How to Build Strong Brand Storytelling From the Inside Out
A strong inside-out marketing strategy begins at home, with your team. As marketers we tend to focus a lot of our time and attention on outside audiences – after all, we’re trying to get people to buy what we’re selling here!
With so much focus on outside audiences, there’s often little time left to think about our own employees.
If we truly want our brand story to come to life, we need to focus on who’s at the heart of that story – our employees. Not only are they essential to business, but they are essential to creating a meaningful experience for our customers. Here’s some tips to get you started.
- Start with finding your purpose.
- Teach your team what this purpose means for them.
- Build up your people from the inside-out!
- Create a team that’s connected.
Find your purpose
It’s easy to blame a company’s bad performance on the economy or competition — any outside influence really. Looking inward for flaws is much harder.
The thing is companies that consistently outperform their peers or industries tend to have something in common: a unified purpose.
The foundation of brand storytelling is purpose. In order for purpose to be clear, companies have to understand the business that they’re really in. In 1960, Harvard Business School professor Theodore Levitt coined the phrase “marketing myopia” to describe the short-sightedness that happens when companies focus on products and services instead of seeing the big picture of what customers really want. He taught his students that customers don’t want a quart-inch drill — they want a quarter-inch hole.
Making Sure Your Team ‘Gets It’
For companies to be driven by purpose, employees have to know what that purpose is, have tangible expressions of what it means in their everyday life, and understand how to apply that purpose while interacting with or servicing customers.
As marketers, we need to raise the bar on what we expect our role and influence to be on employee engagement. It makes a BIG difference in how the stories that we tell and the experiences that we create play out with those ‘moments of truth’ between employees and customers.
That’s all well and fine, but how do we actually do that?
Use Inside-Out Strategy to Build Up Your People!
People and organizations reflect their leadership. But there’s often a big gap between what leadership sees as the vision for their company and what employees hear.
Back to Levitt’s point, companies aren’t in business to sell things, they’re in business to satisfy customers. For that to happen, marketers have to tell a cohesive brand story internally. Here’s six steps on how to do just that:
Step 1: Make it a Priority.
Building relationships with employees is no different than with customers. You have to make internal content production a priority just like with external audiences.
Start with the executive buy-in so that you have the resources, authority and responsibility to centralize the practice. This way, you’ll have one consistent story that employees hear rather than sporadic, conflicting stories from every department.
Having a better relationship with your employees goes hand-in-hand with developing a better workplace culture. Chris White did a great TedTalk on ways to create a culture that inspires innovation from the inside-out here:
Step 2: Develop Employee Personas
Just like the buyer personas you use for external content, you need to identify and understand what drives the many personas within your organization.
How does what you’re telling your customers matter to them? If your blog is talking about problems you’re solving for customers, does your technical support team know about them?
The content that you create for executives shouldn’t be the same as the people who have day-to-day contact with customers; some are leading the strategy and others are executing it. Take a look at how each of your personas connects with your content.
Employees across an organization will have different needs. Tech company employees are very different from oil and gas workers in the field. Slack, Microsoft, and HubSpot won’t reach everyone if they’re not tech-connected.
For example, let’s say you’re implementing a new internal communication technology to keep your teams connected. A millennial working in IT should have no problem getting used to this new program, and may require little to no training on its processes. On the other hand, an older accountant who communicates primarily through E-mail may need some more one-on-one help getting used to this new program.
Here’s a good roadmap that’ll help you get started with this process.
- Image Source: Slack Collaboration Blog
Get to know your employees as well as you do your customers, and you’ll be able to get creative on how you capture their attention.
Step 3: Find Your Starting Point
Have you ever had regular communication with employees? This could be as simple as coffee and donuts every Monday morning for small teams or quarterly global broadcasts for enterprise organizations.
If the answer is no, your starting point may look more like a baseline. If you have a vague onboarding deck that every employee was sent on day 1, you’re a little better off!
By knowing where you’re starting, you’ll know how much you need to educate internal teams on your brand story, how it makes a difference to customers and what their roles are.
Step 4: Make a Plan
Now it’s time for you to put it all together and make your brand story come alive for your employees. Here’s a simple template to guide your editorial strategy for everything that you publish. This template outlines who else helps tell the story – including your executive leadership.
- Image Source: Content Marketing Institute
Let’s face it — if something is a priority for your leadership then it should be a priority for every employee to get engaged with the brand story and live it in their own special way.
Step 5: Communicate Strategically
While you might find that you need to communicate more frequently with employees than you do now, you must also realize that everything has to be purpose-driven; don’t give them a reason to ignore you.
The chart above helps you think about what you want to say and what you want the outcome to be. Some employees will make the connection easier between the company’s brand story and their own work than others will.
Think about the following when you are developing your leadership strategy: How can your brand story inspire employees to solve a customer’s problem, not just sell a product? What’s the experience that they are able to create for the audience?
Step 6: Make it Interesting
David Ogilvy once said: “You cannot bore people into buying your product.” The same goes for your internal brand storytelling.
We know that customers have relationships with people, not companies. To truly make brand stories come to life through the experience we create, marketers have to be willing to lead brand storytelling internally, so that every person who represents your brand understands what makes their company unique.
By getting employees excited about your story, you’re able to build a unified, cohesive team who are proud to share it every chance they get.
Tell me, what do you do to get employees interested and activated by your brand story?