As a company, you must ensure that your employees feel like they're a part of something important. This is why companies that are successful in hiring and retaining employees usually turn to internal branding.
We’re not just talking about a logo or even a tagline. We’re talking about the heart and soul of your company—the place where your culture lives, breathes, and thrives.
What is internal branding?
Internal branding is the practice of redefining your organization as a community—one with its own culture, history, personality, and ideals. This helps to develop a sense of belonging for all team members, whether through storytelling or other methods. It can also help to build trust between management and its employees by fostering open communication.
A strong brand is unique and memorable, capable of evoking an emotional response from its audience. An internal brand is one that's created within the boundaries of an organization. It's not necessarily unique or marketable outside the organization, but it does have the power to build loyalty and commitment among those who do believe in it—which means employees.
How does it help?
Nothing is more demoralizing than feeling like you're working for an anonymous corporation that doesn't have any values. To counteract this feeling, your employees need to be able to refer back to something that represents the company as a whole, beyond just its name and logo.
A strong internal brand can help them do that by providing clear guidelines about what the company stands for and how it wants to be perceived by the outside world. When the employees understand what the brand means and how it affects their day-to-day lives at work, they can better contribute ideas about how it should be strengthened or changed over time.
Why is a sense of belonging important?
A sense of belonging is essential in every context, but it's especially vital in the workplace. For many employees, the companies they work for are not just a job—they're a source of meaning and fulfillment, and how they feel about their work can significantly affect their health and well-being.
A common struggle in the workplace is trying to develop a working environment where employees feel like they belong. The feeling of belonging to a place can make employees more productive and happier with their work, which pays off for the employee and their organization. This is especially important for companies with young, inexperienced employees without much tenure at their jobs. These groups are more likely to leave if they feel isolated and don't feel a sense of belonging in their careers.
So how do you help your employees feel like they belong? Here are some tips:
Set goals and objectives
Internal branding isn't just for large corporations—it's an excellent way for smaller businesses to keep their team and customers on the same page. And unlike many other strategies, internal branding doesn't require any investment beyond time and effort—in fact, it should start with you. The first step is to figure out what your values are: if you're not sure where to start, try asking yourself these questions:
What do I stand for?
What do my employees stand for?
How would I describe the culture at my company?
As you start developing your answers, keep in mind that your values don't have to be complicated or even original; they can be small things like "we listen to each other," "we never give up," or "we put customers first."
Conduct internal brand audits
Branding should be based on research into what the organization has traditionally stood for and how it wants to be perceived by others. It should also be based on feedback from stakeholders throughout the organization who will be affected by branding efforts.
An internal brand audit is particularly useful in gaining this stakeholder input. That way, you know that your brand strategy is rooted in what people expect from your organization.
Research should include:
Reviews of your current marketing material (your website, newsletter, etc.)
Interviews with key stakeholders about their perceptions of your organization (the board members; staff; volunteers; donors; other constituencies)
An examination of your mission statement, as well as any other ideas about your vision or values
Research current branding efforts
Research what your competitors are doing—are they telling their own stories? If so, what themes do you see emerging from their internal communications? How does this inform your strategy?
You can find examples on social media, in blogs, in industry publications, etc.—or reach out to a nearby organization with a good reputation for internal branding (and ask them how they did it!).
Develop a strategy
Put together a strategy that encompasses everything from your communications materials (e.g., newsletters and pamphlets) to your physical space (e.g., decorations). Once you've decided on a strategy, implement it with marketing materials that speak directly to your employees' emotions or even their sense of self-worth.
The result will be an environment that fosters pride in working at your company—and in turn, makes them happier and more productive employees who feel like they matter to the company's culture because they identify with its values.
Internal branding and its benefits
Internal branding helps companies maintain a consistent identity across different media and platforms. When you're familiar with your company's brand and its employees, you can easily discern whether something you're looking at—a brochure or Twitter feed—represents your organization. This consistency gives off an air of professionalism, which is crucial for businesses that depend on positive public opinion to succeed.
Internal branding helps connect employees on a personal level, and because everyone has a hand in the success or failure of their company, they all want it to succeed.
Internal branding can encourage them to embrace the company's mission statement and align themselves with its values. Even when they're not in the office, they're still working for the company's good by supporting it in every way possible.
It makes employees feel like part of a team. When people know that their coworkers are all on the same wavelength, it creates a sense of belonging that makes everyone more productive.
Internal branding is an excellent way to give some life to an otherwise dull HR policy or to make your workplace feel friendlier and more cohesive. It doesn't need to be expensive or time-consuming—even a simple newsletter can give your company some character.
A feeling of belonging is vital for any employee. It's a big part of why you have a staff in the first place—you want them to work with people they like and who like them back. That's why it's essential to put some effort into how you present your company culture to your employees.
With internal branding, you can ensure that they get a consistent message about what makes your business unique and how they fit into that mission.