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Are Your Employees Living Your Brand? By Suzanne Elshult, Your Executive Coach, HRNow

marketing-ornate-yak-fnl-160-100In a recent conversation with my marketing executive peer group we explored internal branding and the importance of effective marketing/HR relationships. If you consider recent research suggesting that organizations lose up to 40% of their marketing expenses if all employees are not able to articulate your brand promise and live it, it behooves us all to pay attention. Here are some of the things we agreed on:

  1. Employees generally want to be a part of their organization’s brand and  the brand ultimately translates into cultural norms guiding actions and behaviors.
  2. Culture really is exceedingly important and the anchor we need for internal branding.
  3. The benefits of a close partnership between marketing and HR is  key, and often not leveraged enough, and HR can be particularly useful in helping figure out how to get employees “authentically” involved with a brand.
  4. Tactics are important, but unless they are emotionally anchored, employees will see right through them .

A couple of marketers in attendance provided great examples of companies that have done internal branding well. For example, at PEMCO the brand is emphasizing what is unique and quirky and employees are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work and show up as who they truly are. The spirit of the brand is everywhere, whether you are looking at how individual cubicles are decorated to how meetings are conducted. PEMCO has also put a lot of effort into helping employees understand the organizational “why” –  for instance, ramping up their competitive intelligence strategy and sharing openly on a blog what is happening in the industry and why the company has to keep evolving to stay relevant.

Another participant shared how Delta Dental has been successful in advancing internal branding by having clear understanding around several pillars:

  1. Brand building takes time,
  2. Brand and culture efforts have to be linked to organizational values, and
  3. Progress needs to be measured and adjusted.

The Delta Dental case study is also an excellent example of what can happen when marketing and HR  work closely and collaboratively. with one another.

My personal takeaway from this session can be captured in one short question: Is your internal branding initiative and messaging perceived as being authentic by employees? If not, what is that costing you?A sound tactical, programmatic approach to internal branding is important, but not enough. The more elusive dimension that is harder to grasp and execute on is that of providing inspired and engaged leadership. If your leaders are not authentically engaging with your employees around questions of culture and brand and getting them to look at it from a personal perspective, they will not become engaged in solutions and living the brand. Ask your employees how they would like to contribute! Get them involved in defining what “living the values” looks like! Leverage the expertise of HR in creating engagement!

What other thoughts do you have?

My favorite quotes from this session:

  • Sometimes you are just peeing in a wet suit
  • I feel like the flamingo in the room, no one else in my company is seeing the market threats and opportunities
  • You can’t go it alone

Check out some interesting articles and posts on this topic in my MarketingYak Flipboard Magazine:



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