Forbes Agency Council

For a branding project to succeed, it needs buy-in from all internal stakeholders. This means not only the marketing and communications teams, but also anyone else whose resources will be tapped to support the new brand, from human resources to operations to customer relations. Engaging these stakeholders is easier said than done, however. Too often, it can seem as if marketers and non-marketers are speaking different languages.

One of the best ways to overcome this potential impediment to brand acceptance and implementation is through a cross-functional workshop approach. We bring together employees from all the departments that affect the client and employee experience, beginning with the brand development process. In cross-functional workshops, we use a variety of activities to elicit perspectives on where the brand is today and build consensus around how it needs to evolve. Making a wide range of stakeholders part of the process greatly increase that odds that they will buy into the brand when it is launched.

Once the brand is developed, we continue to use cross-functional workshops to engage these audiences in understanding and accepting the brand. We typically offer a “sneak preview” of the new brand platform to workshop participants and ask them to do some blue-sky thinking about what brand behaviors or activation strategies would help cascade the brand across the organization.

In isolation, such an exercise might seem anathema to many non-marketers.

In our experience, however, participants who worry, often aloud, that they aren’t “creative” enough to contribute find that they not only have valuable ideas to share – they actually enjoy the process. To make this happen, the workshop needs to be led by an experienced facilitator, with practical guidance and structured activities that provide a framework for soliciting and contributing ideas.

One of our favorite activities for this kind of brand engagement workshop is asking participants to retrofit the new brand to an event or behavior they’ve been a part of in the course of their jobs. Not long ago, we rebranded a leading national law firm around the concept of “See Beyond” – the ability of the firm’s people to consider issues “beyond” strictly legal concerns when providing advice. At a brand engagement workshop, we asked attorneys and others to describe an instance when they “saw beyond” in their work to develop an unexpected solution or strategy. Attorneys offered anecdotes where they considered the industry or even cultural context of the matter at hand to arrive at a unique solution. Support staff, from IT, HR, and billing, also provided examples of where they looked beyond the challenge at hand to find out-of-the-box approaches. Engaging a wide range of people in the workshop demonstrated that “living” the brand was everyone’s responsibility. It also provided a rich source of case studies for use in marketing.

In B2B, where employees are your most important brand asset, it’s crucial that each employee understands how to apply the corporate brand to their work and their professional interactions.  This is where cross-functional workshops can be very effective. By giving employees a safe space in which to step out of their day-to-day role and channel their inner creativity, these collaborative events build buy-in, enthusiasm, and commitment for the brand among even the most reluctant employees.

This post was adapted from an article on Forbes.com. Howard Breindel is a member of the Forbes Agency Council, an invitation-only organization for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.