How do you build an internal brand for your business?

Alesandra De Santis
By Alessandra De Santis
Account Director

The most successful companies are those which have a well-defined, authentic, compelling internal – or ‘employer’ – brand. Both workers and consumers are growing increasingly conscious and discerning when it comes to where they work, who they buy from and who they do business with. 

As authors of Built to Change: How to Achieve Organizational Effectiveness, Edward E. Lawler III and Christopher G. Worley, wrote all the way back in 2006: “Employees seek to work for organizations just as customers seek to do business with them: when they feel that the organization offers what they desire.”

More recent research has found up to 92% of people would consider changing jobs if they were offered a role at a company with an excellent employer reputation, while employee turnover could be reduced by 28% when a strong, cohesive and compelling internal brand strategy is in place. 

The impact of your internal brand goes far beyond talent acquisition and retention though. It can directly impact your external brand and your bottom line. In one recent survey, 64% of consumers reported they’d stopped buying from a brand after discovering they treated employees poorly.

So, how do you create internal brand messages that inspire, engage and motivate your employees to improve employee loyalty and performance? Let’s explore.

1. Define your internal brand

Sometimes called an ‘employer brand’ and strongly linked to your employer value proposition (EVP), your internal brand starts with your purpose. Once you’ve defined your purpose as an organisation, your internal brand must grow from and around it.

The key components of a well-defined internal brand are:

  • Purpose statement. This is one sentence summing up the reason WHY your brand exists, why you’re in business, and the difference you’re committed to making in the world. For example: ‘To create a greener world.’
  • Mission statement. This clarifies WHAT you are doing to put your purpose into action. This is different from your purpose statement, as it defines the change you want to see and links it to your organisation. Building on the example above, a mission statement might be: ‘To plant 1 million trees in every country’ or ‘To provide free environmental education in every school’.
  • Brand values. These are three or four value-based words or statements accompanied by a sentence or two defining HOW your actions embody those values. For example, words like ‘Authentic’, ‘Trustworthy’, ‘Brave’ or ‘Innovative’.
  • Brand vision. This is your roadmap which outlines WHERE you want to get to and WHEN you want to get there by, in a way that’s aligned to your purpose, mission and values. 
  • Internal policies. These outline and define all the ways in which you are committed to your purpose, mission and values, aligning employer and employee conduct with your brand promises. These include your environmental, sustainability, remote working and mental wellbeing policies.

2. Get clear on your corporate narrative

Your corporate narrative – or business story – weaves your internal brand message together, telling the story of how your mission, purpose and values came to be.

The goal of your corporate narrative is to give employees and senior leaders complete clarity on your organisation’s ethos and vision, enabling them to see how they can become part of the story and drive the organisation forward in an aligned way.

Your corporate narrative informs everyone who joins the organisation:

  • Where you’ve come from (the beginning, sharing your organisation’s roots and inspiration)
  • Where you are right now (the middle, what they are joining and what their role is)
  • Where you’re going in future (the open ending, which they have an opportunity to be part of)

Therefore, your brand story becomes a powerful tool to engage your employees. It enables them to see the role they have the potential to play in the company’s journey. 

Short term, an inspirational, motivating corporate narrative helps employees accept and make sense of change. Longer-term, it provides a compelling road map against which employees can align their actions and personal career goals.

To encourage buy-in and ownership of your narrative, include your longest-serving and dedicated employees in creating and shaping how your story is told. Ask them about their experience of your organisation’s evolution, what they saw for themselves in the company narrative when they joined and what in the organisation’s future has inspired their loyalty and commitment.

3. Create internal brand guidelines

To build a cohesive internal brand, comprehensive internal brand guidelines for employees are essential. These don’t just outline how people should lay out documents, what to include in their email signatures, or what policies they’re expected to read and understand.  

Across recruitment, onboarding, change management and reward, your brand guidelines – or brand toolkit – should bring your brand messages to life consistently, across all your internal communication touchpoints.

As well as looking after the look and feel of your brand – such as how employees should use the company logo –  the most effective internal brand guidelines include:

  • Your purpose, mission statement and values – How do these relate directly to the employee experience? How do you expect to see employees embodying your purpose and values in their day-to-day working lives? What is your promise to your employees, how are you showing them your purpose is authentic?
  • Your corporate narrative – What is their role in the story? How can your longest-serving employees and senior leaders’ individual stories help communicate the part your newest recruits can play?
  • Personalised examples – Speak to individuals in different departments and roles, and at different stages of their lives and careers. Share what being part of the company means to them and offer examples of how they have embodied the brand’s purpose and values.
  • Behavioural examples – Be explicit about how your employees can demonstrate the company values at work. This includes attitudes, the way they engage with colleagues, and the way they conduct themselves at work. This also includes how the organisation’s leaders promise to behave towards them, such as giving autonomy, listening to feedback, and taking complaints seriously.

4. Invest in internal communications

Once you have defined your internal brand and created your guidelines, an internal communications strategy is vital. Sharing PDF documents or corporate training videos with employees isn’t enough to fully engage them with your brand, or fully embed it throughout your organisation.

An internal communications strategy is your plan to strategically and impactfully communicate your internal brand guidelines. You don’t want your purpose to be something that exists solely on the homepage of your website, or your values to just live on the wall of your offices.

Every element of your brand must be alive throughout your organisation.

Your internal communications strategy is your opportunity to:

  • Think creatively about how to communicate your brand
  • The impact you want to have at every touchpoint between leadership teams and employees
  • How you personalise your brand messages to employees across different departments and levels
  • Which tools you’re going to use to engage employees with your brand

The most effective internal communication strategies include:

  • Varied communication methods including workshops, lunch and learns, innovative digital technologies, and corporate social media platforms to cater to all learning styles and abilities
  • Two-way engagement including opportunities to gather employee ideas and feedback, and demonstrate how their input and feedback has been actioned within the evolution of the internal brand
  • Creative ways to bring your internal brand to life that have a real and positive impact on workplace culture, such as team-building activities or wellbeing support
  • Innovative ways to engage employees in internal campaigns such as competitions, charitable work and professional development
  • Personalisation of messages and activities that relate to your employees’ personal and professional lives, including religious holidays, national events, and key life stages

Want to know more about how to implement an internal brand strategy?

> Read more: How do you deliver strong, consistent internal brand messages to employees?

Alesandra De Santis
By Alessandra De Santis
Account Director