Brands need to crack their own ‘culture code’ to bolster reputation

Boutique consultancy Dragonfish has released a study showing that a lack of employee engagement can have a direct impact on brand image. Internal comms pros from The British Red Cross, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) and Punch Comms discuss why a more unified internal ‘culture code’ can help brands.

The report, which spoke to 1,200 people working in UK-based organisations with more than 1,000 employees, says 64% of staff don’t understand what their employer’s brand stands for. This impacts brands on the front line of their business – where employees are directly engaging with customers, the report notes.

However, the upside is significant for brands which get this right. According to the report, people working in organisations which see sales growth of more than 20% year-on-year are, on average, 30% more likely to understand what their brand stands for and what makes it different.

Richard Webley, MD at Dragonfish, says: “The cost of this misalignment is more than a lost opportunity, particularly in large multi-site service businesses where a large proportion of staff deal with customers every day.

“That’s why brands need to spend more time cracking their ‘culture code’. We’ve found the most ambitious organisations in the UK consider the role their people and culture can play in building a trusted brand and a positive customer experience, and as a result can unlock untapped potential in terms of productivity, customer growth and financial performance alike.”

Make staff advocates of your brand

The British Red Cross is one of the organisations to recognise that making staff advocates of its brand is highly important, particularly when changing strategy. Last year it won an award from the Institute of Internal Communication for ensuring that staff were kept well-informed during the introduction of a new corporate strategy.

British Red Cross’ internal comms team ensured that 4,000 staff members and 26,000 volunteers were given a personal experience of what these changes mean for them by asking for input and creating informative sessions that every department could use.

After a range of initiatives, 96% of staff said they are now aware of, and understand their aims and objectives, and 94% now understand how they can contribute.

Richard Weaver, internal communications manager at British Red Cross, tells Gorkana: “Better informed staff can be powerful advocates for the brand – promoting achievements, reach and impact.

“It helps people realise how their contribution plays a part in keeping the company/organisation effective and can reinforce pride in the brand. It can also help with change communications – decisions or strategies that are unpopular can at least be understood if put into the wider context of the overall strategy.

“If people do not understand the strategy, they may feel isolated from the organisation’s leadership particularly when decisions are made that they don’t understand.”

It’s important to cut through internal and external ‘noise’ 

Philip Keightly, head of social media at Punch Communications, says that brands are not only having to send clear messaging in an increasingly noisy environment externally but this is just as important internally.

He adds: “Today, brands are having to be increasingly reactive to current consumer insight, trends and sensitives in order to stay fresh and in tune with the zeitgeist. Populism is definitely back in vogue and subsequently, more than ever, brands are being reactive and more regularly evolving their messaging.

“For employees, this process of heightened soul-searching and continual reassessment of messaging can be confusing, so it is absolutely crucial that as much, if not more value is placed on ensuring internal teams understand your brand vision as much the outside world, because they are your greatest advocates.”

Alex Priestley, IHG’s director of internal and owner communications, Europe, says having a clear vision for its brand helps builds a stronger culture both internally and externally. He adds: “IHG has a clear vision, strategy and set of values which guides our organisation. This has created a strong culture where being brand-hearted is central to our employee experience.

“That culture has helped our business to grow and establish some of the world’s most loved hospitality brands. It has also helped ensure IHG remains a leading employer.”

  • Dragonfish’s report was launched in partnership with The Market Research Group at Bournemouth University. 
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