Even the most considered brand could amount to nothing if employees within the business don’t live and breathe it, says Lesley Gulliver, managing director of brand consultancy The Engine Room. Here she advises how to achieve employee buy-in…
Before looking at the roll out of a successful brand, it’s firstly important to understand what a brand actually is. It may sound obvious but far too many people fail to look beyond a logo when it comes to the brand identity of a business. There’s much more to it than that.
Your brand IS your business. It conveys your purpose as an organisation and is a manifestation of your culture and values. It reflects what you do and how you behave as a commercial entity. It affects how you communicate with your audience and, on that note, as brand guru Marty Neumeier wisely says: “Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what your customers say it is.” Their perception of the company is what will ultimately shape the brand in the long-term.
But there is another crucial stakeholder group to consider in the development of a brand – employees. They’re widely considered an organisation’s most important asset after all. And a brand won’t work externally if those internally don’t live and breathe and understand it.
In terms of how to achieve that critical internal ‘buy in’, the advice is fairly straightforward – involve colleagues in the process.
In principle, this is easier in smaller organisations, where one-to-one, human conversations are commonplace and simple to schedule. In larger organisations, ‘logistics’ may make dialogue with every single employee difficult – but it’s not impossible. It just needs planning and commitment.
Workshops could be held with key employee representatives within the business, or better still, mini consultations could be coordinated with everyone in the workforce. If this is not feasible, think about the alternative tools that are available to gather the insight you need, such as Survey Monkey.
This exercise, whilst admittedly time consuming, should not be seen as a chore and nor should the planning phase of a branding exercise be rushed anyway. Exploring what a brand needs to represent is a crucial part of the fact-finding process, and colleagues may have unrivalled intelligence to share. They are often the people closest to ‘the ground’ after all, and their suggestions should be welcomed in a safe and creative space.
Of course, it won’t be possible to include everyone’s thoughts and ideas, but do not underestimate the value that can be added by the collective. Yes, the brand has to be fully embraced at management level if it is to have strategic impact, but it needs to be authentic and relevant too. It shouldn’t just be the vision of a marketing department, for instance.
As the brand takes shape, it is important to keep colleagues informed of the next steps and anticipated timescales. Even if a ‘big reveal’ is planned to create added excitement, ensure employees are the VIPs who see it first. The more they feel consulted and involved, the more they will engage with the entire exercise and the greater the likelihood that their behaviour will uphold the values of the brand once it is rolled out. If they don’t understand – or worse still don’t agree with – the brand ethos, everything will be incongruent and could appear little more than a flawed stunt.
Ultimately, as with most elements of business, much boils down to communication. Don’t forget that employees are people and it is human nature to express caution towards things that we feel are imposed on us. But, be open and clear about the exercise and the importance that people play in the process, and the power of a brand will really come to life.
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