Five Principals of Internal Branding

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Some companies, like Southwest  Airlines and Starbucks, have built their brands internally from day one, and it shows – in their business growth and in their shareholder return.  These companies were created by strong leaders who provided a clear vision and direction to their people from their very first day on the job.

But what about established companies? Our experience proves that any organization can be born again, starting today, by embracing five principles.

1. Internal Brand-building requires leadership from the top.

To building a strong internal Brand, senior managers must visibly commit themselves to spread the word and build support throughout the organization. Senior managers are perfectly positioned to effectuate any changes to policies or operational procedures that may be needed to sustain and strengthen the internal Brand over time.

2. All levels in the Company must participate.

Because every employee is a Brand Ambassador, representatives of all departments and all levels are instrumental in formulating the plan to bring the Brand to life. Internal Brand-building cannot just come from marketing or HR. Rather, it needs to be a cross-functional team that makes it happen. 

Companies like Ritz Carlton have been successful in creating  “Brand teams” whose mission it is to create communication tools and events. Not only does this provide Brand-building that is grounded in the realities of employees’ daily lives,  it makes these key employees internal Brand Ambassadors who then go on to mentor their peers. 

Zappos is second-to-none in building support for a brand at all levels of its organization. From its extensive orientation to ongoing training, to the high expectations managers have for customer service, everything  Zappos does is oriented around creating a “WOW” experience for customers.

3. Strong internal Brands connect the Head with the Heart.

Like any effective corporate communication, the best internal Brand-building programs make the connection between the heads and the hearts of employees. Not only must the brand be true to the organization’s values, it should build off the company heritage and remind employees why they are proud to represent the Brand. An emotional connection is critical to helping employees live the brand. At their best, with heads and hearts engaged, your employees will become your biggest advocates. Without that engagement,  they can actually work against your Brand.

4. Communicate! A million and one ways.

You must reinforce your brand message at every possible opportunity.  From orientation and training to employee newsletters and your intranet, to regular staff meetings and special events, every point of contact with your employees is an opportunity to engage them in support of the Brand. The best companies share information and invest in the tools and technology to make communication simple and timely. Create enjoyable yet informative ways to communicate—it will pay off!

5. Bake your internal Brand into your performance and appraisal tools.

It’s one thing to say that your employees are your Brand. It’s another to make being Brand Ambassadors part of their job. Yet, successful companies clearly connect employee behavior in this area with their performance and appraisal tools. Brand champions should be rewarded, and those not engaged must be brought along through coaching, peer-to-peer mentoring or other methods. Job descriptions  and appraisal tools must have the  brand message “baked in.” 

Never underestimate the power of recognition in building the Brand within the company. Through your internal communication tools, publicize the positive  actions of your employees to inspire  others to “Live the Brand.”

For more information on how you can effectively Align your Brand and Culture, contact Mark Iorio: 609-577-4306, miorio@themegagroup.com

 

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