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10 Essential Internal Branding Strategies to Elevate Your Business

13 Mar 2024

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Let’s talk about something that can truly transform the inside of your business and outside: internal branding.

It's not just about having a snazzy logo or catchy tagline for the world to see. It’s about making sure the people who work for you feel a deep connection to what your company stands for. Because when they do, magic happens.

We’re going to explore internal branding ideas and how you can nurture a brand culture that’s authentic, engaging, and utterly irresistible to both your employees and your customers.

From storytelling that resonates to leveraging the latest technology, we’ll cover the bases on building an effective internal branding strategy.

Internal Branding and its Components

What is internal branding?

The internal branding process is about aligning your company's workforce with the corporate brand identity, ensuring that employees understand and embody the brand’s values, mission, and goals. It's about fostering an internal environment where the brand is not just a marketing front but the core of all operations and interactions. Ultimately leading to a great employee experience.

The components of internal branding include:

  • Brand Vision and Values: These are the guiding principles and aspirations that give purpose to the company's existence. They're not just written statements but lived experiences within the company.
  • Employee Engagement: Employee engagement refers to the internal marketing strategies by which employees are connected to the brand – from communication channels to their involvement in brand decisions.
  • Brand Education: This aspect involves training and developing employees to understand the brand’s essence and how their role contributes to it.
  • Brand Expression: This is how the brand is visually and behaviourally manifested within the company, through office design, employee behaviours, and internal communications.
  • Brand Champions: Individuals within the organisation who embody the brand to such an extent that they influence their colleagues positively.
  • Feedback Mechanisms: Systems put in place to gauge employees’ brand perception and the effectiveness of internal branding efforts, allowing for iterative improvements.

10 Strategies for Effective Internal Branding

Here are 10 strategies that can inject life into your internal branding and create a culture that’s not just unique, but truly vibrant.

1. Embrace Storytelling in Your Internal Branding Strategy

Storytelling isn’t just for marketing campaigns aimed at customers. It’s a powerful tool for internal branding as well.

Begin by creating a space – physical or digital – where employees can share their moments of connection with the company. Perhaps its a weekly internal content blog post or a podcast featuring different team members.

The key is to let employees narrate their experiences in their own voice, explaining how the company's values have played out in their roles. This creates a tapestry of real-life examples of your brand in action and demonstrates its impact on a personal level.

2. Empowering Employees as Brand Storytellers

To really embed your brand values into your organisation, identify potential brand ambassadors. These are employees who are naturally enthusiastic and have a strong alignment with the company's ethos.

Equip them with storytelling workshops that sharpen their communication skills, making them effective at articulating what makes your brand special. Then, spotlight these ambassadors in diverse settings: from internal meetings to external panels or conferences.

Their authentic voices will amplify your brand's message in ways that resonate more deeply than any slogan.

3. Digital Platforms as Brand Experience Amplifiers

The digital tools that your employees use every day are prime real estate for reinforcing your internal branding. Transform your intranet into a vibrant hub that not only provides necessary tools and information but also reflects the company’s brand through visual design and content.

Feature brand stories, highlight ambassador experiences, and encourage employee participation with interactive features like quizzes or polls about company values.

4. Gamification of Brand Alignment

Introduce internal branding elements into gamified processes.

Reward employees who demonstrate brand values or complete brand-centric missions with recognition or tangible perks, thereby deepening their connection to the company.

For instance, create a month-long challenge where employees can earn points for demonstrating core values such as innovation or teamwork in their projects. Imagine an app that tracks these activities and rewards points, which can be redeemed for a longer lunch break, a prime parking spot, or a shout-out in the company newsletter.

An example could be "Innovation Incubator", a contest where employees submit ideas for process improvements, with the winner receiving support to develop their idea further.

5. Create Collaborative Branding Workshops

Facilitate workshops where employees from various departments can contribute to the internal branding process.

For example, you could try running a “Brand Hackathon” where teams from different departments compete to come up with a campaign that best represents a new brand initiative. This not only generates a wealth of creative ideas but also allows employees to feel personally invested in the brand's evolution.

