Staying True

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ANAHEIM, Calif.-What is the personality of your CU?

It's not a question to be lightly regarded, according to Susan Packard, the co-founder and former COO of HGTV, who offered CU leaders several different views on what it means to build a brand.

Packard, who helped oversee HGTV as it grew to include the Food Network, DIY Network, Fine Living Network and multiple platforms offered by Scripps Networks Interactive that are now valued at approximately $7 billion, said credit unions must think of their organizations as a "brand." And that brand, Packard told CO-OP Financial Services' THINK Conference, must be kept fresh and focused.

"If someone were to walk into your place of work, how would they describe it?" asked Packard. "At HGTV we tried to create a very homelike environment. We bought comfortable furniture and built lush gardens. And when people came in, they heard laughter. We had fun building these businesses. We took our mission very seriously, but not so much ourselves. Humor became a core value at HGTV."

Staying focused is not easy, acknowledged Packard. "At HGTV, we had a focus called the Brand Lens Process. This is where we took all the research from viewers and online users and we got in a room and agreed on words to describe the brand experience."

Those words, such as "trusted" and "respectful," were replaced by other words over time to reflect changes in culture and audience. HGTV's marketing changed, as well.

"Brands evolve like organizations evolve and they are communicated with words or visual symbols. At HGTV we use the gable shape," said Packard. "For those of you with multiple branches, do you have a unifying look so your members can identity you? Good branding is all about helping our customers and making it easier for them.

What happens when focus is lost? Packard shared an example from HGTV. After customers indicated they would like to purchase some of the products shown on its network, it bought a fledgling home shopping network and launched the Shop at Home channel, which was "disaster."

"We had no background in retail. Ultimately, had to liquidate this business, which was painful," shared Packard. "To build your successful brand or organization, stay true to your mission."

While many organizations talk "culture," Packard said to her the term means "quite simply the personality of your organization, and they are all different."

At HGTV, instead of a mission statement, it gives a laminated card to all employees that includes words representing its core values, such as integrity, clarity in communications, shared responsibility, etc.

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