3 Steps To Engaging Your Employees Through Your Brand
A recent paper published by the Performance Improvement Council cited studies by Gallup that “confirm that engaged employees are more productive, create better customer experiences, and are more likely to remain with their employers. As a result, employers win because they get a more stable and motivated workforce and can, consequently, spend more time strengthening their brand.” A Gallup study also revealed that “companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earnings per share when compared to those in the same industry with lower engagement levels.”
One of the best ways to engage your employees is to involve them in your brand. When companies reserve branding activities for those who work in marketing, they’re missing out on a powerful tool for uniting the organization and enhancing engagement. If you can get past that mindset and instead treat your employees as brand assets, you will start to build a community of brand ambassadors—and that’s a force to be reckoned with.
Sure, your products, packaging and infrastructure are essential elements in branding, but it is your employees can have the most profound impact on brand value. Why? Because they help build the all-important emotional connections with the people who interact with your brand. According to the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.”
Although your corporate brand is built and nurtured by your marketing department, it is conveyed by all your people – from the receptionist answering your phone to the technician troubleshooting problems. That’s why effective branding requires that all your people have a complete understanding of, and ability to deliver on, your brand promise.
Successful branding is also rooted in authenticity; employees can’t be forced to feel engaged. Policing the brand or producing rigid rules around what can and can’t be done will backfire. Focusing on things like making sure you use the right “brand colors” when you create PowerPoint presentations is not an example of true engagement. Instead, the most effective organizations create a culture that lives and breathes the brand every day in everything they do. Align your employees with your branding plans, and you’ll amp up your brand value along with the engagement of your people. To achieve this, you need an internal brand communications plan, which forms the basis of the following simple, three-step process for turning employees into ambassadors.
Step 1: Engage
Your marketing department has a thorough understanding of the brand (at least, they should!), but others in the organization, further removed from the behind-the-scenes marketing strategizing, need – at the very least – a general awareness of the corporate brand and what it stands for. For maximum value, they need to be included in the process of developing brand strategy and communications. Carolyn Sandano, a business-development executive for a law firm, explained that when she was working at Kelley Drye in New York City, the partners really were ahead of their time; law marketing was still in its infancy, but she and her colleagues were involved in all branding campaigns from the start. A productive, interactive session with the partners yielded a creative and on-brand campaign. “The partners asked that we use an artist to create visually stunning images that reinforced all the messages of the brand,” Carolyn recalls. “For instance, the artist created an arresting image of a businessman in a suit and tie walking barefooted across a river, stepping on logs, for balance. This makes the point that doing a corporate deal can be risky – if your law firm doesn’t steady you in those times.” They also peppered their materials with glorious historical facts about art and music to give context to some of their own history. “The year that Bix Beiderbecke revolutionized jazz with pure tone and ballad style – we were helping X client build their own new styles in business.” Carolyn added, “Visually arresting, historically stimulating and SO on-point – those materials continue to be my favorite pieces, thanks to partner vision and inclusiveness in process.”
Your people need to be as up-to-speed on the brand as they are on their area of expertise. Use existing training and communications programs like onboarding, all-company meetings, intranets, leadership development programs, and other tools to generate greater employee awareness and strengthen the learning around your brand. Of course, all those tools need to model the brand in content, style, and voice, or you’ll create confusion rather than understanding. Setting an example is a meaningful form of training.
Success in engaging your employees through your brand also requires collaboration among your marketing, human resources and communications leaders. In addition to communicating the brand, establish a corporate-level, quantifiable brand objective at the highest echelons of the company. This will generate awareness among all employees. Something like “increase brand awareness this year by 5% among X target audience group” can be an effective structure for your goals.
In addition to a general awareness of your brand strategy, your people need to understand the values and visual components that comprise the brand, the ways it is communicated, and what constitutes on-brand and off-brand qualities. Web-based tools like corporate identity standards, brand usage guidelines, and creative brand communications tools will help, but truly brand-centric companies move beyond the standard and implement deeper ways to involve their people in the brand.
Step 2: Activate
Awareness and education are important, but the magic happens when you activate your people to deliver on the brand with everything they do. Do your employees understand their roles in nurturing the brand? Here are some ways to make sure they do:
Train the trainer programs
Build brand training programs for your leaders and make sure your managers understand how to develop brand objectives with their staff. It’s essential that all managers have a complete understanding of the brand, and that they express the brand clearly, consistently and constantly in what they say and what they do. This does not mean you should aim for conformity. An individual’s personal brand can (and should) be woven into the corporate brand.
Involve your people
Create a brand event or brand day and invite employees from around the company to participate. Solicit their feedback on the brand. Implement regular brand contests that support branding objectives.
Set goals and objectives
Have all employees establish a brand-related goal as part of their corporate goals and objectives. This will keep them thinking about their roles in building the corporate brand. Once they fully understand the brand, they naturally deliver on-brand value every day with everything they do. It becomes a subconscious competence. This is where the true spirit of brand evangelism becomes evident. Your employees begin to find creative ways to promote the brand themselves.
When your people become internal brand ambassadors, they move themselves outside the regular hierarchy of your organization. They become known outside their department and build their networks throughout the company – making them more valuable to your organization and helping them increase their own success in tandem with engagement.
Step 3: Acknowledge
When your people see the results of their actions, they’ll more deeply engage in the cause. Communicate with them about the status of the brand. Share the results of brand research. And make sure that employees understand very clearly that their bonuses and other variable compensation (like stock and stock options) are directly tied to brand valuation. If you share the windfalls with employees, they’ll understand that corporate success is closely related to their efforts in supporting the brand.
In addition to tangible rewards, there are other ways to reinforce positive brand actions. Establish Brand Ambassador awards. Give special recognition to employees who live the brand. Acknowledge innovative ways of delivering the brand promise.
Powerful brands require clear, consistent, and constant communications and full engagement of all the people who surround the brand. Focus on your people, then develop programs for your entire brand community: your partners, your strategic alliances, your supply chain, your stockholders – and of course, your loyal customers.
This article was written by William Arruda from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.