I’m sure we’re all familiar with the usual "employer brand"-style communication campaigns. You know, the glossy brochures filled with beautiful people decked in power suits, killer smiles and emasculating handshakes? Or the so-called "champions" plucked from the ranks of the unwashed and the obscure as apparent beacons of the corporate values and virtues paraded at award ceremonies, on "star of the week boards" or launches.

I’m a little ashamed to say that I’ve been complicit in the past by commissioning "fairytale" imagery and copy or adopting a "no cynics" approach to recruiting internal facilitators which belied the workaday reality of the people whom the initiative was meant to represent.

Marketing has its virtues, of course it does. But internal audiences are much more demanding than customers. They expect authenticity from their representatives and gritty realism from their representations. And it’s a tad short sighted to recruit employees on the back of false and empty promises. They’re unlikely to recover from the cold dose of reality that meets their idealism once they’re through the revolving HQ doors.

One of my "eureka" moments on the long and winding road through corporate change and development is that the power to be engaging, more often than not, comes with a dose of skepticism; a maverick edge or even a little vulnerability.

Consider the enticing power of the rebel; the renegade; the Everyman who represents the rank and file. Or reflect on the beguiling charm of the flawed hero or the beauty with the scar!

In my experience, it is far more effective to connect to emplyees via the sincere medium of true representatives who not only reflect a personalised take on the corporate values, behaviours and culture but who are brave and honest enough to give a warts and all representation of what it’s really like to work there. That’s why I favour the use of the People Panel; the facilitator with less poilish but bags of character, or the informal editors of the grapevine whenever I’m called upon to drive change.

So go on! Be brave and embrace the cynics. After all, tough times call for thinking differently and when was the last time you saw one of the "fragrant T&T "crew leading an innovative and even revolutionary charge?

Brand Champions, Ian’s controversial, case study-based take on bringing brands to life from within, has just hit the shelves…..

‘With Brand Champions, as with Brand Engagement and his work in general, Ian once again shows that branding is not about large budgets but small consistent actions, branding is not about logos but about people, that branding does not belong to marketing, it belongs to each of us in our everyday actions. Brand champions are right before our eyes if only we look.’ – Anna Farmery, Managing Director, The Engaging Brand,


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