At the third annual Marcus Evans Internal Brand Engagement Conference in Miami, FL on February 22nd and 23rd, ironically the looming question was not how far internal brand engagement had come, but rather how organizations still needed to define its role. Some of this was evident from the attendees present (largely communications professionals) and the content presented. Mostly it was evident from the dialogue between attendees.
Conversations at the conference bordered around better and greater ways to communicate. The whole notion of engagement seemed to have slipped a little from focus. Few were able to define what happens after communication and how employees are being rallied to deliver on the leadership agenda and business strategy. It's time to evolve internal brand engagement to become a more strategic vocation. Having said that, the conference was a good representation of the challenges and opportunities that exist for internal brand engagement.
1: Internal brand engagement is not yet tied to organizational growth.
Until internal brand engagement is tied to revenue and thereby growth, it will not really get the kind of attention it deserves. We went through this cycle with the whole notion of brands. It only became a priority to CEOs when a tangible value was attached to it. We need to go through the same rigor with internal brand engagement.
Interbrand identifies internal brand engagement as the process of activating an organization-through its employees-to deliver an exceptional customer experience that ultimately drives choice, loyalty, and premium value. Like customer experience, which can be measured and is attributed to organizational growth, internal brand engagement needs to be viewed in the same manner. This is one of its biggest challenges to date.
2. If we have to define a role for internal brand engagement, we need to be intentional about who leads it.
Is there any wonder why internal brand engagement is relegated to an exercise in communication? Those who are leading the charge are internal communications, marketing, and a handful of HR professionals. The approach to internal brand engagement so far has been finding leaders who communicate to employees at large, as opposed to finding leaders who directly engage with employees, and thereby can affect and influence culture and the customer experience.
3. One size does not engage all.
We would argue that customer-facing employees are not the only ones determining customer experience. Everyone is customer-facing. The definition of customer may change based on the role that you play.
HR "customers" are new recruits and current employees. Accounting "customers" are other accounting personnel in other organizations.
Any internal brand engagement process needs to segment employees based on their role in delivering the ideal customer experience and then train them accordingly.
4. Time to walk the walk
Finally, the whole notion of internal brand engagement needs to be about behavior change. It isn't enough to talk - it's important to train, measure, reward, and create greater accountability.
Internal brand engagement is activated when employees truly understand, believe, and live the brand. Words like engagement, change, and transformation, by their very nature, imply a continuum. It's a constant journey or cycle, if you will, of understanding, believing, and living that engenders sustained change. That in essence ensures that employees are able to deliver on customer experiences to drive choice, loyalty, and premium continuously. This is what delivers on growth. This is what defines strong brands.