The Best Brand Ambassadors: Yes, they’re your employees

You’ve conveyed your brand to customers with a smart, creative advertising campaign, prepared a killer multimedia presentation for your industry partners, and given stockholders the lowdown with an artful annual report. Let’s see, what’s missing?

Here’s a question: How have you communicated your brand to employees?

Whether or not you have a formal internal marketing plan in place, you are sending messages to the people who work for you. They’re learning about your products and/or services and developing strong opinions about your company and what it offers. Then they’re going out into the world — as first-line brand ambassadors — to share what they think.

Ask yourself: Are your corporate offices filled with mildly disgruntled people who weren’t informed about the company’s latest release until it was already on the street? People who feel disconnected from one another and from delivery of the final product or service in which they play a significant part? Or do you communicate regularly with employees, making them feel like valued, knowledgeable members of your team?

A quality internal marketing program takes time, effort, and investment, but with the right execution, it will provide a magnificent return: higher profits, a smoother running organization, better employee morale, and easier recruitment to boot.

Imagine a world in which your customers had no idea what was special about your company, service, or product line, or why it should matter to them. Your employees may be operating in just this sort of vacuum. But an effective internal brand could make all the difference.

What is an internal brand? It’s simply a series of messages and actions that coheres with your company’s external brand, but is recast for an inside audience. It’s a strategy that seizes every opportunity for positive, profitable employee communications, like these:

Encourage participation

Develop a company intranet, e-newsletter, or blog that facilitates knowledge sharing and bridge building between divisions. Better yet, start a wiki. This is a piece of server software devoted to “open” group communication that supports links and often is edited by a moderator. Wikis are not only a rapid-fire method for sharing information and promoting a democratic culture, they’re also very trendy. Think of them as branding by the people and for the people — but under your control.

Share knowledge

Knowledge nearly always leads to investment, so seize any opportunity you can to create a connection between your employees and your brand. An example: Cheesecake Factory has regular all-staff meals and impromptu menu tests to ensure that employees know what’s on the menu and can offer their feedback on new offerings.

Build community

A sense of community invariably enriches an organization. Offer incentives for employees to participate in volunteerism and team-building events. Employees at Sony have come together to collect food for displaced storm victims, build homes for low-income residents, and clean polluted waterways.

Engage directly

Start thinking of your sales force as clients who use your product or service to advance profits. Design meetings that bring sales reps together under a unique theme that pertains to their experience. A case in point: When Deluxe Financial Services launched an important new fraud-screening tool that would enable banks to serve customers previously rejected by less-sophisticated fraud-screening tools, the theme was “secure more business.”

Speak honestly

Seize every opportunity to communicate with employees sincerely and from the top — about the opportunities and challenges your company will face in the coming months, as well as company-wide achievements. Brief, regular messages from the CEO mean a great deal to hardworking contributors. And they help build a sense that everyone is important to your organization.

Recruit brilliantly

Your recruitment advertising must appeal directly to the people you want to reach — stars — and give them information that pertains to their needs, desires, and career goals. This is the first step toward surrounding yourself with the best and brightest. Don’t skimp on selling your brand and mission to the next generation of great ambassadors.

Taking the first step toward better employee communications may be hard. But changing the way you communicate with those who live your brand every day will have a ripple effect. Make the investment today, for a happier work force and a more profitable tomorrow.