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Building a brand for KM inside your organization

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Communication is a vital component of any successful knowledge management initiative. The slickest KM systems and approaches cannot help your company if employees don’t leverage them. But when member-based nonprofit APQC surveyed 374 KM professionals about the biggest barriers to knowledge sharing in their organizations, more than one-quarter said that awareness was one of their biggest challenges. Even in companies that have made large investments in KM, many employees simply do not know about the KM resources available to them or the reasons why they should participate.

APQC’s Promoting KM and Making It Stick research revealed branding as one of the most effective strategies to build awareness of KM across the workforce. This makes sense: Most of us can recognize familiar brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, and McDonalds with a quick glance at the color scheme or logo. Similarly, when you create a brand for your KM program, anything associated with that brand becomes instantly visually recognizable. Branding helps KM gain visibility across the business and reminds employees about the information, expertise, and collaboration opportunities available to them. And a well-crafted brand can inspire positive connotations that prompt employees to contribute and seek out knowledge in the course of their daily work.

Create a compelling KM brand

The first step to branding your KM program is choosing the right words to describe knowledge and KM. This will depend on your industry, target audience, goals for KM, and organizational culture. Some KM programs use standard KM terminology with words such as “knowledge management,” “communities of practice,” or “knowledge asset.” In other companies, this jargon just doesn’t resonate. These firms may gravitate toward more general terms, such as knowledge sharing or collaboration, or they may appropriate terminology from organizational learning or digital transformation initiatives.

Ultimately, the KM brand should align with the company’s overall ethos and values. Take a close look at your corporate culture to determine the language, look, and feel best-suited to your audience. For some firms, lighthearted and even humorous branding will work. Others require a more no-nonsense approach that frames KM in relation to internally accepted business terms and focuses on desired outcomes.

A good example of KM branding comes from Consolidated Contractors Company, or CCC, one of the largest construction and engineering firms in the Middle East. CCC calls its KM program “Fanous,” which is the Arabic and Greek word for lantern. When crafting the brand, the KM team specifically looked for a word that would be easy to pronounce in almost every language. The goal was for employees to connect with the brand, regardless of their geographic location or primary language. Fanous positions KM as a lantern that “lights the way” for employees who are “in the dark” because they need content or expertise. The Fanous logo uses CCC’s official colors and is easy to recognize.

MSA—the Safety Company, a global designer and manufacturer of safety products, built a brand for KM that is closely associated with the company’s mission, which is “that men and women may work in safety and that they, their families, and their communities may live in health throughout the world.” This mission is a powerful motivating force for employees: Their day-to-day work can and does save customers’ lives. MSA’s KM team works with the company’s internal marketing team to develop compelling, mission-driven KM branding elements. For example, posters for KM events highlight themes of preparedness and protecting customers, which clearly ties to the company’s life-saving mission.

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