External communication, marketing and public relations (PR) have been tricky for brands over the last few years. A number of geopolitical, social, economic and health events have triggered a distinct rise in consumer activism. Leading to an ever-increasing emphasis on how corporations reflect these values when communicating with their audiences.
With a documented brand strategy that incorporates a set of core values, companies are better positioned to engage with their audience on a regular basis as well as respond to unexpected events when they inevitably occur. When developed with integrity and incorporated into your business’s operations, your brand values provide an essential roadmap for maintaining your public image and brand reputation.
In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about developing and sharing your own brand values. Plus, we’ll share a bit about Sprout’s own journey to do the same just a few years ago and examples of other brands showcasing their values effectively on social.
What are brand values?
Brand values are the beliefs that govern the way an organization does business. Along with several other foundational elements (like mission, vision, story, voice, etc.), brands’ values play a key role in their identity and perception, both internally and externally.
These guiding principles can also act as an “authenticity meter,” helping leaders make strategic decisions and employees and customers gauge whether the organization is living up to its stated values. Deviation from these standards can quickly become a public relations nightmare.
Why it’s important to have and share your brand’s values
A strong set of brand values is important for a number of reasons. Your brand values can help you:
- Attract and retain employees who are a cultural fit
- Make aligned decisions
- Engage like-minded consumers
- Build goodwill among your audience
Of course, fostering a strong culture is important. But beyond that, there’s also a clear correlation between your values and your bottom line.
What compels customers to choose one brand over another? According to The Sprout Social Index ™ 2022, trust and aligned values top the list (at 40% and 36% respectively).
Another Sprout study found that 53% of people feel more connected to brands that share their values. And that feeling of connection is more than just warm fuzzies. It correlates to increased spending, with 57% of people saying they will increase their spending with brands they feel connected to.
3 examples of brand values
The first step toward truly becoming a values-driven brand is to share what you stand for. Values-driven businesses don’t shy away from putting their foundational standards front and center, where both employees and the public can access them. Transparency, trust and visibility are key tenets of everything they do.
One great way to get inspiration for developing your own values is to look to other brands. The following examples of brand values will get you started.
1. Sprout Social
We created a microsite dedicated to sharing our brand identity and beliefs. Here, you can find our mission, positioning and core values, among other details. We take it a step further by also sharing the process we followed to refresh Sprout’s values.
Sprout’s values include:
- Care Deeply
- Embrace Accountability
- Champion Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
- Promote Open, Authentic Communication
- Seek Simplicity
- Solve Hard Problems
- Celebrate Change
The following are examples of Sprout’s values on display on social.
Finding a healthy balance between your social presence and your well-being isn’t always easy.
Your mental health should always come first. 💚 ⚖️ https://t.co/E7Mti8OAuP
— Sprout Social (@SproutSocial) December 16, 2022
2. For Days
For Days, a sustainable fashion brand, also shares their brand values on their website. With a mission to “eliminate clothing waste in order to benefit people and the planet,” it should come as no surprise their values similarly focus on sustainability and community.
For Days’ values include:
- Carefree, not careless
- Connected, not isolated
- Accountable, not irresponsible
To see For Days’ values in action, look no further than their social platforms.
3. Marriott International
Marriott International, a well-known hospitality brand, has a set of values that aligns with its global reach and focus.
Marriott International’s values include:
- We Put People First
- We Pursue Excellence
- We Embrace Change
- We Act with Integrity
- We Serve Our World
On social, Marriott International’s values are on full display.
Meet Melissa Stricker, General Manager for Fairfield by Marriott Charleston in West Virginia. She launched her career journey with an internship at a hotel by the beach. Once Melissa got her feet wet, she realized this was more than a summer job — it was a place to grow a career. pic.twitter.com/mhoW5YcX6P
— Marriott International (@MarriottIntl) December 23, 2022
.@CornellMBA recently launched its Sustainable Tourism Destination Management course. Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano was a guest speaker for the course, designed to train hospitality professionals in using sustainable practices. #Serve360 https://t.co/beUp9M4x5Y
— Marriott International (@MarriottIntl) December 19, 2022
How to define your brand’s values
When we refreshed our brand values in 2018, Sprout’s leaders followed a pretty rigorous process because they knew how important it was to get them right. The steps below outline how the team formulated our current set of values.
1. Establish your team
First, it’s important to bring in a diverse set of voices with different experiences and points of view. Make sure you have a sampling of different levels throughout the organization (i.e., not just senior leaders). We did this by sending an open invitation to the entire company and then whittling it down to a working group of 15 individuals.
