What is Your Organization’s Personality?

Last week, I finally had an opportunity to meet in person my longtime blog friend Rohit Bhargava, who writes the Influential Marketing Blog. I was excited to get to see the cover of his new book, Personality Not Included, though there were still a few more days until the actual book was set to be published and released. (I love that wind-up chicken with ‘tude!)

To celebrate the launch of the book, Rohit decided to put himself through a grueling virtual book tour, answering five questions each from over 50 bloggers within a couple of days. He even promised that he wouldn’t be cutting and pasting responses, so each interview is different (here is the list with links to each interview).

Without further ado, here is my interview with Rohit:

What are the differences between an individual’s personality and that of an organization?

This is a really good question and one that I spend a part of Chapter 1 focusing on. The main reason is that we all have a shared idea of what individual personality means. It usually relates to a four letter rating from a test like Meyers-Briggs, and conjures up images of multiple choices test online. The personality of an organization is something that I try to define as much deeper. It is the unique, authentic and talkable soul of a company.

How does an organization go about creating a personality for itself?

You’re really asking the right questions here! This, to a degree is what the whole book is about. A quick snapshot of steps basically comes from my overall outline of the book:

Step 1 – Understand why organizations lose their personality
Step 2 – Look at your accidental spokespeople to see who speaks for your brand
Step 3 – Define your personality using a formula from the book
Step 4 – Create and tell your backstory
Step 5 – Overcome the barriers or roadblocks
Step 6 – Find and use your personality moments

There are other lessons in there, but that’s the snapshot view.

Are there special considerations that nonprofits and government agencies need to think about when cultivating their personalities?

Of course, I think that regulations may make it seem more difficult to do things when it comes to being a government entity – but ultimately the barriers to personality come down to the same thing … fear. It is the topic that I cover in Chapter 5 – how to overcome the different types of fear and have a personality. The one thing I might add to my list that I share in the book that is common in government is the idea of ego. This not a negative term, as many might suppose, but rather the idea that there are a lot of dedicated government workers that are trying to make a name for themselves because they may have political or career aspirations. It is a key factor that many government agencies may need to take into account when finding a way to cultivate their personalities.

What are some good examples of nonprofits or government agencies that have developed a personality for themselves?

There are a few great examples in the book, but one that I am a big personal fan of is Kiva.org. They have been one of the pioneering groups in microfinance and have also built a large following of dedicated givers because of the way that they manage to portray their brand and let their team members share their passion with the world.

What are some examples of negative nonprofit or government agency personalities, and how might they turn that around for themselves?

Good question – I think the government agencies with the lowest public perception are the ones that you might expect – eg, the IRS. How could the IRS use personality? How about taking an approach similar to what Intuit did with their popular TurboTax solution by letting people answer each other’s questions in a real time collaborative online help system? Personality is all about having a human voice and trying to avoid becoming a bureaucracy. Perhaps the better questions is which government agencies couldn’t use personality? They all could.

Thanks so much to Rohit for sharing his insights. You can download the introduction to Personality Not Included for a preview of what you can expect from the book. Is it time for you to think about your organization’s personality?

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