How an awesome custom program for your staff can show the world you care.
Many promotional item campaigns focus on producing a whole whack of items for customers. To some degree, this makes sense. Customers do, after all, pay the bills. But if you think that’s the only group you should keep in mind for promotional products, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity: your own employees.
Your employees are the outward face of your company. In this era of transparency, your salespeople, delivery drivers and factory workers are all company ambassadors. They’ll be talking about your company and how awesome it is as much (or probably more) than any of your customers. So when it comes to showing gratitude to (and clothing) them, it makes a lot of sense to do so in accordance with your company’s ethical standards.
Get in line with your marketing
How meaningful is it to profess a commitment to high standards for sustainability when you’re buying cheap cotton uniforms for your crew?
Uniforms have mostly gone out of vogue in all but retail, delivery and customer service positions, but if you do have uniforms, you’ve got a fantastic opportunity to literally clothe your employees in your ethical brand. This is only possible if you do it right. It’s one thing to say your company is committed to ethical sourcing. It’s a totally different (and much better) thing to turn your employees into walking billboards for corporate social responsibility. Your people will feel great about being involved in your firm’s ethical standards — and they’ll tell other people about it. If you’re thinking about using uniforms, consider how they could “add an exclamation point” to your firm’s customer service.
You’re likely in a line of business in which your employees don’t wear uniforms. You still have opportunities, though. Many companies purchase employee appreciation gifts to thank workers for long-term service or particularly good results. If you’re doing this, a great way to add “meaning” to these is to produce them in alignment with your company’s ethics.
Improving employee engagement
Many companies market to consumers attracted to sustainability and human rights initiatives. However, you may be able to attract more engaged employees (and inspire them to work harder) by impressing on them how much you care about the issues. A UCLA study, for instance, found that employees in “green” companies are 16% more productive than average. They’re also more likely to be proud to work for your company, becoming brand evangelists.
You could also consider gamifying workplace sustainability practices, from recycling to volunteering with local causes, and rewarding employees with appropriate sustainable or activity-based prizes. Major companies like Campbell’s Soup and TD Bank have both seen some significant progress from these sorts of initiatives. But whatever you do, cut it out with the disposable swag!
On a smaller scale, at a bigger impact
In most cases, your employee base will be smaller than your customer base—but it can be just as good PR, at far less cost, to clothe your employees. More and more big corporations are understanding this, even service-industry giants like McDonalds.
Waste saves on materials — and makes a great story
Most companies — even service-based companies — produce waste of some kind or another. Waste can be a problem. We spend a lot of time, energy and money taking care of it. But it can also be an opportunity; Coca Cola, for instance, produces many of its promotional lines out of recycled plastic from coke bottles. On a smaller scale, we’ve helped local bioenergy company CowPower produced a promotional line out of old dairy barns slated for demolition. In each case, we’re not simply diverting waste from landfills. We’re showing off our commitment to the story we tell about our ethical practices. When you get employees involved in your corporate sustainability initiatives—whether through recycled-material-based uniforms or other neat giveaways—you’ve got a chance to amplify the signal of your story and share that goodwill on a grand scale.
Photo: A.C Kellis/National Film Board of Canada via Flickr
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