. JessieX says:

    Nice post. I agree with your perspective. Yet, and alas, there was one component that I found missing: the fact that the audience of this message was Millennials. Millennials are all about peer-orientation and rising together as a group that values both INCLUSION and RANK. It’s a diff world view than you hold as a GenXer. That’s my two cents.

  4. Steve says:

    Great posting Drew. Isn’t it amazing that business needs to contemplate, develop, implement, administer and monitor processes for the simple execution of doing what is right in addressing the needs of its customer?

  5. @Iconic88 says:

    Thanks for the insight.

    Congruency is key here and businesses should ensure they are congruent in all they do. It helps people to build trust with them.

    I guess these people didnt realise they had a critic in the audience…mmm 😉

  6. Oliver Chu says:

    Great article, actions certainly have a HUGE impact on branding. Just think of Tropicana’s recent debacle over their packaging. They spontaneously decided to remove their trademark picture of an orange with a straw, and replace it with a bland, generic typefont. Well this action caused an uproar as people barraged them with hate mail! After this marketing disaster, they finally gave in and announced that they will return to the original packaging next month. It goes to show that actions may be louder, but not necessarily correct. But as they say, go big or go broke!

  7. It’s amazing isn’t it? We all agree it’s just common sense. And yet the vast majority of businesses break this rule, both inside with their employees and outside with their customers.

    Why do you suppose that is?


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