Creating an Internal Brand – it will keep your customers


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Over the next few days I am reviewing my past 9 months in my role as internal communications manager and looking into papers and research I have gathered to help. Combining all this information is not only going to help me finalise my communications plan and policy, but also ensure that I have a focussed objective to refer to when projects come my way next year!

One of these is the Melcrum report on Internal Branding by David Grossman and there are some really good insights I thought I would share:

In a recent study of customer behaviour 8% of customers switching brands are lured away by competition. In contrast, 68% are turned away by an employee’s indifferent behaviour. For internal communicators, this kind of statistic not only adds weight to the need for a strong internal comms function, but it also highlights what the impact can be on the bottom line – something that is always good to show! Employees are your brand ambassadors, so if they understand and believe in your business they will make all the difference when it comes to success.

Creating an internal brand will be the glue that holds the business together – without it, we are expecting our employees to wade through the noise of information and data and somehow grasp what the business is all about.

According to a 2007 study, high engagement levels equal 12% higher customer advocacy, 18% higher productivity and 12% higher profitability. In contrast, low engagement levels equal 31-51% more employee turnover.

So to get this internal brand off to a good start we need to tell the story, and to tell the story we need some hints and tips on how to make an internal brand stick. In the report there are eight principles:

1. Identify the business outcomes you seek
Are they organisation-related (vision/values, culture change) or Initiative-related (driving specific behaviours)?

2. Determine where your key audiences are coming from and engage them
Involve your key audiences early and take them on the journey – they will believe it, own it and advocate it. A tool that is discussed in the paper is called an audience mindset analysis; the more I know about the audience, the better I can communicate with them.

To help identify the audience perceptions ask some key questions

  • What’s keeping them up at night?
  • What might skeptics say?
  • What positive perceptions do they have?
  • What excites them the most?
  • What are the realities of their job that may impact what they need from communication?

3. Identify communication goals
Remember that age-old saying that goals need to be SMART? Nothing has changed. They still need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

4. Develop core messages and test them
Use a message map that includes an Elevator Speech, Supporting Messages, Proof Points and Anecdotes and Illustrations.

5. Create an internal theme and visual identity that’s grounded strategically
Keep in mind this isn’t about picking wallpaper; it’s about getting messages across in a strategic way. And when looking at using sub brands be mindful that some projects warrant them more than others.

Test your theme; is it brief and specific? It should fit into a speech or article easily. Visualise it with impact to reinforce the messages and actions you want to drive with imagery, colour and typography.

6. Develop a communication plan and align management
Identify the key audiences you need to reach, decide on the best channels for communicating, define roles and responsibilities and ensure it all has appropriate timing. Also noted is the need for repetition. If managers at every level refer to the same message and that same message is seen online and in print it starts to live in the business.

7. Develop tools, train and communicate
Look at toolkits and executive key messages targeted at the different audience groups you have defined. Train your leaders in communication and then get people engaged in dialogue.

8. Evaluate
All evaluation should link back to the business goals and measure:

  • Overall employee engagement
  • Understanding of messages
  • Leaders and how they communicated
  • Specific behaviour changes; and
  • Business benefits

The conclusion? Internal branding will drive behaviours and with an engaged workforce the business goals of driving sales or increasing market share can be achieved. As someone who has just embarked on starting this process from scratch, don’t rush it – getting it right takes time and the last thing you want to do is unpick work that is done to put a plaster over the cracks.

Studies referred to include to those conducted by the American Marketing Association and Gallup.

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