- Introduction Many organizations spend a lot of resources and boatloads of time on building their brand. They hire consultants, map out an intense external communications program, print their logo on everything in sight, and then watch their brand end up as a blurry, bland and boring blob of nothing special.How does this happen?One of the biggest reasons is that organizations forget their employees or put them at the bottom of the communication priority list. On the contrary—employees are absolutely critical to building a strong, sustainable brand.
You’ve got a good story, a compelling visual look and feel, and a category distinguisher. Now bring your employees into the action. Their buy-in can be a deal maker or deal breaker. It’s up to you.
The best brand ambassadors
Employees can bring a higher volume to your brand voice and be walking/talking billboards and devoted advocates for your cause.
Studies show that organizations that brand internally experience less turnover, attract the brightest talent and foster healthier, more productive environments.
Breathing brand within an organization has two distinct dimensions of power:
- As brand ambassadors, employees are the cheerleaders, the big brother or sister who watches out for the brand and serves as the human front line to the market.
- Your brand is the magnet that draws out superstar recruits, empowers loyalty from the current staff and adds to the overall corporate brand.Both disciplines require commitment, resource and innovation. Both are worthy initiatives.
- Internal branding goals. Your company’s size may dictate how these efforts are managed and implemented. Larger organizations sometimes shift internal branding responsibilities from marketing to the HR department. In any case, the activities need to transform thinking about branding from a pure marketing function to an organizational principle. And in all situations, leadership needs to be an advocate of brand initiatives and take an active role-model position.Your internal branding goals may include:
- Strengthen your brand’s visual identification. When you establish internal branding communication standards, the brand will move to the marketplace in a more consistent, cohesive fashion.
- Launch new business units. As organizations grow, new business units need to launch from within. Without that internal buy-in, the external branding process is tougher.
- Serving as a catalyst for change. Layoffs, management changes, mergers and acquisitions all shake up employees. The brand can serve as a security blanket through the toughest situations.
- Be the center point for your brand essence or corporate strategy. The big brand is the glue that holds all the pieces together and keeps everyone on the same page and focused on the company’s mission.
- Connect employees to each other as a “brand family.” As humans, we all have tribal instincts. We like to hang together with like-minded souls. Internal branding efforts can unite a tight team even in tough market conditions. It gives them something to hold on to for security and a connection to shared values.
- Achieve “employer of choice” status. Employees and recruits tend to gravitate to brands they understand, ones with clear identities whose values they share. Recruiting top candidates and retaining skilled talent are the results of solid internal branding. Strong brands can reduce staffing turnover.
- Instill brand values in key processes. As employees grasp the brand essence, they are more likely to infuse the same attributes into their work product and processes.
- Deliver brand promises through employees. Employees are your primary source of customer contact. As they engage the brand promise, they will naturally channel it to the customers through all service and touch points.
- Add momentum to selling channels. Strong brands ease the selling process. If your organization has any kind of size of sales team, the more they know about and believe in the brand, the easier it is for them to do their job.
- Touching the troops. From these goals, you need to decide if you create two separate initiatives or breathe brand in one unified effort. This will depend on how closely aligned the corporate brand is with the individual marketed brands and the degree of your employee needs. In a perfect world, they would be very aligned, but as companies grow, sometimes their diversification makes this more difficult. Whatever track you take, you now must tactically touch your troops with the appropriate brands.Here are some tips:
- Decorate your lobby in brand style on a special day or every day. Use giant brand characters, murals, neon signs.
- Create newspaper funnies with the brand. Feature brand leaders, brand warriors and brands busted. From fax cover sheets to memo pads and annual reports, all should prominently showcase the brand and represent the voice.
- Tell your brand story to all employees. Explain how the brand was born and where it’s headed. Test employees on brand knowledge and reward them, too. If you can, give brand products and service to employees.
- Unveil the new brand at brand parties and celebrations. Other noteworthy occasions include christening of a brand, changes in a brand, achievement of brand milestones.
- Put the brand on relevant promotional items.Internal branding and enhanced employee communications can certainly be an expense. So how will you know when and if they’re working? From my experience, there are several observational indicators, ranging from employee turnover and increased employee satisfaction to increased productivity and overall customer relations and loyalty. Vistage speaker Karen Post is an author and branding consultant based in Tampa, Fla.