By engaging with colleagues from various sectors of the company, they develop a holistic view of how their roles contribute to the larger brand narrative.

6. Incorporate Brand into Professional Development

Professional development programs should echo your internal branding strategy.

When you integrate brand values into the fabric of your professional development programs, you create a powerful alignment between the company's goals and employee aspirations.

For example, if one of your brand values is "continuous learning," offer a subsidy or time off for employees to take courses related to their field. This not only encourages personal development but also cements the idea that the company truly lives by its values.

Spotlight employees who have advanced their skills in a way that benefits both their personal growth and the company's brand. It’s about creating stories of success that are both individual and collective victories.

7. Infuse Brand Elements into Workplace Design

Let the physical environment of your workplace be a canvas for your brand. This could mean incorporating your brand colors into the office decor, but let's take it further.

For a brand that prides itself on creativity, why not have walls dedicated to employee art, or for a sustainability-focused company, incorporate living green walls and recycling stations that are not just functional but also educational?

These elements serve as daily reminders and conversation starters, fostering a space where the brand is not just seen but experienced.

8. Tailor Recognition Programs to Reflect Brand Values

Recognition programs should mirror what the brand stands for. Craft recognition programs that aren't just about hitting targets but celebrating the embodiment of brand values.

If 'collaboration' is a pillar of your brand, establish an award for teams that excel in cross-functional projects. This recognition could come with rewards that also promote brand values, like attending a prestigious workshop or conference that aligns with the company's mission.

9. Encourage Cross-Departmental Brand Immersion

Often, silos in organisations lead to fragmented brand experiences. Implement initiatives that promote interdepartmental collaboration with a brand focus.

Create a brand immersion program where employees spend time in different departments, learning how each cog in the machine contributes to the whole.

For example, a staff member from finance might spend a day with the marketing team to understand how they communicate the brand's message.

10. Measure, Analyse, and Evolve

The narrative of your brand should evolve with the people who bring it to life. Implement a feedback loop into your internal branding process. Regularly measuring how employees perceive and engage with the brand allows for iterative enhancements.

This could include regular surveys, focus groups, and suggestion boxes that allow employees to express how they relate to the brand. Analyse this data to find patterns and insights.

Maybe you'll find that your teams are craving more community involvement, prompting the introduction of volunteer days that reinforce your brand's commitment to social responsibility.

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Role of Leadership in Internal Branding

Leadership plays a key role in internal branding. Yet, they’re often the more overlooked component of an effective internal branding strategy. Here are the key roles of leadership to keep in mind:

  • Vision Casting: Leaders must articulate a clear and compelling brand vision that inspires employees to embrace and advocate for the company’s values.
  • Leading by Example: The behaviour of leaders sets the benchmark for internal branding. They must consistently demonstrate the brand values in their actions and decisions.
  • Resource Allocation: Leaders are responsible for ensuring that adequate resources – time, budget, and personnel – are allocated to develop and maintain effective internal branding strategies. Keep them across internal communications calendars so they're aware of what's coming up and what extra resources may be needed.
  • Recognition and Reward: Leadership should recognise and reward employees who effectively embody the brand, reinforcing the desired brand culture.
  • Open Communication: An open-door policy where feedback is encouraged and acted upon is essential for an authentic internal branding culture.

Common Obstacles in Implementing Internal Branding Strategies

Implementing an internal branding strategy is not without its challenges. Companies often encounter roadblocks that can stall or derail their efforts to build a cohesive brand culture. Some common hurdles are:

  1. Lack of Cohesive Vision: Companies may struggle with inconsistent messaging from the top down, leading to a fragmented brand experience. Without a unified vision, employees can't be expected to embody or advocate the brand effectively.
  2. Insufficient Communication: Ineffective communication of the brand's values and objectives can leave employees disconnected. A common pitfall is the reliance on one-off campaigns or memos that fail to foster ongoing engagement.
  3. Resistance to Change: Employees might resist new internal branding initiatives due to comfort with the status quo or skepticism about the authenticity of the brand's message. Overcoming this inertia requires thoughtful change management strategies.
  4. Inadequate Feedback Mechanisms: A lack of systems to capture employee feedback on internal branding efforts can lead to misalignment. Without understanding employee perceptions, companies can't adapt and evolve their strategies effectively.

