How well does each member of your organisation understand the essence of your brand in order to effectively deliver its brand promise?
Brands are driven by people. Product comparison is a logical exercise, but the point of purchase is an emotional decision. You may have the best products in the world, but someone else who can deliver a better experience is likely to close the deal instead. Even big brands with strong brand equity can be taken down by errant employees involved in isolated incidents. Two good examples come from one company and that is United Airlines. United Airlines took two hits when they broke Mr Dave Carroll’s guitar (the airline lost an estimated US$180 million in stock value) and when they dragged Dr Dao off their plane (the airline lost US$1.3 billion in stock value).
There is a clear disconnect between United’s own slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies” and their employees’ (including senior management’s) regard for protocol surrounding overbooking policies. What would the air crew, captain, flight policy setters, management, operations staff, customer service officers, compensation manager, and other department staff directly or indirectly associated with these incidents have done differently if they were crystal clear about what the brand is supposed to stand for?
Mr Jerome Joseph, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), accredited Professional Management Consultant (PMC), and chief experience officer of The Brand Theatre Worldwide says that this is the point of internal branding. “It is about aligning employees’ commitment to deliver the brand promise of the organisation to ensure every member of the company understands the essence of the brand, and stands fast in the advocacy of its brand promise. To cultivate employees’ commitment, certain pre-requisites must be met: employees have to believe in and identify with the company’s vision; employees have to behave in alignment with the company culture; and employees have to find value and satisfaction in their career with the company.”
Here are 10 principles 1 to help you build a good internal brand.
Principle 1: Give your Employees a Cause, Not a Job
Most internal branding programmes broadcast, they don’t engage. They lay out rules and tell people what is going to happen, instead of presenting the case for why things need to change and how each person can be involved. People want to contribute; not just conform. Strong internal branding programmes work because they arouse curiosity, pique interest, and invite participation. Bad programmes simply tell people what is going to happen and when.
Tip: Develop an employee value proposition that is about your brand and what it promises to your employee. Make it about them and train your people to believe in it and make it their cause.
Principle 2: Listen to your Employees
A key factor that drives every employee to reach their goals is employee motivation. Your employees are the lifeline of your organisation and a rich source of information. Their opinions and feedback are important to the organisation’s welfare. Make them feel like they are an essential part of the business’ success by listening to them, finding out what makes them tick, and matching their feedback with customers’ feedback. Then build your brand based on this information.
Tip: Some tools for feedback include roundtable discussions and focus groups, employee brand perception audits, employee satisfaction and motivation surveys, observation, reasons for leaving the company, customer feedback, key employee touchpoint analysis, and through the grapevine.
Principle 3: Lead your Employees to the Level of Passionate Commitment
Are your employees fully engaged? Employee commitment is what makes people say “I am proud to work here”. Listening to your employee’s needs is key to employee commitment.
Tip: Organise an employee brand day with powerful stories about what it means to be committed to the brand. Get your leaders and champions to participate. End the day by giving each employee a brand book which illustrates the power and belief of their brand.
Principle 4: Create Brand Champions
Brand Champions are passionate and committed brand advocates who promote or refer your brand to others within and outside your organisation. Employees are a critical part of any organisation—with a powerful reach that extends far outside your marketing department. A happy and satisfied employee adds to an overall positive reflection of the organisation’s brand.
Tip: Assemble a team of brand champions from various departments and get them to plan a series of activities and communication ideas to build the brand across the organisation.
Principle 5: Deliver a Consistent Brand Message to Employees
How consistently is your brand message communicated to every employee? Do your leaders live the brand message or do the opposite? Internal branding emphasises the overarching message that defines your brand culture and solidifies your brand promise. Internal branding strategy must ensure that every customer interaction with your brand message must be uniform. A strong, resonating brand message is one that is consistently delivered and communicated to existing employees and potential candidates at every key touchpoint.
Tip: List out your key touchpoints and measure the alignment of these touchpoints to your brand. Check if your employees are delivering these touchpoints consistently. Run touchpoint workshops to help them map their own personal customer touchpont moments and teach them how to align your brand effectively in these workshops.
Principle 6: Create Alignment between a Compelling Employee Promise and Delivery
Your employee brand promise should be consistent with your customer brand promise and your devotion to deli-vering on the promise should be complete. Strong internal brands reflect an organisation’s culture by providing not only a customer brand promise, but also a compelling employee promise that goes beyond the image to shape the entire organisation.
Tip: Develop a compelling employee brand promise statement that is consistent with your customer brand promise. Ensure that it is communicated, adhered to, and reflected across key touchpoints.
Principle 7: Ensure your Employees Deliver a Branded Customer Experience
Touchpoints define the borderlines between the customers’ worlds and yours. One reason why organisations fail to deliver customer experience is because employees are unequipped with the tools and empowerment to deliver extraordinary experiences across key touchpoints. Employees cannot be expected to deliver great customer experience if they are unaligned to the touchpoints. Invest in training and enabling tools, and ensure employees know the key touchpoints and how to align themselves to them. Help them to map out their entire customer’s journey and fit your brand in that journey.
Tip: Plot your customer touchpoints and create a branded experience at each touchpoint.
Principle 8: Build Brand Leaders
Leadership does not just refer to certain individuals but to the process of building leaders. Leadership must stay true to the brand. If your brand is daring, fun loving, and passionate, then you will need leaders in that mould.
Tip: Place the brand at the centre of what your company does and how your people work together. Get all your leaders to trace their decisions, behaviours, and conversations with your employees through their impact on the customer promise and the brand. Lastly, invest in leadership development solutions to support managers so that they can effect personal leadership and brand culture changes that will release the potential of their people to meet the brand promise.
Principle 9: Ensure that you Recruit On-Brand Employees
Hiring using brand as a foundation means recruiting the best employees for your organisation’s needs who believe in your brand. Look at the people you interview and ensure that you ask brand-related questions to ensure a good fit. If your brand is about fun, then hiring someone who is not fun despite having the right skills might not be ideal for your brand.
Tip: Create a recruitment checklist with your brand values listed. Write a description of the person you expect to hire based on these values.
Principle 10: Recognise and Reward
Most organisations have some type of customer rewards and employee retention programmes, but not many have rewards and recognition programmes for employees who demonstrate on-brand behaviour. To receive buy-in from employees, create programmes that reward employees who demonstrate the on-brand behaviour you wish to see.
Tip: Link your reward and recognition programme with your brand. Create a reward system that recognises the delivery of brand values, on-brand behaviours, brand communication, and brand championing.
1 Joseph, J, 2009, 10 principles to build your internal brand, adapted from http://www.jeromejoseph.com/files/productfiles/10PrinciplestoBuildyourInternalBrand-Copy_04f7f09b869b68df13dc7bdeb819d155.pdf.
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