At first glance, dear reader, you may think I’m jumping on the “brand-wagon.” Not so. In fact, I can’t turn around without bumping into yet another presentation on personal brand that leaves me unsatisfied. Why, then, would I write a post about branding your training program of all things?
The raw material, the essence of brand, is critically important to the success of your program and your participants.
The presentations I’ve attended complicate the process. What Albert Einstein said is true about branding — and everything, really.
I’ll make it simple.
A brand is not a tagline, logo, color palette, copy, website, or social media post.
Your brand = Your integrity
To exemplify integrity you, your company, and your training program must:
- Clearly communicate what you’ll do.
- Do it.
- Inspiring your customers, clients or participants to spread your message.
As a learning leader, if you don’t take time with your team to mine your brand, you will lose participation, miss your targets, and lose resources. In short, you will lose integrity.
I promised to make this communication about branding your training program simple. I intend to keep that promise.
Here’s 3 Simple Steps to Mine Your Training Program’s Brand
Step One: Know What You Want to Communicate
Before you communicate, know what you want to say using elements from brand strategy. The way I help my clients get to the core of their strategy is to ask them this, “If your training program was a person, what would they be like? How would they behave? How would they make participants feel? What would be their expertise?” These questions are the beginning of a messaging architecture we develop to guide decision-making, not only for communication purposes, but for content, programming, platforms, and more.
(Stay with me. The first is the longest of the three steps and it makes the rest of the process so much easier!)
Other questions to ask when mining your training brand message:
- Who, exactly, does your training program serve?
- Get specific: Senior leaders, customer service reps, salespeople, new recruits, etc.
- You will likely have multiple segments.
- What does each segment need from your training program?
- Consider career development, basic skills, industry changes, and more.
- What is the primary pain point, or road block, for each segment?
- What does success look like?
- For each segment?
- For your training program?
- For the company?
- How does your training program alleviate each segment’s concerns?
- What do you offer? (content, platform, timing, etc.)
- HOW do you offer it differently than anything else your segments could access?
- Why would they take time from their day to participate?
- What’s in it for each segment?
- How do they benefit?
- What’s the trade-off?
- What do you want participants to feel when they interact with your program?
- Use emotion/feeling words
- What do you want them to say about their experience to others?
- How will they perceive your program?
- What do you want them to share?
As the learning leader, you might want to answer these questions on your own. Please do! Your next step is to ask anyone that works in, or interacts with, your program. Remember, your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what other people say it is. To gauge the health of your brand you need to know what you want them to say.
“If your training program was a person, what would they be like? How would they behave? How would they make participants feel? What would be their expertise?”
Gather your notes, and select the most vivid words to craft a statement that communicates the following:
- Who do you serve? (Target)
- What do you offer? (Contribution)
- Why choose your program? (Value)
Step Two: Communicate in words, pictures, and actions.
I’m not suggesting you run out and have a designer create an exclusive logo for your professional training program. I am suggesting that you intentionally choose every image, color, word, and action to be consistent with the promise of your training brand.
- What would an employee needing basic skills training want to see, hear, and experience?
- How will your training brand appeal to senior leaders wanting/needing coaching?
- Where will your participants go to find and register for training and what will they see when they get there?
- Is everyone involved with the training program acting consistently with our brand’s promise?
All your communications and actions, internal and external, regarding your training program must be consistent.
Here’s an example from our training brand at Intentional Growth Strategies:
A core component of our training brand is active learning and interaction. I’m not talking about moments like, “Raise your hand if…” peppered throughout a PowerPoint presentation. I’m talking about get out of your seat, put pen to paper, let’s try this now, kind of interaction. With this point of difference in mind, here are some of our brand components:
- How we talk about our training – “Learn . Do . Grow.”
- A snippet from my bio (I do most of the training.) – “Our founder’s experience in learning design and professional training underscores her passion for turning business school theory into practical tools that engage, inspire, and produce results.”
- Direction to our graphic designer: “Any photo of training in our materials must be from the perspective of the participant. If there’s a presenter or ‘lecturer’ at the front of the room with everyone watching him/her, I don’t want it.”
All our efforts in communicating the promise of interaction and engagement could be revealed to be paste and glass. Proof that our point of difference is a true gem comes in the form of our actions. Our in-person training is carefully designed to integrate practice. Our mobile and online courses use innovative tools to engage with our participants in ways that delight and inspire.
If they did not, we would be failing our promise – we would be failing our brand, and our participants would be the first to notice.
Step Three: Listen and respond to the perceptions of your participants
The only way you’ll know if the intention of your brand has become a reality is to ask. I’m not talking about the common survey at the end of a training session.
- Find out what your participants are saying on social media – in fact, consider forming an online focus group.
- Network with key stakeholders and gather insight about how your program is perceived in the industry.
- Perform intake and exit interviews with participants in longer term programming.
- Have lunch with a sample of your participants and ask them questions.
Keep your training brand fresh, relevant, and valuable to mine the benefits of an employee base poised to succeed.
How could branding your training programs help you realize greater results? Please share in the comments and we’ll learn together!
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UPDATE: New resources
This article about learning brand in Chief Learning Officer came across my feed today. I thought you’d find it useful.