At the heart of every successful marketing strategy is a recognisable, consistent, evocative brand. How you communicate your brand purpose and values, how you speak to your customers, how you share your products and messages with the world – that’s what hooks your clients’ or customers’ attention, sparks an emotional response, and keeps them coming back to you.
But it’s not only how well you communicate your brand messages externally to potential customers that determines your success. The way in which you communicate and demonstrate your brand internally to your employees and stakeholders is equally important.
In this complete guide to building an engaging internal brand strategy, we answer:
- What is an internal brand?
- Why does your internal brand matter?
- How do you build a successful internal brand?
- How do you align your brand and workplace culture?
- How do you drive genuine employee engagement with your brand strategy?
What is an internal brand?
An internal brand is also often referred to as an employer brand. Its purpose is to inspire, engage, and build loyalty amongst your employees.
Instead of communicating to your customers or clients, your internal brand is all about how your organisation embodies, demonstrates, and communicates its brand values, identity and purpose to employees and stakeholders.
The ultimate goal of an internal brand strategy is to ensure everyone working within your organisation understands and buys into the company’s purpose and culture, and feels confident and empowered to live and breathe it.
How does your internal and external brand align?
An externally and internally aligned brand understands and articulates its value proposition consistently and powerfully to both its target market and its employees.
- The goal of an external brand strategy is to make compelling promises to engage your customers or clients
- The goal of an internal brand strategy is to ensure your company culture underpins, embodies and delivers on its external brand promises
The most successful brands start on the inside, engaging and enrolling employees, and equipping them with the skills, resources and motivation to deliver on the promises your organisation makes to its customers.
This is what we call an ‘inside out’ approach to branding.
When your internal branding and external branding strategies align, you become an authentically purpose-driven company – which means your brand has integrity.
Read more: What is an internal brand and how does it differ from an external brand?
Why your internal brand matters
Investing in developing and communicating your internal brand not only ensures authenticity and integrity within your organisation – it also has a big impact on talent attraction and retention, which in turn impacts your bottom line.
According to a survey by CareerArc, 96% of companies believe their employer brand and reputation can positively or negatively impact revenue. The same survey found that 64% of consumers said they stopped buying from a brand after hearing about poor employee treatment.
Officevibe reported that employee turnover could be reduced by as much as 28% by investing in employer branding, and 92% of people said they would consider changing jobs if they were offered a role at a company with an excellent corporate reputation.
Attraction, retention and engagement
To stand out to potential employees, it is not only important to market your internal brand to jobseekers, but also to ensure your brand is fully embedded within your organisation so that new recruits’ experience matches their expectations.
68% of Millennials and 54% of Gen-Xers reported they will look at an employer's social media specifically to evaluate the internal brand, while 75% of all job seekers said they are more likely to apply for a job if an employer actively manages and promotes its employer brand.
Furthermore, up to 30% of job seekers reported leaving a job within their first three months due to a mismatch between their experience and the promises made by the employer brand.
Not only does a strong internal brand help you attract and retain the right talent, it also engages motivates and empowers your teams to perform to the best of their ability – which directly impacts your bottom line. Gallup reported that companies with a highly engaged workforce have 21% higher profitability.
Read more: Why is building an internal brand important?
How do you build an internal brand?
The benefits of a strong, well-communicated internal band are compelling. But when it comes to revamping your employer brand, where do you start? How do you create and articulate brand messages that enrol, engage and motivate your employees, driving loyalty and improving performance? Let’s explore the key steps.
1. Define your internal brand
Outline and define the core of your brand in a clear, compelling way that resonates with your employees. The core components of your internal brand might include:
Your purpose statement (WHY you exist)
Your mission statement (WHAT you’re doing to put your purpose into action)
Your brand values (HOW your actions support your purpose)
Your ultimate vision (WHERE you want to get to in the future)
2. Present a clear brand narrative
Human beings love narrative. We’re natural storytellers. Your brand narrative, or brand story, tells everyone in your organisation what inspired your founders, where you’ve come from, where you are now, how you got there and where you’re going. It ensures everyone in your organisation can see their place on the journey ahead.
3. Create internal brand guidelines
Your brand guidelines aren’t just about how your logo or colour palette should be used. They also outline how your employees are expected to communicate with colleagues, clients and customers so they’re able to bring your brand messages to life consistently, across all touchpoints.
The most effective brand guidelines will offer personalised, relevant examples of how each team and individual can embody your brand in their working day.
4. Invest in an internal communications strategy
You can have the most authentic, compelling internal brand in the world, but in order to do its job, it must be communicated effectively across all levels of seniority and departments within your organisation.
The best internal communications strategies incorporate varied communication methods and personalised messages, encourage two-way communication, and explore innovative and exciting ways to engage employees.
Read more: How do you build an internal brand for your business
Aligning your brand and workplace culture
Your workplace culture is determined by the way your employees communicate with each other, your internal policies and processes, and the demonstrable commitment you make to the promises delivered by your internal branding.
