By: Paul Domenet, Partner & Creative Strategy Director at creative agency Free The Birds
When devising marketing campaigns for a brand, the primary focus usually lies on engaging the external target audience to boost sales and foster brand loyalty through impactful assets and experiences. However, for a brand to truly thrive, it is crucial that employees within the organisation also deeply connect with the brand’s values and mission, just as much as the customers outside of it do. If the internal team lacks full engagement, a sense of belonging, and belief in the brand’s purpose, they won’t be able to genuinely deliver on the brand promise to customers and prospects.
One aspect often overlooked by senior executives or considered an afterthought is the importance of internal communications and employee advocacy. Engaging employees to embrace and support their brand should be given the same priority as engaging external consumers.
Nonetheless, selling the brand internally can be challenging due to internal politics and varying stakeholder agendas.
To overcome these obstacles, here are three vital questions that business leaders must address to ensure their workforce is engaged, leading to the growth of the brand:
1. Does everyone within the organisation truly understand the brand?
It is essential not to assume that everyone has read the brand guidelines or fully comprehends what the brand stands for. The brand’s purpose, though sometimes met with scepticism, plays a critical role internally, just as it does externally. For employees to genuinely believe in the brand, they must wholeheartedly embrace its purpose.
By consistently reinforcing the brand’s values and mission through company-wide bulletins like newsletters and celebrating internal news, employees could develop a strong connection to the brand’s purpose. Interactive workshops also fall under this, but really, it’s leaders who lead on big ideas, not committees. How you communicate internally, however, must involve a sense that people are being listened to, which is why workshops are a key tool in ensuring everyone feels involved in a brand’s purpose and evolution.
Manifestos can significantly contribute to the success of every business. They serve as powerful tools to articulate the brand’s essence, values, and communication style. Often, different people within an organisation might have conflicting views on what the brand represents. A manifesto helps to define these key points and unify the workforce under a common understanding.
Moreover, a well-crafted manifesto can uplift morale by fostering an emotional connection between employees and the brand they work for. Employees don’t often have the chance or inclination to use emotional language to describe those who pay their wages. A manifesto builds that bridge.
Finally we’ve found that, in some cases, a manifesto which captures the soul and spirit of a brand can become worthy of sharing with a wider audience. In a world of short attention spans, one would think that this is unwise. But the opposite appears to be the case. Several of the manifestos we have created have gone to become short films or print and digital executions because they were seen to be the best expressions of what a company or brand was all about.
2. Can you navigate change successfully?
Internal communication becomes especially vital during times of change within a business, such as when a new CEO or CMO takes charge and aims to re-energize and refocus the company. Managing change effectively requires gaining buy-in from employees and respecting existing values.
‘Change’ is the most challenging process to pilot within a business. Resistance is at its strongest. And depending on size, the larger the workforce the more people there are to bring along on the journey. Getting everyone on board can be a long and sensitive process. We have been involved in many such exercises from old family run companies adopting more modern marketing approaches to educational establishments with long histories adapting to more competitive landscapes.
In such situations, a well-crafted manifesto plays a central role. By communicating the new vision while preserving core values, the manifesto becomes a rallying point, guiding employees towards a brighter future. Furthermore, bringing this vision to life through relatable touchpoints can help ease the transition.
3. How do you see the value in making people feel valued?
In today’s changing landscape, businesses need to invest in more than just traditional team-building events and benefits to connect with their employees. They might be fun and a way to bring people together, but it’s worth investing in more than away days and Christmas parties. To actually conceive a piece of communication, in whatever that form it takes, if it is done well, imaginatively and without the insincerity of corporate affairs, it can capture those two much sought after treasures – hearts and minds.
Consider the case of the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), a prominent educational institution committed to empowering girls and providing quality education. GDST recognized the importance of internal communication to unite and energise their teachers and support staff.
To achieve this, they embarked on a creative endeavour with us. As a team, we produced a powerful film titled “Me is made by We,” which served as a reminder to the staff that they were highly valued contributors to the organisation. Through the film, GDST aimed to unify its workforce around the shared vision of supporting and empowering young girls. The film’s emotional storytelling evoked a strong sense of belonging and appreciation among the employees.
By strategically leveraging internal communication and emphasising the values they all stood for, GDST successfully reinforced a strong sense of purpose and pride among their dedicated team.
Move with the times
Engaging the internal team is vital for a brand’s overall success. By ensuring that employees truly understand the brand, using a manifesto to articulate its essence, effectively navigating change, and valuing employee contributions, businesses can foster a passionate and dedicated workforce, resulting in long-term growth and brand success.
Companies and institutions ignore at their peril the notion of ‘soft motivation’. 2023 is a very different place to the time when some of their businesses may have been set up. Now, feelings matter. Newer generations are far less likely to feel loyalty or long-term commitment to their employers. Employees won’t feel warmth towards a company because of a pension scheme.
You need to talk to them. And in the right way. And in an imaginative way
Paul has carved a distinctive career out of elevating brands with award-winning words: from manifestos and campaigns, to scripts, stories and strategies. His sought-after blend of expertise bridges the best of the advertising and brand design worlds, giving him an unparalleled perspective when it comes to articulating what makes his clients stand out.
As Creative Director at Saatchi & Saatchi, and their first ever Head of Copy, Paul oversaw iconic work for Toyota, T-Mobile, NSPCC, Guinness and Carlsberg. Later, at his own agency Johnny Fearless, he worked with Davidoff, Diageo, Grafton GB and led the acclaimed relaunch of the Imperial War Museum, a landmark project that won 3 Campaign awards and 2 D&AD pencils.
Paul’s team and clients know him for his passion for storytelling, for nurturing the imagination, and for pushing the ambition for what design can achieve – all of which he brings to his pivotal role of giving a voice to the agency’s core philosophy of ‘beautiful thinking’.