Last week, IBM Singapore was awarded Asia’s Best Employer Brand for its track record in attracting, retaining and developing talent, and for producing leaders capable of driving change.
The award caused me to reflect upon the importance of people in building a company’s brand and reputation, and even more critically, in ensuring that a company always acts in ways that are consistent with its brand image.
Trust has always been an essential element in building successful brands. But it seems that trust is increasingly in short supply when it comes to how companies treat people’s personal data. Governments around the world are passing legislation aimed at data privacy and ownership, the most notable of which is the GDPR legislation in Europe sets out a clear framework for how companies can use people’s personal data.
You don’t have to think too hard to come up with recent examples of how organisations have directly misused their customers’ data, or have been culpable in allowing malicious third parties to misuse it. The business model that underpins many of today’s platform giants, and the associated industry that has sprung up around them, is based on finding the most profitable ways to monetise their users’ data – oftentimes without their consent. It’s enough to make you want to go off the grid!
It begs the question, which companies do you trust to have access to your data? My advice is to read the fine print. Companies that seek to profit from your information often reveal themselves in their terms and conditions. And I don’t just mean in how we use social media. This advice is just as relevant (perhaps even more so) in the business to business environment. After all, around 80% of the data in the world sits behind corporate firewalls and has unique value.
Trusted brands take a long time to build, but brand equity can be stripped away relatively quickly when companies don’t act in ways that are consistent with the expectations of their customers. Companies that don’t place a premium of protecting customer data, or who aren’t transparent about how that data is used are placing their brands at significant risk.
So, while talent is clearly critical in building trusted brands, that talent relies on a strong corporate culture that is driven by ethics and integrity, and provides a strong policy framework from which good decisions can be made. Lots of companies have clear and compelling values, but trusted brands are the ones that focus ensuring their people can live these values as they go about their work.
Before you trust a company with your personal data, just think for a moment about whether that company is living its values and really acting in ways that are consistent with its brand promise.