Any and every organization can learn and benefit from a proactive internal brand-building program. By learning more about internal brand building, any organization can uncover and energize the hidden brand power that resides inside its culture. In this cramped blog space I will restrain from providing a comprehensive how-to guide of internal brand building. Instead I will take a more compact, practical approach and pass along a few key lessons learned after 10 years of developing and implementing internal brand building programs. Here you go.
- If I can name it I can know it. Define the organization’s brand platform in a way that is understandable, relevant and believable to all employees. Most organizations have defined their brand to support marketing and communications professional’s tactics (external brand building). As a result the language is tuned to resonate with external audiences. Tag lines and positioning statements are the exclusive language of marketers and can easily turn-off rank and file employees. Before any organization can expect employees to embrace the intentions of the brand, the language must be practical, less marketing-ese and easily translate the brand’s intentions and character into action. A brand must be defined so an employee can name it, know it, act on it and become a part of it.
- Authenticity inspires. Brands that lack authenticity lack credibility, externally and internally. Employees will be the first to become skeptical and worst case, cynical about a brand that lacks authenticity in words or deeds. Employees must understand and believe that a brand’s unique qualities have a proven past and in the best case have a direct link to the organization’s founder or an individual that played a prominent role in its success. Authenticity starts with how a brand is defined. A brand must have a recognizable character and clearly understood, bone fide ethos that defines the innate qualities of the organization’s culture. Authenticity is earned and reinforced based upon the actions of leaders and teams inside the organization.
- Personal knowledge is not personal commitment. Employees’ literal understanding of a brand may be interesting for them, but it will not engage them to consistently act in the brand’s best interest. To effectively engage employees with an organization’s brand each person must feel an authentic connection to the ethos of the culture. Congruent engagement models have proven to be the most effective in driving organizational performance. The congruent engagement model applied to internal brand building is based on facilitating the alignment of and employee’s personal brand and the organization’s brand. The foundation of every effective internal brand-building infrastructure rests on the strength of the authentic alignment of an employees’ character and the organization’s character. Without this powerful engagement process, internal brand building is nothing more than today’s trendy name for internal communications.
- Brands thrive on the 3-C’s of shared brand leadership. Contrary to conventional wisdom, brands are not built top-down. The truth is different. Brand energy emanates from a network of brand nodes. At the center of those nodes are highly aligned, passionate internal brand leaders. An important source of energy of these high performers is the belief that their personal character and competency is enriched through the character and competency of the organization. These highly aligned, engaged individuals provide the energy based upon their authentic connection to the brand’s ethos. These special individuals demonstrate the 3-C’s of internal brand leadership: charisma, caricature and consistency. The 3 C’s qualities power the network of internal brand excellence.
- Internal brand building fuels the passion for an organization’s brand. A brand is who you are and how you make a difference. For an organization a brand defines its character. An on-going commitment to nourishing a culture is necessary for it to grow and thrive. Internal brand building is a process not a program. Brands always weaken inside out. To sustain a thriving culture internal brand building must be a part of the way a culture operates. Every organization must maintain a sustained internal brand-building commitment. Make sure internal brand building is a line item on an annual budget spreadsheet and part of an annual operating plan.
Internal brand building is a universal brand-building principle accessible by each and every organization. The new breed of global brand builders have proven that looking at brand building inside-out is the surest path to building a brand that can change the world or at least an industry.