Join the Executive Coaching Conversation

Internal branding: Opportunity for HR and Marketing Executives by Suzanne Elshult

Suzanne Elshult sponsors live round tables for senior marketing and human resources executives and offers executive / professional coaching and virtual learning opportunities for leaders, business owners, consultants and coaches committed to growth and high performance.

What happens when you put 50 high-powered HR and Marketing Executives in one room for three hours to explore:

1. How can Marketing help HR?
2. How can HR help Marketing?
3. What are the Implications of social media for internal branding?

These are the questions we posed to the Seattle HR Executive Forum and Marketing Executive Roundtable in a recent joint meeting? Sounding kind of dull? You’d better rethink that. Just check these terrific graphic notes to get a sense of the energy and creativity in the room:

In fact so much rich content came out of this roundtable, I plan to do a series of blog posts over the next several weeks. Today I’ll give you the general flavor of the discussion and also share one success story of a company where HR and Marketing have done an outstanding job of partnering in a re-branding initiative: PEMCO, here in the Pacific Northwest.

Pretty much everybody in the room agreed that Marketing and HR need to partner and where they come together the most is in the brand, and how the internal brand interacts with and reflects the external brand. Easy say, hard do! It takes time, it means working through turf issues and conflicting views on the right approach. And, the process must be authentic! The employee value proposition needs to align with the true situation (anywhere from the physical environment, to the kind of artwork and furniture chosen, to the dress code – or lack thereof – adopted, and more).

It is not uncommon to see a huge disconnect between a company’s internal and external brand. One of the examples shared was a company with a strong internal brand and culture which was smart, unique and fun, but by no means represented in the external brand which was created by scientists favoring informative but very dense materials.

PEMCO is a great example of a company that dramatically changed it’s brand over a period of years from a meat and potatoe type company to one that has clearly set itself apart by emphasizing it’s unique focus and presence in and identification with the Pacific Northwest. Living here and not being aware of the PEMCO NW Profiles campaign is hard to impossible. The Chief Marketing and Chief People Officers understood from the very beginning that they needed to look at both internal and external branding to make the shift the company needed. In fact, HR and Marketing formed a “Brand Council” and aggressively went to work to take the external brand values and develop employee competencies reflecting the new and desired culture. Many new initiatives were launched to facilitate the change internally to better reflect the external brand. Here are some examples:

• New benefit programs including domestic partners and a wellness initiatives
• Initiatives supporting employee community participation
• Branded clothing for employees
• Introduction of authentic brand value and collaboration techniques such as the World Café, Open Space and Appreciative Inquiry
• A thought leadership and author series initiative (for example bringing local poets to events)
• A new Leadership Initiative emphasizing authenticity and interaction
• Employee events supporting the Northwest Profiles campaign
• A new, more informal dress code (even allowing blue jeans for special events….historically a BIG NONO!)
• New artwork and furniture reflect the new NW brand
• Focus on sustainability. The PEMCO carbon footprint is tracked and posted for all employees and customers to see.

PEMCO is without a doubt a great example of what can happen when HR and Marketing work together.

In my next blog post, I plan to share some specific tools, ideas, resources and reflections that came out in response to the three questions I started out with in this post. You don’t want to miss this! Stay tuned….

For more information on Executive Coaching please visit Suzanne has two blogs: and (we want your workplace stories).


  • Joe Hage says:

    Suzanne, it was great to participate in this roundtable discussion. I, too, appreciated how PEMCO approaches its workforce with marketing and HR hand-in-hand.

    In a subsequent post, it would be great if the graphic notes could be enlarged for easier viewing.

    Joe Hage
    Director of Marketing Communications
    Cardiac Science

  • Suzanne says:

    I will send out meeting notes and the graphic notes as PDF files soon to the mER distribution list. Glad you were able to participate.


  • I really enjoyed being a part of the meeting. Great content, great interaction and great ideas. Hope to get invited back!! 🙂

    Take care,

    Sean O’Driscoll
    Ant’s Eye View

  • Suzanne says:


    Your contributions to the discussion around social media was great and I know our paths will continue to cross. Social media is here to stay and I predict both my executive roundtable groups will want to visit the subject at least annually.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *