Usually, at the formation of a company, you write up a mission statement and identify your brand values. It’s a good idea to also reexamine these from time to time to see if anything has shifted in light of major events, like operating in a pandemic or the mainstream discourse on Black Lives Matter. 

Even if/when borders reopen and indoor dining returns, COVID isn’t going away without a vaccine, which means our expectations of normal need to consider COVID in the long haul. This expectation is what led me to write the below on reexamining your brand’s values.

Since I just went through this process twice in the last month, I thought it might be useful as a refresher for my audience here. You can also do this process for any other kind of value set, be it personal or family or organizational. 

Basic tips

Some basic tips about brand values:

  • Aim for 3–5 values
  • They can be single words, phrases, or even sentences
  • You can have two sets of values, one encompassing the other. Public-facing values are ones that signal your commitments to your audience. Internal ones should include your public ones but might also have ones more oriented to inner operations. For example, you value transparency as a company. Internally, you might expand this to mean transparent communication from leadership and a discouragement of too many private groups.
  • Add descriptive sentences to the values so people can understand what you mean by words such as “transparency.”

How to work on values

Here’s the guide, whether it’s your first time writing values or your millionth time.

  1. Gather all the people who you want input on values in one place.
    • If impossible or you have a large group of people, have them do the brainstorming exercise on their own and send in their results. A smaller group can then decide on the final words.
    • Some companies like to have employee input. Especially if your value sets are several years old, you might want to ask your employees what they see are the values of the company.
  2. Brainstorm! Set a timer for 15 minutes or however long you think you need.
    • Write down all the words and phrases you currently or want to associate with the brand.
    • Brainstorms work well when people are bouncing ideas off each other or just putting words out for someone else to write down.
    • Use a physical or digital whiteboard.
    • If you are reviewing your current values, put those words in at the beginning of the brainstorm.
  3. Once the time is up, look at all the words and categorize them by theme or feeling.
    • Not all words need to be grouped. Some might be discarded.
  4. Pick the most relevant word(s) of each group to represent them. Use the other words to create descriptive sentences.
  5. Decide which format you want your values to be: one word, several words, or a full sentence.
  6. Add your descriptions. Edit away and don’t forget to ask for feedback!

Values can be used in multiple ways. They can guide your difficult decisions, orient your company’s path, and also identify if a social post is reflective of your brand. They also signal crucial information to current and future employees, customers, and partners. It’s always good to revisit these every few years to see if anything has changed.