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Internal branding blueprint

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Lately, a lot of people have been asking me about internal branding. It's definitely a hot topic, on which seminars and workshops are offered all around the country. But what is it? Very little is written that defines internal branding; so as one of the pioneers of this new internal branding phenomenon, I decided to pound a stake into the ground with my definition.

What is internal branding? Why is it important? When should I do it?

Here is my definition: Internal branding is a cultural shift within an organization, where the employees become more customer focused and more business focused. You achieve this by an organized, change-communications and behavior- driven process, which leads to a desired end state.

Effective Inward Marketing, as we call it, brings huge benefits. Companies whose workforces understand how they operate and make money perform better. When all is said and done, successful internal branding lifts brand equity, customer focus and ultimately shareholder value. Here are some of the key elements and best practices we've gathered from studying this topic for the past seven years.

A brand is a process-driven, long-term proposition. Not a deliverable! And so is internal branding.

Internal branding follows a sequential process through which employees achieve brand success.

You must have senior leadership participation and involvement throughout the process.

Start with a clear company vision and purpose. If you don't have one, work with the senior team to establish one and communicate it throughout the company.

Conduct an audit of the enterprise understanding of the business objectives and strategy.

Internal branding, done well, allows employees to transition from being informed, to understanding the information, to becoming committed, so that they change their behavior in support of the company goals.

Recognize the importance of the customer and all their points of contact with your company: call and service centers, sales associates, statements and invoices, advertising and more.

Align your brand externally and internally. Let your inside be like your outside: What you say externally should be the same thing you say or do internally.

Go for participation, consensus and employee dialogue.

Having "employee brand ambassadors" is critical. Involve a cross section of employees from all levels to promote the brand internally.

Obtain metrics and measures before, during and after program implementation.

Work hard to make complex concepts and ideas simple, so they are understood and communicated easily.

Allan Steinmetz is CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting, Newton, Mass. He can be reached at asteinmetz@inwardconsulting.com.

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