Johari exercise for publishing brands

The Johari window is a psychological technique first developed in the 1950s. As devised, it is a useful workshop tool to help increase interpersonal awareness. (Here’s an online version.)

The individual describes themself by selecting adjectives from a list. These selections are then compared and contrasted with selections made by others. By analysing the gaps, the individual learns how they are perceived.

This workshop has has also been frequently adapted for corporate use, as a way of understanding - and improving - a business’ culture and environment.

It can also adapted for brand workshops, to help organisations understand how they perceive themselves, and how other audiences (customers, stakeholders, partners) see them.

Using these adjectives will prompt a discussion, as they encourage feedback - internally and externally - on every aspect of the brand: marketing and communications, products, company behaviours, corporate practices, relationships with suppliers, and more - the intangibles as well as the tangibles. That’s an extensive review of one’s brand, and a potentially quite free-wheeling discussion.

The results shows where the brand is cutting through (Open), where there are gaps or failures in communication (Hidden), and where there may be opportunities (Blind). It also helps the brand become more selective by showing what elements may be unimportant, and do not need further investment (Unknown).

How it works

  • Find a list of Johari adjectives (hint, scroll down).

  • Begin with a workshop of senior stakeholders: those people who are directly responsible for setting your company’s brand or vision. Ask participants to choose, individually, the five adjectives that they believe best represent their brand.

  • Compare the results. Where do they agree? Disagree? If it is a small group with a clear, shared vision, there won’t be much variance. But if the company lacks a defined vision, or shared priorities, you may find some unexpected answers.

  • Next up - extend the exercise. Production, sales, art, rights, legal, marketing, finance; everyone in the ‘building’. All the people that bring the publisher (or imprint) to life through their behaviour, actions, and daily labour. Which five adjectives do they each choose?

  • Now you will be seeing much more variety in your responses. But, again, start with the points of agreement - where does everyone agree? Now look at the differences. Compare your original group to the wider company - are the senior stakeholders saying one thing, but no one else is hearing it? Why isn’t the brand clear? What’s missing? Use the mapping table above to identify gaps and opportunities, strengths and weaknesses.

  • Try to have an open discussion as a result. Why are people making the choices they are? Explore these differences: if everyone within the publisher doesn’t have the same understanding of your brand, you’re going to struggle to communicate it externally. Is there a shared vision for what the publisher is - or could be? If there isn’t a vision, what could it be? Who is responsible for it? How should it be communicated?

  • If you’re feeling particularly brave - send the list outside of the building. Ask some bookseller friends. Printers. Reviewers. Agents. Bloggers. Trade press. Be bold: ask another publisher! (I suggest keeping ‘just plain ol’ readers’ out of it, as so few of them recognise what publishers are in the first place - which, of course, is part of the problem...)

A variant list of Johari adjectives, derived for publishing brands:

  • artistic

  • bold

  • brave

  • broad

  • calm

  • classic

  • commercial

  • complex

  • confident

  • contemporary

  • cult

  • democratic

  • dependable

  • dignified

  • diverse

  • elitist

  • energetic

  • entertaining

  • entrepreneurial

  • friendly

  • fun

  • idealistic

  • inclusive

  • independent

  • intelligent

  • joyous

  • kind

  • knowledgeable

  • logical

  • mainstream

  • mature

  • modest

  • niche

  • observant

  • old-fashioned

  • opportunistic

  • pioneering

  • popular

  • prestigious

  • progressive

  • proud

  • provocative

  • quiet

  • recessive

  • sensible

  • sentimental

  • silly

  • smart

  • traditional

  • trustworthy

  • warm

  • wise

  • youthful

If you need help running the exercise, please do get in touch with any questions.