If your actions and behaviours as an employer don’t align with the promises your employer brand makes to your employees, you’ll quickly erode trust in your brand values. This leads to disengagement, low levels of motivation and ultimately poor employee retention.
Brand authenticity is vital
To begin with, your brand must be authentic and clearly communicated. If you co-create your purpose, vision and values with your leadership team, your brand will be fully aligned with those who are driving your organisation forward from the very beginning.
Building brand integrity
Building on a foundation of authenticity, the next step in aligning your brand and workplace culture is to ensure your brand has integrity.
Work with your leadership teams to review every element of your organisation and identify where your policies, processes and behaviours don’t currently align with your employer brand messages. Then, make changes to bring everything into alignment.
These changes might include:
- The office environment. Does your workplace enable employees to demonstrate and engage with your internal brand values? For example, if collaboration is a core value, does your office design support this? Is it easy for people to talk to their teams and across teams? Are there break-out spaces where people can meet and co-work? Is there space for people to sit and eat lunch, or take coffee breaks together?
- Leadership training. Do your organisational leaders need support to manage their teams in a way that’s aligned to your values? For example, if accountability is essential to your employer value proposition, your senior leaders shouldn’t seek to control or micro-manage. Your managers are the influencers within your organisation – others will look to them for guidance on how to embody your values.
- Employee opportunity. Social and career development opportunities such as events, internal campaigns and competitions are powerful tools in demonstrating your employer brand in action and showing your commitment to your brand values. For example, if you are committed to equality and diversity, what are you doing to mark Pride month and spotlight your LGBTQ+ employees?
Creating a workplace culture that aligns with your internal brand is an ongoing and evolving process. It requires you to continually demonstrate your commitment to your brand values and purpose.
Surveys and open forums are an excellent way of gathering employee sentiment and identifying where you can improve in embodying your brand promise. Listening to and acting on employees’ experience and feedback is vital for continued brand engagement and proactivity.
IBM found that 95% of employees who had a positive experience with their employer reportedly engaged in activities that are not part of their job, but which they see are beneficial to customers and the company. For staff reporting a poor employer experience, that figure fell to 55%.
Read more: How do you build a positive workplace culture that aligns with your internal brand?
Driving employee engagement with your brand
If your internal brand messages don’t feel authentic to your employees, and if they don’t understand how your brand promises apply to their working lives, they’re unlikely to engage with your brand messages. This is when we see internal brand investment failing to deliver on its potential.
According to LinkedIn, 53% of companies said that if they had an unlimited budget, they would most like to invest in employer branding. And yet, almost 50% of employers don’t believe they have the tools to effectively enhance their employer brand.
The fact is, huge budgets don’t guarantee a successful brand. Your people are your most powerful asset when it comes to your internal branding.
The most effective ways to empower your employees to engage with your brand are acknowledgement and appreciation, creative and consistent communication, and regular check-ins and feedback.
Acknowledge, appreciate, reward
When you take the time to acknowledge and reward employees for demonstrating your brand values at work, they feel seen, appreciated and valued. When employees don’t feel acknowledged, they quickly feel disconnected and disempowered.
One survey of 1700 workers found that 55% of workers were planning to switch jobs, and a lack of recognition was the number one reason given. 50% of employees reported that being appreciated at work improved their relationships with their company, while 60% of ‘best-in-class’ organisations say that employee recognition is an important performance driver.
Bring your brand to life
For your internal brand to resonate with your employees and spark genuine engagement, they need to see how your purpose and values apply directly to them within their role and see brand values demonstrated by organisational leaders and decision-makers.
For example, if one of your core brand values is promoting mental wellbeing and openness around mental health, you will want your internal brand and communications strategy to include activities and opportunities which align with this value.
This might be campaigning around mental health awareness week, encouraging senior leaders to talk openly about their personal experiences, or accommodating flexible working. Most importantly, your commitment to your values should be demonstrated all year round and reflected in your policies and procedures – not just highlighted during campaign periods.
Monitor engagement and take action
A recent analysis by Gartner found that only 16% of employers are using technology to monitor employee engagement levels.
Employee engagement is a core goal of an internal brand strategy, therefore it needs to be monitored like any other success metric across your organisation.
You might measure employee engagement through participation in internal campaigns, uptake of rewards, creating annual surveys, organising regular pulse surveys, or recording attendance at internal events.
The most important factor is to encourage two-way engagement between senior management and employees, providing them with plenty of opportunities to have their say and input into internal brand decisions which impact them.
Read more: How do you ensure your workforce engage with, embrace and live your internal brand?
Internal brand strategy, coupled with an effective internal communication strategy, has gone from nice to have to a vital component of a successful, purpose-driven business.
People increasingly want to work for a company with a genuine purpose that aligns with their values. They also want to see evidence that their employer is demonstrably committed to achieving their purpose and vision through their actions as an organisation.
Investing in your internal brand strategy has a big impact on talent attraction, employee retention and team engagement – all of which leads to increased performance and profitability for your business.