The first time you encounter a company or potential business partner, it's almost always online. When the pandemic was in full swing, this was the only way to really discover what a firm was all about. Various digital breadcrumbs led to different sources of information that you were able to collectively ascertain, thus creating an impression in your brain. So how can companies make themselves more appealing in the digital environment? What type of content and creativity is causing potential candidates or customers to stick around like butter on a cookie sheet? Originality is the solution for this difficult feat. Let's look at a few steps to make sure your firm has the best dish in town, regardless of how much competition is around!
Step 1: Don't copy the recipe, if you seek credibility.
There's a certain expectation to see boilerplate and keyword fluff, but where's the real good stuff? Where's the thought leadership that's inspiring a reader to resonate? What's the first thing you see when you look at a company? The name and the logo, right? Not every logo and name needs be dynamic, artistic, or groundbreaking. What's nice to see though, is that a personal touch of creativity or a nod to the soul of the company is incorporated into the nomenclature. In today's highly digital world, there is a very beneficial approach to embracing design psychology. More importantly, employees are able to explain these dynamics as well - if such an opportunity arises to share the origin story. Do your employees know the real reason you started your firm? Have you empowered your staff to embrace, evolve and improve upon that vision?
Besides the obvious external factors, what level of original thought leadership are you able to observe? This doesn't necessarily come in the form of white papers, everyone's already doing those to a massive degree of boring un-originality. A better option could be interviews, blogs, or employee features that are unscripted, unforced, and not produced by ghost writers. This is to convey a sense of normal dialogue flow, as society is growing tired of the overly stiff and scripted suit show. This isn't to say that amazing firms like VaynerMedia can't help curate content (it's a very useful service), but if they create the entirety of what is seen - then the reality of the company is just a dream.
Step 2: Never cut and paste, it's an obvious waste!
There's a clear expectation that companies should operate from a place of high integrity and that they wouldn't dare attempt to present their work product as someone else's. We were supposed to learn this back in grade school, but that doesn't mean you still won't encounter an opportunistic fool. There's nothing more treacherous than working with someone who believes that it's ok to go to another firm or source, and take their material word for word and present it as their own - you may be surprised how often this happens. Just like writing a paper, you should always cite your source as it adds credibility to your main course. When we stumble across staff who intentionally and knowingly skip this step, it results in a major fall. If leadership is aware of this behavior and fails to discipline, then they're just an advocate for their own delegitimization.
It's great to seek inspiration and learn from those who have been successful, but copying their every move will never help the team improve. It's like telling customers you're offering a Michelin star, but when they walk in the door - they just find an old, run down bar. So if you want your staff to embrace originality - regularly invite them to update the success story of the company. When you create this corporate messaging, also make sure you don't use it as a forced exercise to counter a poor reputation. Interviewing new staff and forcing them to say how great leadership is, is massively transparent and deeply unfortunate. When you see these dynamics occur, you can rest assured that management is intentionally not being forthright with their corporate culture. It's like telling your customers to try the icing, but ignore the cake - nothing could be more fake.
Step 3: Find unique ingredients, and invite the whole team to cook up a win.
After you've made sure not to directly copy another firm's genius and doubly ensured that nobody on your team would be brazen enough to actually lift direct content or thought leadership word for word, you'll easily be on your way to developing unique value! It's simply a matter for leadership to create the conditions by which everyone is welcomed and encourage to cook in the kitchen of corporate creativity. This doesn't mean you flood the boardroom with cooks, just make sure that every staff member is offered an opportunity to contribute their unique value in the firm's recipe books.
If all this talk about leadership originality is making you hungry, you're not alone! There are many candidates and customers who are fed up with companies that are more concerned with copying what looks successful, instead of focusing on their most valuable asset - the employees! Worst case, this concept is brought up at another "lunch and learn." Best case, maybe more companies will now seek to create a Chief Originality Officer (COO) role to make this dynamic a front of the house concern!