Before you can tell others who you are, you have to know who you are. Amazingly, many companies don’t.
When working with a company to create their Message, Voice, and Tone, I utilize an unlikely tool: 5 cliché questions from job interviews. While the questions may be clichés–and often misused in interviews–they still provide a simple way for companies (and people) to think about who they are and what they want to accomplish.
What Is Your Strong Point?
Quite simply: What is the best thing about your company? Don’t think in terms of product or market share–those things change all the time–but about the company itself. What aspect of the company’s “personality” is the strongest? Honesty? Commitment? Friendliness? Simplicity?
These are things that don’t–or shouldn’t–change at the whims of the market. As with all of these questions, don’t restrict yourself to the “business” parts of your business. Think about the company culture, its history, its involvement in the community. These are the things that make your company strong.
What Is Your Weak Point?
This is a difficult question, but an important one. Where is the one place where your company lags behind? Where could it use the most improvement. Again, don’t look at market metrics, look at the company itself. Be honest. Do you have a high employee turnover? Is your quality below standard? Are there too many delays in the process? Are you CSRs failing to solve customer problems?
You can’t improve your company until you identify what needs improving.
What Makes You Stand Out From the Crowd?
Not your products. You. The company. What makes your company different from all the other companies out there? What do you have, what do you do, that others don’t? Is it your attitude? Your approach to problems? Your involvement in social causes? Your interaction with local communities. Apple had the casual charisma of Steve Jobs. Tesla dreams of crazy things–and then tries to build them.
What Do You Bring to the Market?
Not your products. They’re irrelevant in all of this. What do you, as a company and as people, bring to the market? This is about “value added”. Or, to use my favorite word: langniappe. Do you bring a positive attitude? Perhaps a creative way of thinking? Or the history and insight of a foreign culture?
Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?
This one is a bit tricky–not because it’s difficult to lay out a 5 year plan, but because it’s asking about things outside of the “business of your business”. The question isn’t asking about sales numbers and market shares. It’s asking about the development and maturity of your company. What are the intangible goals you’ve set for yourself. Are they ambitious enough? Are they attainable?
The answers to these 5 questions are not a development plan. They don’t product an easy-to-follow list of instructions on how to be better. What they do, is help you to better understand who you are and what you want to accomplish. This, in turn, helps your marketing and PR teams to do their jobs.
Questions 3 and 4 are especially important when looking at your marketing and PR. They will help to build not just your brand, but your public perception and reputation.
And if you really want insight into the problems you’re likely to face, have the top 5 decision-makers in your company answer these questions separately–and then compare them. It can be quite educational.