PR’s Top Pros Talk…Developing Effective Brand Differentiation
Jennifer Temple, Chief Communications Officer, Hewlett Packard Enterprise
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About the Host:
HOST: DOUG SIMON
GUEST: JENNIFER TEMPLE
DOUG: Jennifer, it’s been six years since Hewlett Packard Enterprise separated from the rest of the business. How have you gone about establishing this new brand that was once part of this larger, huge brand is actually a huge brand itself?
JENNIFER: Oh, thanks. And thanks for having me. And to your question of how you go about that work, first we really had to know what we were dealing with. We wanted to inventory our stakeholders and understand. What did they appreciate about the legacy brand? What did they know about the new company? Where did we have room to help clear up misperceptions and educate people about where we were headed? And so the first order of business in tackling a relevance question is really understanding where you stand. So we did that first. We did a bunch of benchmarking research. We pulled all of our stakeholders. We had a lot of perception data, both internally and externally. And then that really gave us a chance to architect a roadmap for how do we answer the questions that people still have, misperceptions people have. Where did they think we could most influence in ways where they weren’t yet seeing our brand show up? Too many people didn’t understand where we played in the cloud arena, for instance, not enough people understood that the significant contributions we make to communities and through philanthropy and through our technology. So we weren’t being recognized enough for our good deeds, if you will. And then at the same time, we knew from our own employees that they really wanted to be part of something special and be a part of this new chapter. And they wanted to know what their roles were in defining the next chapter. And so we began this multi-year journey. We’re still very much on it. But it’s been one about attacking that ambiguity, leaning right into it and addressing it, transforming culture and really reigniting this HP as a technology player and leader in conversation. So there’s a lot there.
DOUG: Yeah, there’s lots there. And you talk about being the architect of the roadmap and as an organization, obviously sometimes those words take twists and turns, as they did with the COVID pandemic. How did you have to adjust to that? Obviously a big part of what HPE does through an important strimmer pandemic as how so many organizations were changed dramatically overnight.
JENNIFER: So we’ve had a mantra that’s governed us through the last few months that’s been about assessing where we are, addressing what we can control, and then adapting to whatever the new realities that have been thrust upon us. So we talk a lot to our team members and to our various constituents about assessing, addressing and adapting so that people see us being very flexible and nimble, I think a couple of specifics in terms of how have we changed? We’ve recognized that if forty five percent of our global workforce still is working remotely and that’s not going to change any time soon. And that’s not just HPE’s workforce. That’s the world’s workforce. We’re going to have to be one of the players that connects people. So connectivity, first and foremost is an essential I mean, we can’t do our work globally as citizens without that connectivity. So we’re really focused on connecting people, addressing digital divides where they exist, and then making sure people can have really rich experiences, even if they’re virtual and if they’re lucky enough to start coming back to stadiums and concert halls and places where people gather, then what does that in-person experience going to change to and adapt and where can our technology help that?
DOUG: Now, you obviously as a brand of a strong history, a strong culture, a strong reputation, but you’re in a space with some major competitors, obviously. How can you utilize the reputation, the culture which may be changing to help establish some market differentiation? Because that can be hard to do. And I imagine it might even be harder because people at times will think of the name and associated with the printer that they’ve had for 10 years, et cetera.
JENNIFER: Well, yes, very much the case that there are increasingly a number of voices that are at the table and having conversations. But what I like and what’s exciting about being a public relations and a communications professional is that brands are no longer defined by traditional advertising alone or by big marquee events, certainly not in a post pandemic world where you can even host those events anymore. So increasingly, people make bets on brands based on one interaction at a time. So increasingly, it’s one speech, it’s one engagement, it’s one podcast, it’s one connection. And that that means every single stakeholder is an interaction and represents a moment that we have to be able to separate us. And so I think comms is going to play a huge role in that.
DOUG: I was going to ask if your brand ambassadors, including your CEO and the stakeholders, have they all become part of your brand ambassador network, so to speak? And how do you go about working with them to make it the most effective messaging and result?
JENNIFER: Yeah, we are very blessed to have a wonderful CEO who takes his responsibility of being that kind of ambassador with our team members first and foremost and with our external constituents. So we have very much enjoyed the opportunity to have Antonio connect with people and play that role. But what we’ve also learned is that everyone can play that role and anyone can play that role. And so it’s been very gratifying to see people want to advocate for our company, for our customers, be able to tell compelling stories through the lens of what we made possible for our customer. There’s this amazing story of a group of our Edge employees that came out of Aruba that outfitted a ferry boat in Italy in the height of the pandemic to become a floating hospital. And so that they become brand ambassadors. First and foremost, they’re solving a real need and a human need, and they’re connecting our technology to purpose. But second of all, they become instantly the spokespeople of our brand and what we stand for when they have an idea like that and they snap into gear and they execute the idea and they’re the very best representation of who we are. So I couldn’t ask for better spokespeople. When you have the sort of talent and engineering prowess and commitment that we have with those kinds of individuals,
DOUG: So, Jennifer, you might get a chuckle out of this one, because I’m asking you to give us a short answer as we wrap up this discussion for a question that could be sort of an endless discussion. And the question is, in maybe three, a couple of bullet points. How do you create the culture where people naturally become brand ambassadors? Not in a way that necessarily everything’s going through the communications team, but just by sharing what they’re experiencing, being part of an organization.
JENNIFER: Sure. And you’re right, this could be the whole conversation. But I’ll try to be brief. I think first it starts with understanding the vision and where the company is headed. And if you can articulate that to your entire employee base, then they can share where they feel connected to the vision and what their role is and they can make it really personal. So understanding the vision. Number two, I think they have to feel empowered. And so we have to have a culture that empowers them to take risks and do something a little scary every week, challenge themselves. And so a culture that allows that kind of experimentation is essential. And then finally, I’m constantly seeking feedback. And I would encourage any ambassador and any spokesperson and anyone who’s espousing the company’s brand to be asking how it’s working, how are we doing? Is it connecting? Are we answering your questions? Are we leaving any change on the table? And so that continual feedback loop helps make us better ambassadors.
DOUG: And I think a key part of that is making sure you’re being authentic and what you’re communicating, which you’ve really done so during this conversation. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas and thoughts, great stuff.
JENNIFER: Excellent. Thanks so much for having me and for the work you’re doing to bring the stories that I love it.
DOUG: I appreciate it.