Building Internal Brand Advocacy

May 14, 2013

Vya Staff

Last Thursday, DocuStar and the Cincinnati American Marketing Association teamed up to host a panel
discussion featuring executives from the Cincinnati region. Participating in the event were Jerry Kathman, President and CEO of LPK; Chris McNamee, Vice President Marketing, Hobsons; Ed Burghard, CEO & Manager at The Burghard Group; and Heather Adkins, Vice President, Chief Strategy and Mission Officer, The Christ Hospital Health Network; and moderating was Dan Knowles, President of Brand Ubiquity.

The topic of the day was building brand advocacy across your organization, and the discussion was spirited and informative for those in attendance. A large portion of the conversation covered executive or C-level buy-in and the role human resources plays in internal branding, and those issues are what we’re going to take a look at today.

5-14-13_thumbC-level and executive buy-in
No major initiative is ever seen through to completion without buy-in from the top down. Whether it’s getting your executives to actively engage in internal branding efforts or just getting their blessing to utilize the company’s time and resources for internal branding purposes, you need them on your side. So how do you get buy-in from them? Our panelists, with help from the audience, boiled it down to two approaches.

Show the ROI impact of the initiative. This is the most obvious and desirable path to your CEO’s heart, but for marketers, can be the trickiest. You have to decide what metrics matter most to your leadership team and then figure out a way to actually measure them. How does having your financial/accounting team engage clients or leads on Twitter translate to the bottom line? It’s difficult to quantify, but can be done with some creativity in how you track the sales cycle. However, if you’re having trouble showing the positive impact your branding efforts could produce, you can always go the opposite route.

Show the ROI impact of no initiative. What can happen to the company’s bottom line if no internal branding initiative is in place? CEO’s hate to hear the word “silo”, but building a siloed organization is exactly what can happen as a result of little or no internal branding. A very dramatic example was shared by moderator Dan Knowles, who told the story of a sales person who sold a multi-million-dollar deal to a client, but that deal was dropped because a services representative from the same company sold him a different (not worth millions of dollars) deal. If there had been better alignment between the sales and services teams that would not have happened. You would certainly get the attention of any executive with a story like that. The bottom line here is if employees are not aligned around the brand promise, you risk confusing the marketplace, and that can cost you business.

How HR can help
It was the general consensus that human resources should be very involved in building brand advocacy. While every organization is different, they probably have more dialogue across the company than any other department. HR’s primary role in this effort should be training employees on the brand. This should include brand value training as part of onboarding new employees and leadership development programs. Another element that should be incorporated is sharing success stories of employees that bring the brand promise to life. This will build support for the program and it also never hurts to give acknowledgement and kudos where it’s due. HR is also acting as sort of the “objective” third-party in this case – it’s not marketing tooting its own horn about the program. The general idea here is to have HR be a disseminator of progress throughout the organization; advocates of brand advocacy.

Conclusion
A good internal branding program can’t get started without executive buy-in, nor can it succeed without a little help from other departments. By knowing what angles to play, you can not only get executive buy-in, but hopefully even executive participation. Enlisting HR as a non-marketing department to train employees on the brand promise can help the program build steam throughout the organization, which isn’t beyond the scope of their normal duties anyway. Get these foundations in place and you’re ready to build a brand-centric organization from top to bottom.

We would also like to extend a special thanks to the Cincinnati AMA, our panelists and moderator for joining us.

What is your experience with building brand advocacy? Submit a comment below or join the discussion in the LinkedIn group, “Marketing Organizational Leadership.”

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Tags: branding, Blog, ROI, executive leadership, buy-in, MOL, brand advocacy, Cincinnati AMA, employee engagement, marketing, c-level, human resources, Marketing Organizational Leadership

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