Although so much of marketing has traditionally been outward-facing, more companies are discovering the importance of marketing their brand to their employees, with an eye toward serving customers better.
Internal communication designed to mobilize employees as brand ambassadors is a burgeoning field, and a huge growth area for public relations firms. Internal communications also assists with change management, ensuring employee alignment with strategy, and training executives in internal communications skills, all with the goal of making the client’s organization a destination employer where people are excited to work.
We know that employee brand engagement affects morale and with it productivity. But it also seems to affect customer experience and overall brand value in measurable ways, especially in our age of social media. In the banking industry, low morale prompts almost 70% of employees to leave. At the same time, over 40% of customers “are loyal because of a good employee attitude.” And “70% of customer brand perception is determined by experience with people.” One study has found that over 70% of bloggers “who post for a business have created greater visibility for their companies.”
In 2009, Starbucks closed all of its stores for two hours for training in the
Starbucks experience — a highly public move that highlighted how vital it was that employees understand and realize the brand promise, so as to serve customers better. Companies are also increasingly turning to social media as a way of mobilizing their internal armies of brand ambassadors. Deloitte has made use of employee generated videos to appeal to younger potential hires and companies like Disney spotlight employees on company blogs. Alumni, too, are part of the mix. The global re-insurance company Swiss Re became the first in its industry to start an alumni network and as of March 2010 had nearly 1,400 members. As the company explains on its portal, alumni “have the opportunity to renew old friendships, establish new ones, expand your professional network, and have access to events, news, and exciting career prospects,” while the firm sees benefits in recruiting, business development and global branding.
Although many of the dollars and creative energy percolating into internal communications goes to in-house efforts, public relations firms are making a bigger push into these areas. Many corporate managers still don’t realize the unique value public relations firms are capable of adding in this area thanks to their familiarity with social media, their experience dealing with multiple constituencies within client organizations, and their best practices regarding communication strategies. To win with customers, companies large and small do in fact need to mobilize the army inside. Public relations firms are helping to lead the way.