How to Leverage Technology in Internal Branding

Technology can be your secret weapon in internal branding. Here’s how technology can be leveraged effectively:

Intranets

Building corporate intranets enables you to access a range of interactive tools to create a two-way dialogue. Features like social feeds, community spaces, and blogs invite employees to engage with and contribute to the brand story.

If you goal is to improve internal communication with your intranet, you could host live Q&A sessions with leadership where employees can ask anything – the latest project, new brand initiatives, you name it. Or run regular 'Brand Story' contests on your social feeds, where the best employee stories win and get featured on the homepage. Community spaces can be goldmines too, especially when you throw in a monthly 'Think Tank' challenge where departments brainstorm on a topic and share innovative solutions.

Note: If your intranet isn't up to scratch and you're looking to implement a new intranet, here are some resources that can help:

7 Intranet Mistakes Comms Managers Make - Blog Banner Small Image

Personalised User Experiences

Technology that allows for personalisation gives employees a sense of ownership over their brand interactions.

Imagine logging into a platform that greets you with your name, a feed of news and updates tailored to your interests and role, and even a learning dashboard that suggests courses aligned with your career path and brand values. This isn’t just a nice touch; it shows employees that the brand is paying attention to them as individuals. And when they feel seen, their connection to the brand naturally deepens.

Analytics and Insights

Implementing systems with robust analytics capabilities can track engagement, sentiment, and the reach of internal branding efforts.

Are your brand value webinars getting hits? Great, do more of those. Is the new brand campaign not getting the traction you hoped for in certain departments? Time to ask why. This data is invaluable for refining strategies and measuring success.

Plus, it’s evidence-based; you can make decisions and changes that are informed by real, measurable employee interactions.

Mobile Accessibility

With the ubiquity of smartphones, having a mobile-responsive platform ensures that internal branding efforts reach employees anytime, anywhere, keeping them connected to the brand in and out of the workplace. Better yet, having a mobile communications app takes engagement to the next level.

Imagine your team catching up on the latest company news, engaging with brand stories, or even participating in brand challenges right from their phones, whether they’re on a coffee break, commuting, or working remotely.

It’s about making sure the pulse of your brand is always at their fingertips, keeping the connection alive and vibrant, no matter where they are.

Integrated Rewards & Recognition Tools

With employee engagement platforms that include integrated reward and recognition features, you can turn acknowledging brand-aligned actions into an instant, public celebration.

Think of a digital "wall of fame" that updates in real time, showcasing individuals or teams who’ve gone above and beyond. Or imagine getting a company-wide alert praising a department for a project that perfectly captured the brand's essence.

It’s about creating moments of pride that not only highlight individuals but also set a benchmark for brand behaviour company-wide.

E-learning and Development Tools

Harness e-learning platforms to educate employees about the brand and its values.

E-learning tools can turn the abstract concept of brand values into tangible learning experiences.

What if completing a course on your brand’s history and vision could be done at a time when it’s convenient for employees? Or if there were interactive simulations that put employees in scenarios where they have to make decisions based on brand values?

It’s about moving beyond the handbook and making learning about the brand an immersive, enjoyable experience. This deepens understanding and fosters a genuine connection to what the brand stands for, encouraging employees to not just know the brand but live it in their roles.

Conclusion

We've covered a lot of ground on our quest to build a great internal brand including how to drive internal communications with technology such as your intranet. But remember, internal branding isn't a one-and-done deal.

So, as you step forward, remember to keep the conversation going. Listen to your employees, adapt to change, and never stop striving for that perfect alignment between what your brand promises on the outside and how it lives and breathes on the inside.

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