- It starts on the inside.
Harvard Business Review explained the importance of delivering a consistent message to employees in, “Selling the Brand Inside.” The article stated, “Employees need to hear the same messages that you send out to the marketplace. At most companies, however, internal and external communications are often mismatched. This can be very confusing, and it threatens employees’ perceptions of the company’s integrity: They are told one thing by management but observe that a different message is being sent to the public.”Leaders, managers and ultimately every employee must ensure the story and strategy are communicated in a consistent manner inside the organization.
- It takes unwavering commitment from the executive team.
For employees to embrace and activate your strategy and story — leaders must drive mindset, behavior and cultural change throughout the employee population. For this to happen, CMOs must lead the charge. To illustrate the importance of unwavering executive commitment, we share this experience of a major financial services institution. Leaders in the firm told customers that it was shifting from being a financial retailer to a financial adviser, but a year later, research showed the customer experience with the company had not changed. It turned out leaders across the company did not support the change internally, so employees were still churning out transactions and hadn’t changed their story or behavior to match their new adviser role.
- It requires formal training.
Companies spend millions of dollars training their general employee population, sales teams and customer service representatives on basic job skills. Yet, the fundamental requirement of every employee is to be able to articulate a clear, compelling corporate story. Every employee should be able to share with conviction who your company is, what it does, the value it delivers and ultimately why someone should do business with your organization.
Why is it then, that very few companies train their employees on how to tell the corporate story? Don’t make this mistake. Develop formal educational programs that enable employees to internalize, personalize and activate the corporate story in their daily work activities. Make it part of your employee orientation and onboarding process. This investment will pay off in bottom-line business results. In fact, a recent article published in Harvard Business Review stated, “We’ve found that when people care about and believe in the brand, they’re motivated to work harder and their loyalty to the company increases.”
- It must be infused into daily work activities.
Formal training is a start, but you need to make the corporate Messaging Platform and Storytelling content easily accessible. For this to happen, you need to develop educational tools that can be leveraged by employees in their daily work activities. Tools that help them structure and deliver customer conversations; quickly produce consistent content; build presentations; and develop customer-facing communication vehicles. Employees need to be able to quickly and easily activate the story as they work. This is not easy. Maybe that’s why a recent article in Forbes noted …
“At the end of the day, this step is just hard because the magnitude of change and innovation required to bridge the knowing/doing gap is so enormous.”
You must not only develop relevant messaging education and activation tools but also train stakeholders how they can use those messages and tools in customer-facing situations. Things like department or role-specific quick reference guides, handbooks and online messaging content can dramatically increase employee productivity as well as corporate messaging adoption and activation across the organization.
- It has to become part of your culture.
Employees need to be immersed in your strategy and story for it to stick. A sustained, 18-24 month, internal communications initiative should be launched and executed. This is where you blend cognitive learning (formal training and education) with emotional engagement to infuse the corporate story into your culture and into your employees’ DNA. This is how you engage employees in a way that they instinctively activate the words and actions that are required to deliver a differentiated customer experience. Colin Mitchell, worldwide head of planning at Ogilvy & Mather, once said …
“By weaving the corporate messages into employees’ everyday experiences, managers can ensure that on-brand behavior becomes instinctive.”
Research shows that most companies fail to execute effectively in all five of these areas. And it appears, Harvard Business Review agrees. A recent article in the magazine stated …
“Employees are unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity. Unfortunately, in most companies, internal marketing is done poorly, if at all.”