It’s the classic chicken or egg question — which element comes first when aligning brand and culture? Leadership teams often ask us this question during transformation initiatives. While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, there are three critical questions that any leadership team must answer to understand how to begin optimizing the relationship…
We published a whitepaper that examines how professional services firms can leverage the power of branding to stand out in an increasingly competitive industry. It’s a fairly comprehensive look at the process of building a solid and differentiated brand, from conducting internal and extensive research to identifying core brand attributes and developing a positioning and messaging platform. In this post, we want to take this a step further and examine how professional services firms can maximize the value of their brands by leveraging their most important external communications channel: employees.
Professional services brands are built on reputation, relationships and intellectual capital – in other words, their people. Employees that have a strong bond and a clear understanding of the corporate brand can be a company’s most valuable brand ambassadors. But to generate this type of enthusiasm and unity, employees must feel a sense of shared purpose, a fundamental connection to the company’s mission, vision and values, and an understanding of how they contribute to the company’s success. And, they must be empowered with the right tools to communicate that brand externally — whether at a social gathering or a business function, through email, social media or a phone call. This is where employee communications and internal branding plays a critical role in maximizing the value of a brand.
So, how can your firm (re)invigorate these critical stakeholders? Here are the three T’s to success (because everything is better with alliterations).
When we helped rebrand Lathrop Gage, a major law firm that needed to update its positioning to better reflect its growth. Prior to the official launch of the new brand, we provided in-depth brand training for employees. These included interactive exercises and educational sessions that gave an overview of the research findings, an introduction to the new brand platform and a roadmap for how the brand would officially be rolled out. To help them internalize the new brand, we focused on branding exercises for employees that reinforced the concepts delivered in the brand presentation and drove home the importance of “living” the new brand through signature brand behaviors.
Whether your firm is launching an entirely new brand, onboarding new hires or just providing a refresher for employees, brand training is critical to ensuring your staff truly understand what the firm stands for and are able to communicate that to external audiences in a consistent and compelling fashion.
When we worked with an economic consulting firm, we found that one its greatest barriers to cross-selling was employees’ lack of understanding of the firm’s strengths outside their own practice area. To help overcome this challenge, we created messaging one-pagers, not only for the firm as a whole, but also for each and every practice area and for recruiting purposes. These resources let employees see—at a glance—how their colleagues in different practice areas framed their offerings. Each document shared the featured practice area’s top client issues, their decision criteria, and the 4–6 key messages that practice uses to fulfill them. This better enabled each employee to make the crucial connections that create repeat clients.
Environmental branding also provided an effective way to ensure that key messages were delivered consistently over time. Every employee received a spinning cube that featured the brand’s new look and feel, as well as the firm’s guiding principles and core tenets of its culture. They also were given a plaque that outlined the firm’s brand strategy, and were encouraged to display it prominently in their offices.
Tools such as messaging playbooks, environmental branding and other documents that can act as a quick reference to core brand ideas empower employees to align their behaviors — what they do and say — with the brand.
Today’s increasingly digital and mobile centered world actually provides a great opportunity for professional services firms to sustain brand engagement with employees. Getting creative and proactive with social media, mobile platforms, online video, intranet, email and other digital channels is crucial to building a strong corporate culture and sustaining enthusiasm for the corporate brand. Something as simple as an eNewsletter can keep employees informed and engaged.
However, consideration must be given to choosing the right technology platforms to disseminate information. This was highlighted in our work for EXL, a digital transformation company. We worked with leadership to create an exciting brand teaser campaign to build enthusiasm ahead of launch, but we were faced with a challenge. Only the firm’s corporate employees had regular access to email. Support specialists’ computers only permitted access to an intranet. To make sure that support specialists could access the teaser campaign, we created intranet banners alongside teaser emails. We also displayed electronic banners in call center cafeterias. The EXL case demonstrates how effective technologically-centered campaigns take into account how best to reach their intended audiences. Employees at all levels felt excited about — and included in — the new brand launch.
Building and sustaining momentum
As a result of focused employee communications efforts like the ones described above, our clients’ employees were transformed into brand ambassadors who had the knowledge and tools to communicate core benefits, business logic and value-add opportunities to all constituents with clarity and impact. Importantly, these efforts have enabled employees to present a unified face to all external stakeholders as the company continues to evolve and expand into new markets and offerings. Ultimately, the evolution from employee to brand ambassador is one facilitated by the firm. Professional services brands that take the time to lay the foundation, providing employees with the proper training and tools, and then sustain engagement overtime leveraging those platforms that employees are most receptive to, will get the most out of their branding and marketing efforts and expand into new markets and offerings.
Ultimately, the evolution from employee to brand ambassador is one facilitated by the firm. Professional services brands that take the time to lay the foundation, providing employees with the proper training and tools, and then sustain engagement overtime leveraging those platforms that employees are most receptive to, will get the most out of their branding and marketing efforts.
To learn more about turning your employees into brand ambassadors, contact us.
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