So you’ve gone through the hard work of branding. You hired that consultant to lead you through the process. Your logo and key messaging look great. You’ve even identified your organization’s character and goals and you have a vision for the future. But do your employees get it? If you’re reinforcing your organization’s character in every Facebook post, web page and advertising campaign but NOT bringing along your staff, your transformation will be shallow indeed.
I just attended a professional development luncheon hosted by the NC Public Relations Society of America. Alice Gray Harrison was the speaker. She is the Internal Communications Manager for Dixon Hughes Goodman, the 16th largest accounting firm in the US. She works directly for the CEO and is charged with making sure the organizational culture—inside the company—reflects their stated values, otherwise known as their brand.
She had some good pointers for ensuring that employees ‘get it.’ For illustration’s sake, let’s use an educational institution. Let’s say your new brand for your on line degree program is, “We are focused on personal connection that leads to student success.” That sounds good and IS good for a branding message. However, IF that student gets into your on line classes and their teachers and other support people are not finding ways to connect with and engage the students, that brand rings hollow.
So with that example in mind, let’s look at some ways Harrison suggests you can reinforce your new brand with your employees.
- Make sure the brand has buy-in from the very top. The president/CEO has to heartily endorse it and communicate it on down the line to your mid-level leaders.
- Go to great lengths to explain your brand to all of your employees and why your organization’s leaders embrace it. Playing a video of the president/CEO endorsing the brand concept would be a huge plus. Harrison believes there is a strong correlation between understanding and embracing your new brand.
- Develop a strong kick-off campaign to create a splash around your new brand emphasis.
- Create frequent “touch points” to reinforce the principles behind your new brand, for example:
- emails reinforcing the emphasis
- incorporating your messaging as a part of your routine emails
- personal (recorded) phone messages from organizational leaders and/or your CEO
- public thank you stories about employees who are living out the new emphasis
- stories of students who have succeeded because of the new emphasis on connecting
- reinforcing your messaging on internal web pages, forms, even break rooms walls
- making this emphasis a part of new employee orientation
- And lastly (my personal favorite!) establish goal-setting that builds toward the culture you’re trying to foster.
This last point pulls people from the conceptual to the practical. It’s one thing to say that making a human connection with your students or customers or clients is a good thing. It’s quite another to outline what steps you’ll take to make your piece of the pie more personal and engaging. So asking your employees to identify ways to implement the new emphasis into their jobs, then following up to see how they’re progressing, helps them put the new brand into action.
For non-profits, you’ll need to take similar steps toward getting the message out to your volunteers, donors, and Board members. All of this effort is extremely valuable in advancing your new brand. In many cases, your people can be the most ardent and effective “brand ambassadors” you have!