Why a brand is for employees not just for customers
There’s no denying it, a branding project is a big investment. To get it right takes time, it takes effort, and it takes commitment from those at the top.
But so often when we talk to clients, they consider their brand an outward facing entity. Something primarily visual to make their website look swish and help attract more clients to their fold.
And while this is of course some of it, we can’t help but feel it’s only part of the jigsaw. And *whisper it* perhaps not even the most important part.
Developing your brand fully and carrying it through to your internal team offers a huge opportunity to excite and engage your employees and to create an organisation with a reputation for being a great place to work. But while Big Mike is always happy to wax lyrical about these things, we thought it might be nice to see what those on the other side think.
That’s why we’ve spoken to a couple of our long-term clients, Nationwide Building Society and The Pension Solutions Group (PSG), to get their take on the importance of employer branding.
Living and breathing the brand
Traditionally a branding project will involve a detailed conversation about ‘brand values’, leading to a list of words that sum up your business and the way you like to work.
But aside from giving your designer and copywriter a flavour of what you’re all about, what’s the point? After all, a list of words is just that, a list of words. How can businesses bring them to life and make sure they actually mean something?
“We don’t want our brand to begin and end with arresting copy and design,” Mike Baker, Marketing & Comms Director at PSG, told us. “We want a culture and attitude that runs through everything, from recruitment, training and career progression to external communications and campaigns.”
It’s not just a case of putting up a PowerPoint during an induction session and telling new employees the values they should abide by in their new role. A true branding project that marries the external and internal allows a business to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ what it is all about. It helps employees learn accepted attitudes and behaviours by example. And most importantly it brings the brand to life in an authentic, meaningful and even inspirational way.
Done right, your employees may not be able to sit down and tell you word for word your brand values and ethos, but they should be able to give you a good idea of how it feels. And when all is said and done, that’s what matters. Isn’t it?
As Mike* says,
“When employees begin to see that the way we treat our clients matches their own experience they can see our brand values have substance.”
And what better way to help them get behind that abstract list of words?
Giving employees ‘ownership’
There’s a reason John Lewis has such a great reputation as an employer, and it goes beyond the amazing staff discounts they offer. It’s about the focus the management team have on staff happiness and the level of input employees are given in driving the success of the company. This involvement in the strategic direction of the business is a great way to inspire them to work hard.
Roger Lipscombe, Lead Manager, Brand Look for Nationwide Building Society agrees,
“at Nationwide we put our members at the heart of everything we do. We incorporate this idea as much in the way we communicate internally as externally, projecting a caring and open ethos that helps our employees step up as representatives of our brand.
Yes, we might have a little more design flexibility in the internal comms we use, but ultimately the look and feel and the tone of voice are the same. It has to be consistent; it wouldn’t really work if it wasn’t.”
And this doesn’t have to be all about the big things. Getting employees involved in designing rewards schemes can be a great way to ensure they’re excited to be a part of it all.
PSG, for example, invested in Perkbox, an off-the-shelf employee recognition and reward scheme, before realising that if they brought it in-house they could have much more creative freedom, develop a flexible scheme with a “distinctly PSG feel” and really have some fun with it.
Getting through the tough times
More recently, with everything that’s been going on, businesses have had to change the way they work and the way they support their people. Both Mike and Roger feel they can attribute some of their success in adapting to the consistency of their internal brand and comms.
“Because of our attitude towards supporting individuals anyway, it didn’t take much to get to the point where everyone could work successfully from home. We recognised that the crucial ‘first day experience’ would be lacking for our new starters. But longer-term members of the team naturally took it on themselves to welcome them in a genuinely warm way, while we put in place structures to maintain and promote that sense of PSG community remotely.
It’s that initiative to ‘do the right thing’ that we’ve fostered with such a consistent approach to our brand. And it’s something that tells us our employees ‘get it’ and are very protective of a culture they believe in and respect.”
Not only that, employees feel a genuine sense of safety and belonging when they’re a part of such caring and nurturing brands – something that can only be good for mental health and well-being in such uncertain times.
A BMInc branding project
To us, a branding project is about getting underneath the skin and discovering that special something that makes a business tick. Not screaming, “we are friendly, we are professional” to anyone who will listen, but showing it in everything you do.
Branding is less about a polished logo and a clever strap-line here or there. But about a consistent feeling emitted from your digital landscape, your comms and arguably most importantly from your employees.
Only by keeping the look and feel of your business as consistent internally as you do externally can you really expect your employees to truly ‘get it’ and feel as passionate about what they are doing as you do yourself.
And only then can the real magic happen!
Want to know more about how we work our magic? Get in touch with Big Mike** and the team and we’ll be only too happy to talk.
*Mike Baker, not Big Mike
**Big Mike, not Mike Baker…are you keeping up?