Branding projects. Successful campaigns through which employees now march in lock step – fully understanding and engaging with the company’s value proposition? Or a bundle of glossy collateral and a big budget campaign that fades to a whimper, having failed to achieve very much?
Both Internal Comms and HR play a crucial role in making brand matter inside the company; avoiding that ‘bang to a whimper’ scenario and making the brand real (and actionable) for our employees. We’ve also just written a study for our membership about the opportunity (and risks!) of thinking about employees as an external comms channel – when we get engagement right, our employees can be our most powerful advocates and ambassadors both inside and outside of the organization.
That new study is only for our Forum members but here are some recommendations drawn from the interviews and case studies in our 2010 report, Developing, managing and communicating the internal brand which was a precursor to that new work:
1. Draw in the relevant functions. Cross-functional working is key. It’s imperative to connect with the various functions in an organization to help them understand the importance of the brand and the internal execution of it. And to form partnerships with other ‘brand ambassador’ functions such as external comms. They might see themselves as the creators of the brand promise, but ultimately it’s internal communication that can influence employees to deliver on it. We must work together.
2. Bring together initiatives which should be joined up but aren’t. Internal communicators have an important role to play in bringing people together and making sense of conflicting points of view. Arguably, we’re one of the few functions able to take an objective view of multiple perspectives across the business.
3. Help create a shared vision of what needs to be done. Act as a facilitator to make sure all contributors understand what brand engagement is about and widen the conversation to create a single shared goal. Try starting on a single sheet of paper,
using both pictures and words, to depict how everything joins together. It may sound simplistic, but once things are in black and white it’s much easier to show where there are mismatches and tensions.
4. Look for opportunities to tie the work into business initiatives and the core business
plan. We can play a crucial role in bringing together the business’s technical aspects – formulas, measures and work process changes – and ensuring they are fully integrated with its cultural aspects – communication, leadership, learning and rewards, to become “how we do business”.
5. Make sure brand work is initiated for a good reason. Linked to the point above, there should be a good reason to begin a piece of work about “living the brand”. If work is started simply because the HR, communication or marketing team feel it’s important, it’s unlikely to be accepted by leaders or employees or become part of the way the organization works.
6. Join the dots for employees. Bring the employee view into discussions about brand to illustrate the confusion, overload and cynicism that can be caused by communicating initiatives separately. Steering groups involving employees from the get-go can bring together the commercial business plan, culture program and initial brand change work in the most compelling and tangible way.
7. Articulate how the employee value proposition supports and links to the customer value proposition. Now might be the time to work closely with HR to revisit the company’s existing competencies to link them to the new organizational values. The result is clarity for employees and a performance and development process that supports and enables behaviors underpinning the values, and delivering against customer expectations.
Launching a brand or reinvigorating a brand – neither project is an easy one. But hopefully these ideas for how Internal Comms can plug into the process as a key stakeholder can help dial down the pain a little!
By the way – Many of you are probably already aware of, or involved with, the Engage for Success movement led by David McLeod and Nita Clarke. If you’re not, their website hosts a huge variety of free resources to help organizations really embrace the concept of employee engagement – and benefit from it. Take a look at http://www.engageforsuccess.org/