A common misconception in most organizations is that the only way to maximize their brand value is to focus on external stakeholders. This includes their paying customers, vendors, the media and regulators.
These organizations fail to focus on one of their most important and influential stakeholder, the internal customer a.k.a the employee.
Employees are just as important and in some cases even more important than your external stakeholders. It may come as a surprise to many but focusing on the internal customer is beneficial on multiple fronts. While it helps to boost employee morale ( yes – that’s not just the job of Human Resources), it also drives ideas from across the organization (which have been proven to help increase efficiencies, think Six Sigma).
Most importantly, it helps to build a legion of brand advocates who are much more driven and passionate about the organization than any celebrity endorsement (and much cheaper too).
In an increasingly connected world, informed and empowered employees, be they from any division, can lead positive brand reinforcement like any marketing or communication driven campaign.
The biggest failure of any organization’s brand is when the employees don’t take pride in the products of the company itself. Imagine an employee saying, ‘I don’t use my own company’s products because they are not so great.’
How would that translate for external customers? That would just downplay the whole brand of the company and that in itself is irreparable.
Building a solid base for positive associations comes down to the tools of communication used to create a sense of unity with the brand of the company. If you are able to create a strong brand presence in the company, half your work is done. The employees will help to do most of the rest.
A good example is of Yahoo, where employees are allowed to paint their cars with the Yahoo logo. While this may seem extreme to some, but the point is to create brand advocates within the company by empowering employees and creating an engaged work force.
Quick tips for building brand advocates in your company
For internal communication for brand advocacy, a few of these tips may come in handy.
Share brand information with employees. Make them understand the brand to become part of it. Be available to answer their questions and talk about employees who are living the brand in the company.
Utilize internal communication tools. Empower employees to build associations with the brand of the company. Open up channels of communication and discuss the brand philosophy with peers. Make it a norm to include brand values in your emails and other communication.
Leadership needs to keep the communication flow going with the employee base. Which means leadership behaviors and role modeling that reflects the brand philosophy can help build brand ambassadors in the company.
Build newsletters to communicate brand essence and feature those employees who fit the bill. Tell stories for reinforcement and feature those stories consistently.
Develop engagement activities like give aways, competitions and contests to reflect the brand’s vision. Make your brand values part of your office space and take pride in what the company achieves based on the brand values.
Recognize employees who exceed expectations and create a sense of association with the brand of the company. A good example is of Westin Resorts who give guests lapel pins when they check in. They then request the guests to give the pin to an employee whom they feel has performed beyond expectations.
This kind of communication can really help to build a strong brand in the company and employees will begin to feel part of the organization’s brand vision.
Such employees can also act as an alternate line of defense when it comes to managing a difficult situation in the public domain, especially the social media.
Empowered employees can provide the passionate resistance that a brand or organization may need to win back the confidence of external stakeholders.
On the other hand, an employee who feels distant from the brand, or has little information on why the organization does what it does, can channel negativity into the organization.
When the going gets tough, such disconnected employees can actually weigh down an organization by not being willing to make efforts for the greater good of the company.
When it comes to winning influence, organizations must make the conscious decision to begin their efforts at ‘home’.
The internal customer must be won over by a concerted team effort between Human Resources and Corporate communication, and must be led from the front by senior management. But more on that next week!
Meanwhile happy communicating!
This infographic was first published at Amplifinity
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