INTERNAL/EXTERNAL BRAND ALIGNMENT
Employee and Customer ENGAGEMENT
There must be internal branding and external branding alignment; that compliments and reinforces each other. The internal brand should serve as a short cut for employees to understand the company's purpose, mission, values and ultimately, it's culture.
The internal brand should answer the question: Why does this company exist and what value does the company provide to employees and customers alike? The answer should provide a distinction, enhance the culture and recruitment appeal.
The external brand is usually intended to establish an image for the product or service, change perceptions or exalt product features and attributes. It is designed to achieve awareness, desire, appeal or availability. It encompasses, core positioning messages and creative ideas directed through media, PR, corporate relations, public affairs, advertising (TV, radio, and internet), social media such as Facebook, Pinterest, Google ad placement, customer analytics. The goals of an external brand effort are sometimes different from internal brand priorities.
That is the conflict arises. CMOs and CHRO's need to do something about internal and external brand alignment, so there is no confusion.
Internal branding is significant to company morale, culture, productivity, and ultimately, revenue. If employees don't know what the brand stands for it will be challenging to represent the true image to customers.
The best way to establish your company's brand among your employees is by weaving it through every element of the culture. This can include the physical setup of your office, the decor, company outings, memos, and perks, recognition, and rewards
Establishing your office's culture leads to improved morale and employees who are excited to be at work. It also allows for more transparent communication between staff and employers.
Successful internal branding leads to easier recruitment. If your business doesn't prioritize internal branding, you run the risk of creating a disconnect between how your business is perceived and how it operates internally and externally. That is a significant benefit of alignment.
It is vital to establish culture/purpose guidelines to ensure new recruits share the values and mission of the company during the interview and vetting process. When a company has these criteria, it is easy to determine if a candidate is a right fit for the culture. It will also help you understand who would fit best with your company. This little effort saves time and aggravation down the road. Ask them to describe the brand and what behaviors are necessary "to live" the brand values.
Implementing internal branding guidelines fosters consistency between marketers, other departmental employees, and all communications platforms. Without establishing clear internal branding guidelines, there is a risk of having different voices across platforms.
Lead the brand with purpose - One of the best things about establishing business' values with internal branding is allowing employees to feel excited about what the business is doing. Reiterating the company's purpose and fundamental values remind staff why they're there and how they're helping people.
Give employees something to be proud of – that they can share with friends and family. Give them a reason to become brand advocates and champions.
Always communicate what the end game of the company and explain how their actions/behaviors will make a difference in the outcome. Make employees a part of the solution and journey.
The way the public thinks of your business comes down to your communication, advertising, slogan, product, and how your company operates.
Most believe the principal element of the external brand is the creative execution and the idea represented in the personality, tone, and manner of the company. While it is important, it is not the most critical element. The critical piece of the external puzzle is "brand positioning" and "message architecture." It is what is the image of the brand and what is the message the company wants to convey at the appropriate time within the buying process. What a company says about itself is different in the awareness stage versus the purchasing in-store stage.
External branding must have consistent messaging on all platforms and media channels. Successful marketing can't happen if social media, advertising, email marketing, customer service, and direct response voices are all conveying company messages with different tonalities. Without a consistent voice, customers will confuse brand perception with its reality, resulting in confusion and disloyalty.
Internal and External Brand Alignment
They should all work together to promote the brand's philosophy, values, and image in the marketplace. When they are aligned, it provides a robust differentiation and competitive advantage. If they don't work together, the brand's message and goals will be confusing. Being clear about the brand's voice, values, philosophy, and goals is the best way to ensure your employees, customers and channel partners are all on the same page.
Your internal and external brand identity should blend seamlessly. If your business hasn't prioritized brand guidelines and internal branding, your employees could have differing ideas of what your brand is or how it should be communicated. Yes. Brand standards apply to all internal communications (social/intranet to recruitment ads, to websites and digital signage and posters.
Internal and external brand consistency is essential to limit confusion from customers, but it's more important for your employees. When employees are told one thing by management like increase sales but observe a different message is sent to the public, they start to question the integrity of the company. When your employees' perceptions of your company are out of line with the public's, this can create a negative work atmosphere and morale.
Mirror internal and external campaigns to employees and customers alike. To keep internal and external expectations the same, create external advertising messages that address both external audiences and internal stakeholders. Also, be sure to share external ads and communication messages with employees first before the public.
Whenever possible expose employees to customers and conversely so customers can see the people who make their products/services and see the dedication and skills needed for delivery of the brand promise. Making customer connections matter and heightens the meaning and value of the brand.
When communicating externally through advertising, etc., the creative should reinforce the messages that the company is talking to staff/employees internally as well. Always avoid having the employees question external campaigns and messages. All that does is create confusion and gossip and sometimes even sabotage.
Indeed, everyone in your company needs to know what the brand stands for. From the CEO to rank-and-file employees, every worker needs to understand the consequences if they fail to deliver the brand's values. When alignment occurs and is effective, employees should be able to describe their culture and clear and distinct adjectives. Leaders should promote internal/external brand alignment frequently and with every opportunity.
Allan Steinmetz CEO - Inward Strategic Consulting 617-558-9770