Remember that United Airlines fiasco? The one where a paying passenger was dragged off an airplane?
Employees failed to deliver the “friendly skies” that United promised.
Twitter users availed themselves to create new motto suggestions for the airline.
Needless to say, the marketing team had a lot of work ahead of them.
Marketers and leaders in other departments often think about marketing as customer-facing. We think about brand design, social media campaigns, and website traffic, but we often overlook the materials directed towards our own people.
But when disaster strikes, the importance of customer-facing and employee-facing marketing becomes obvious.
Employees are important brand ambassadors — and if they aren’t emotionally connected to your brand’s vision, they can jeopardize your brand’s integrity.
Marketing and Communication leaders have a difficult time justifying how valuable their customer-facing work is, but it can be even harder to market your own internal marketing.
Internal marketing plays a huge part in getting employees to understand your brand, buy into your message and own their role as a brand advocate. It is a crucial, yet overlooked responsibility of marketing executives.
This post is a good starting point for marketers’ internal marketing plan of action.
Why Your Brand Should Invest in Internal Marketing to Employees
Internal marketing is pointing all those awesome product promotions, visual cues, and success stories inward. It is selling your products, service and brand to your own people.
Internal Marketing Definition: The promotion of a brand’s vision, objectives and offerings to its employees. It is building an emotional connection and sense of confidence in the brand and what it has to offer.
Think about when you walk into an Apple store versus Best Buy.
There are a ton of differences between the two experiences, but at the heart of all the distinctions is a different feeling. This feeling is an emotional connection to a brand — and that experience is in large part created by employees.
Apple representatives ooze their brand: they are friendly, professional and hip.
Apple ‘geniuses’ wear jeans and a blue t-shirt. Best Buy employees wear a blue polo.
When employees have an emotional connection with your brand, they will be a more authentic representation of what you want your brand to look like to customers. This essence is not created organically. It is developed strategically.
The thing is that businesses often fail to identify who exactly is responsible for creating this emotional employee-brand connection.
Is it executive leadership’s responsibility to create a company culture? Is it HR’s responsibility to recruit and onboard the perfect employees?
Though leaders in every department and at every level have a role to play, Harvard Business Review’s Colin Mitchell says it is the marketing team that has the analytics, design and communication skills to actually make internal marketing happen.
5 Benefits of Internal Marketing to Pitch to Other Department Leads
To convince other leaders that your internal campaigns matter, build on these following benefits of internal marketing.
- Enable employees to see the big picture: Employees want purpose in their careers. Sharing your vision in an emotional way will help them run with you, rather than just showing up for a paycheck.
- Connect employees with current priorities: Employees can’t buy into new initiatives or respect new leaders if they feel left in the dark. Convincing employees of business priorities takes more than memos with numbers — it takes emotional persuasion.
- Improves customer experience: If your employees are happy and committed to a brand’s values, it will show in their interactions with customers.
- Improves employee engagement: Internal marketing content, employee shout-outs or events provide room for employee response and participation.
- Encourages employee advocacy: Your employees are going to talk about your brand to their closest friends and family members. With good internal marketing, those conversations will be more favorable.
These are good things that brands often hope for, but fail to assign responsibility to anyone department lead. Marketing managers often need to make the case for themselves and how they are going to make these hopes a reality.
Strategies for Internal Marketing
These tried and true principles are a great starting point for developing an internal marketing plan.
1. Timing Matters: Consider Compelling Moments
There are certain employee touchpoints and company moments that are chief opportunities for internal marketing. Consider what messages your company sends to employees when they first join your team. Are they given a long, dull company policy book or a beautiful note of inspiration?
Likewise, major company changes in strategy or leadership are pivotal moments for internal marketing to employees. Employees can be slow to change, so if you can stir up excitement rather than irritation, the transitions will be a more positive experience for everybody.
Communication can be handled via employee newsletters, internal podcasts, or slack channels. In-person meetings, events or corporate outings can also be a place to stir up excitement over new initiatives.
2. Internal Vs External Marketing: Practicing Alignment
Internal and external messages should be aligned when possible. If you tell customers one thing and employees another, you risk sacrificing your brand’s integrity.
Mixed messaging set up your employees for failure when engaging with customers. On top of that, if employees witness your brand failing its promises to customers, you may face rising resentment.
One way to sync internal and external marketing is to create advertisements that resonate with both groups. To do that, you need to understand both groups well.
3. Employee Listening
It is crucial to understand employee attitudes and perspectives before promoting new marketing material. Go about this in a similar way you would approach consumer research.
Consider questions like:
- What do employees think of the company?
- What do our employees currently value or spend time doing?
- What do we want them to think and feel about the company?
- How can we get them to buy into this line of thinking?
This is not a matter of dry emails or memos. People are not convinced strictly by facts. They are stirred by an emotional connection with an idea or vision.
4. Be Real and Personable
Employees don’t want anything cheesy. They don’t need mugs or shirts with your company’s name on them. Nor do they need brighter colors or fake enthusiasm. What they need is to see leadership living by what they are selling.
There isn’t much that can replace leaders who connect with employees in real ways and accept feedback.
5. Practice what you preach through company policy
If you value innovation, do you provide your employees space to be creative? Under the same light, if you value family, what are you doing to support working moms? And if you value sustainability, do you have policies in place to encourage employees to take care of the environment?
Your policies will often speak louder than all the creative marketing material you produce. Make sure your employees are aligned.
Internal marketing is a cross-departmental feat, but marketing teams have the skills to persuade everybody to be on the same page.