2. Gather feedback
Among other responsibilities, the working group led department-based focus groups to harvest feedback from across the company. Our leadership team recognized that for the values development process to be successful, employees should feel ownership in the process.
Similarly, your facilitators should collect input from various departments and individuals. By the end of these sessions, you should have a sizable list of ideas.
Social listening can also help here, providing details about what your customers love about your brand and what they think you could do better.
3. Identify themes
With so many ideas to consider, it could get overwhelming to narrow down your set of values. That’s why we recommend you start by identifying themes among the submissions. For example, there might be 10 or 15 ideas around employee growth that are fairly similar and could be combined into a thematic grouping. Be sure to focus on your existing culture but also your aspirations for the future. Where are you today? But also—where do you want to go?
4. Refine and communicate
Now that you’ve developed a slimmer list of themes, it’s time to present them to the executive team for feedback. This “small council” will refine the themes down to a manageable set of values that reflect the input and research gathered throughout the process. It was through this exercise that we established Sprout’s seven core values. From there, leadership should communicate the final list to the rest of the organization.
How to communicate your brand values to customers through social media
Connecting with your audience on social is a must for modern brands. Regardless of the platforms you choose to show up on, a social presence is required to remain relevant.
And while it’s important to share various types of content to showcase your brand voice and personality, make sure your values are showcased regularly as well. Authentically embodying your brand values in the content you share helps your audience see that they are more than just words on your website; your values are an inherent part of the way you think, act and engage.
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
1. Put them on your website
Okay, this one is not technically a social media tactic, but it’s so important we decided to include it here. The more visibility and transparency your audience has into your values and the things that make your brand tick, the more connected they’ll feel. And we’ve already established that leads to more sales. While social media is a great place to showcase your values, don’t forget to include them on your website, too.
2. Share your story
People like stories. It’s how we make sense of the world. And brands that are really good at telling their stories often build a loyal following, too. Brand storytelling goes beyond the facts to highlight the “why” behind your business. It makes your brand more human and easier to connect with. It also enables you to share your values in action.
3. Partner with influencers
Whether your perfect influencer is a precocious child prodigy, a well-known celebrity or a really cute dog (see the example below), borrowing the cache of other brands or creators that share similar values can multiply the effect of your values-driven social content. Get in front of more eyes by finding a shared cause and promoting it together.
4. Partner with nonprofits
Another example of “two accounts are better than one” is partnering with nonprofits that aid causes related to your values. This can go a long way toward helping you authentically embody your brand values on social. You might collaborate on a project (as in the example below) or you might simply interact with each other, like sharing each other’s content. Either way, the symbiotic amplification is a win-win.
5. Showcase your employees
When you think about a company’s values, you can’t forget about the employees. A brand’s commitment to its values is also illustrated in the way it treats its team members. And employees are the ones living your values in action every day. Allow them to share what they love about working for your company and what your values mean to them. Employee advocacy is an easy, organic way to humanize your brand while increasing your reach.
Congrats to Dousan for joining the team as an Interaction Designer at Android!#Noogler first impression? “I was really blown away by the learning resources we have access to and how much everyone is willing to lend a helping hand.”
— Life at Google (@lifeatgoogle) December 27, 2022
6. Keep up with current events
Keep your brand feeling fresh and relevant by weighing in on things that are actually happening in the world right now. The past few years have shown that consumers want companies to stand behind what they say they believe. Consider doubling down on the stuff that matters to you and your people, but of course, exercise caution.
While these efforts can be polarizing, they will ultimately help you curate an audience of loyal fans that want what you’re selling. Remember, if you’re talking to everyone, you’re actually reaching no one. When it aligns with your brand values, make it crystal clear where you stand on the issues.
Los Angeles City Council has voted to ban new fossil fuel drilling and phase out existing oil and gas wells over the next 20 years.
Let’s keep the pressure on and urge @GavinNewsom to stop oil and gas drilling across the state of California
Take action: https://t.co/wCBqbU0PXW
— Patagonia (@patagonia) December 27, 2022
It’s about time our economic leaders start to look a little more like the rest of the country. Economic volatility affects women, and especially women of color, disproportionately.
It helps to have some people in charge who understand what that means — and how to fight it. 👏🏽
— Ellevest (@Ellevest) December 16, 2022
Find the issues that matter to your audience
Your brand values are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to ensuring your internal and external communications are effective. Now that you’ve developed them, it’s time to incorporate them into your larger corporate communications strategy. With this plan in place, your teams can navigate any event, from product launches to public relations crises, with ease.
Download the free corporate communication plan template to get started.