Marketing’s Impact on Firm Culture: Build Your Purple Wall
This is one of the main hallways through the accounting firm Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD (GJM), where I lead marketing efforts. The words you see in the picture came from our staff when we asked them to describe “who we are” as a firm. I love this wall, and here’s why: our people created it. It’s also a reminder every single day of our culture, and how we treat each other and our clients. I think it’s an excellent example of marketing’s power in helping to mold, reinforce, and support firm culture. I would even go out on a limb and say that you, the marketers within your own firms, are perhaps the most powerful and influential when it comes to defining your accounting firm culture.
In this article, I’ll share nine of the initiatives, strategies, and mindsets in place at Gilmore Jasion Mahler to celebrate and nurture our firm culture. It’s not exactly rocket science. These are basic high-level concepts, but I hope you’ll get some takeaways that will help you see your power in molding your own firm culture.
We moved to a new building in November of 2019 and took the opportunity to include some graphic elements to capture our firm culture, including our purple wall. It sits just off our front lobby, so any clients walking in also get a glimpse. In addition, a feature wall within the office reinforces our mantra “One Firm,” and a small conference room off our front lobby is another opportunity for client-facing messaging – just a different take on our purple wall. I would encourage you to consider your physical buildings. Where can you post your core values or your mission statement? If you already have these graphic walls in place, how can you refresh your messaging? I will admit our purple wall is my favorite, mainly because our own staff helped to create it.
Our new building also includes a TV monitor system that allows our marketing team to create various informational slides for staff, clients, and other visitors. We celebrate our new CPAs, those coming on board as new hires, announce programs and initiatives, communicate COVID protocols, and more.
Brand Ambassador Program
Our firm created a Brand Ambassador Program several years ago. The program has two main goals: to help our younger professionals build their personal and professional networks (and those critical soft skills), and to recognize the accomplishments and celebrate the successes of all our staff. We do this with quarterly Brand Ambassador awards, including the GJM Brand Ambassador of the Year award. We also cohost small socials with some of our referral partners so our young professionals can build new relationships and get comfortable at networking events.
Community Outreach and Public Service
I sit on the Community Outreach Committee at GJM and help to select the initiatives we’ll support each year with “boots on the ground” volunteer activities. Community service brings us together as a team to help others, and I reinforce the initiative with social media support/messaging. This year, I created a light-hearted video about one of our activities as we built a backyard playhouse for a little boy through Maumee Valley Habitat for Humanity.
Diversity & Inclusion
GJM recently established a Diversity & Inclusion Focus Group to reinforce that our firm is welcoming to all. As a member of this team, I am also able to reinforce the activities with messaging both internal and external.
Orientation/New Hire Onboarding
Marketing also spends time with all new hires at our firm as part of their firm orientation. It is a chance to reinforce firm culture on day one of employment.
If the pandemic has taught us anything as marketers, it is (in my opinion) that communication with our staff just got more important. With so many working remotely, staying connected as a team is vital. An internal communications plan can help you remain a “team.” Determine how often you want to communicate and what you want to share. We also have a quarterly internal newsletter, and we hold virtual town hall meetings as needed. While I am a believer that you can’t overcommunicate, I certainly acknowledge that we all need to be mindful of busy season. You know when it’s a good time to communicate with your people and when you should back off so they can work toward an important deadline.
Blogs and Social Media
As you work on your editorial calendar and craft your social media posts, I would challenge you to say to yourself: how does this content reinforce firm culture? Just as your content strategy reinforces your firm’s business objectives and growth goals, it can also reinforce firm culture. Be strategic in everything you do. Even a carefully chosen social media hashtag can be an opportunity to say something about your firm to external and internal audiences.
Our Interactions with Staff as Marketers
I don’t know about you, but I love meeting with new hires, encouraging our young professionals to grow their “soft” skills, helping a member of leadership to further nurture a client relationship, or writing up a quick blog or social post about an interesting project or community activity featuring a staff member. I believe that the way we conduct ourselves in the office has a huge impact on firm culture and growing our future leaders. A chat at the coffee machine, a smile, a helpful thought may sound like something small, but in my opinion, these could be some of the most significant ways we can impact firm culture.
And one parting overarching thought: consider your tone in all your marketing efforts. We don’t often come right out and tell someone “This is our firm culture,” or “Here’s the definition of our brand,” but the tone we take with our marketing efforts is much the same. Not only do we as marketers have a powerful impact on firm culture, but I would also suggest that we can drive – or even create – firm culture.
So, what’s your purple wall?
About Susan Ross Wells
Susan Ross Wells is the Marketing Manager for Gilmore Jasion Mahler, LTD, the largest locally owned public accounting firm in Northwest Ohio. With the firm since 2015, her areas of focus include marketing & branding strategy, web development, content creation, media relations and social media management. She is also an advocate for Flag City Honor Flight, the local hub of the Honor Flight Network, which flies veterans to Washington, D.C. to see the memorials built in their honor.
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