Burnish your brand from the inside

Branding necessity

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Changes in a corporate strategy necessitate employer branding, said Bernie Charland, senior VP-employee communication practice at Golin/Harris International Inc., Chicago.

Before McDonald's Corp. can introduce a made-to-order food campaign aimed at consumers, it has to market the system internally to more than 364,000 McDonalds employees.

"The brand has an inherent promise, whether selling to consumers or businesses, and the company has to make sure employees are prepared to deliver on that promise," Charland said. "If you are going to spend $100 million on a national branding campaign, you have to make sure the promise is credible."

Mass media is a new twist to employer branding. In recent weeks, Principal Financial Group and Continental Airlines Inc. became the latest companies to advertise in The Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, touting their employee environments.

"People are seeing the benefit of telling customers what their employees feel about the customer experience," Ruch said.

Finding out how employees felt was the first step for Global Knowledge Inc., an 1,800-employee information technology training company based in Cary, N.C. In October, it began to discuss an upcoming corporate identity campaign with its employees, and it viewed employer branding as critical to its success, said Rick Thompson, VP-corporate marketing.

Global Knowledge had acquired nine companies in the last three years, and realized that its corporate identity had washed away in the resulting flurry of activity. A concentrated employer branding campaign was viewed as a way to set the stage for the corporate identity campaign, which kicks off April 17 and is budgeted at well over $10 million.

Thompson traveled the globe to discuss the upcoming corporate identity campaign, which has included creating a brand character statement, e-mail newsletters, distance-learning programs, videos and discussion groups about the new corporate brand.

"There was a lot of risk with this program because we were asking people used to working at nine separate businesses worldwide to change their practices and execute consistency with a common brand," Thompson said. "We've heard that it is important for our customers, but just as important to create that umbrella feeling with our employees. They were searching for linkage."

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