When you think of branding, you probably begin to think about how well a brand appeals to its clients.
But thinking about employees is just as important. Why? Because employees are one of the most powerful brand assets a company has.
Think of it this way. If you have 50 employees, that’s 50 potential spokespeople. What they think about your company’s rich history, and how relevant they think your brand is today, will influence what they have to say about you.
They could give a glowing endorsement. Or they could shoot you down.
A couple of stats to bring the point home:
Only a third of marketing and HR leaders believe they have a well–defined corporate culture that’s embraced across the organisation.
But 41% of interviewees believe employees are the most credible source of information for a business. (More than they trusted PR departments, CEOs and founders).
To a large extent, your brand’s relevance stands or falls on what your employees say about you. A brand is, by one definition, what people say about you when you’re not in the room. So your brand needs to be compelling to your employees, not just your customers.
The power of purpose
Too often, companies direct their branding efforts outward and neglect their internal brand. After all, everyone who works for the company knows what it does – right?
In an ideal world, yes.
But here’s another dose of reality: your employees might know less about your history, purpose and objectives than you think. They might not know what makes you distinct from others in your market. Or what makes you relevant to your customers.
Often its the complexity of an organisation and its history that can cloud its purpose. And if your employees aren’t clear on the purpose of the company, how can they be effective advocates for it?
Purpose can create and drive satisfaction. Most employees join your company for more than a pay cheque.
They want a connection to the products and services you sell. But they also want direction. And they want some say in that direction.
When that happens, the brand is strengthened from the inside out.
In a service brand the most important audience for the organisation is its own people. Your staff must truly understand the brand, believe in it and live it; if they don’t they will have no chance of persuading the final customer to buy it.
Two audiences, one brand
Any internal branding effort must align with the “big direction” of your external positioning. This direction should be built on the most compelling aspect of the organisation’s legacy.
The most effective branding targets employees and customers at the same time.
Take a moment to check out Century 21’s campaign. The real estate agent dedicated a microsite to explain its rebrand to its agents.
It’s the same message to employees as it is to customers. But it puts employees at the heart in a very public way. “We tore the old house down… and rebuilt it with our most valuable asset in mind. You. Our agents.”
That’s the way to do it.
Century 21’s campaign ensured that employees were all tracking with the brand’s new direction. It focused on what was most compelling. Employees became part of the story, giving the new brand real clarity. This formed the perfect platform for expressing relevance to its external audience.
Employees see a company’s inner workings first hand. So they’ll be able to sniff out anything that doesn’t chime with their own experience.
That’s why internal branding must shun superficiality.
It needs to clearly set out what the company’s objectives are. Objectives rooted in what the company does, and always has done, best. Then it needs to show how these are relevant to what employees care about.
Where to start
Internal branding isn’t to be undertaken lightly.
You can’t rush it. And you can’t just throw out everything that’s gone before.
There’s a rich legacy to consider. Consultation is key.
Start with employees. Ask them what makes them proud – and not so proud – of your brand.
What works well? What needs to be better?
What makes this company different from competitors? How do they experience the company’s values day to day?
Aviva, the insurance firm, ran an internal campaign involving thousands of employees across 28 countries.
Aviva had centuries–old roots in its merger of three big legacy companies, each with its own rich history. It needed to bring them together under a single global brand and focus on what made it truly relevant.
Employees had to let go of older brand identities. But giving them the chance to shape the future direction of the brand proved essential.
“Having strong internal buy–in allowed us to develop a consistent tone of voice,” says global brand director Jan Gooding.
So if there’s one thing we know about internal branding, it’s that it’s not easy.
But it is extremely worthwhile.
Because your employees are key to your business.
As Sir Richard Branson says: “Success in business is all about people, people, people. Whatever industry a company is in, its employees are its biggest competitive advantage.
”So if you want to supercharge your biggest competitive advantage, it could be time to strengthen your internal brand.
And with a newly strengthened internal brand, you’ll find that expressing your relevance becomes embedded in the company culture itself.