Winning hearts and minds for a brand update – the critical role of internal communications

Cambridge Enterprise branded cake

By Ruth Jackson, Co-Lead for the CIPR East Anglia Best PRactice Conference 2020 and Communications Manager, Cambridge Enterprise. First published on LinkedIn Monday 25 November 2019: http://bit.ly/2qK0lOD

If you’re preparing for a brand launch for a SME – either a new brand from scratch or an update like the one I project-managed for Cambridge Enterprise recently – your big question will be: “What is the most critical factor for success?”. Pinning down your unique position in your marketplace, the spot where your brand can truly shine? Ensuring the brand persona speaks effectively to your customers? Or an outstanding design agency that will nail the creative aspect of your brand?

All those factors are key of course but, just as the most beautiful website in the world is redundant without a digital strategy to drive traffic to it, a brand that is not understood and loved by its own people is doomed to fail. Your shiny new marketing materials, seamlessly integrated to trumpet your new or refreshed identity, are flimsy façades without the support of your colleagues to adopt them in their interactions with customers. They’ll find reasons to go rogue with the PowerPoint template or forget to use that brand banner at an event, and they won’t be on message with customers.

A brand launch or update means change and change often meets with resistance. The less corporate and the more democratic the culture, the higher your chances of that happening. How can you counter this?

  1. No surprises: develop an internal communications campaign to run alongside the brand project. We used our monthly company meetings to introduce the project and its value, and we then kept them updated on progress; the process culminated in a brand launch at a company-wide meeting.
  2. Engage your internal influencers: ensure you get the support of key senior managers and stakeholders from the start. We created a small steering group  that served as both a safe testing ground for our early brand development work and as advocates for the project internally.
  3. No change, no gain: be very clear about how your brand launch or update will add value – if you’ve done your homework properly, it’ll link back to your company’s mission, vision and corporate objectives and therefore resonate well with your colleagues as well as your customers. At launch, we led with the message that, because we had done this homework, the updated brand would make it easier for our colleagues to do their job, by giving them integrated marketing materials that deliver the right messages clearly, coherently and consistently.
  4. Manage expectations: explain what resources are available, make sure your colleagues know how to get help and enlist their support. At launch, we went through the full list of what had been updated, provided FAQs and created a Brand Helpdesk email. We then made sure everything was available on a specially created ‘brand update’ page on our intranet.
  5. Don’t be too serious: add a couple of fun elements to the launch materials to help engage your colleagues’ support. We gave everyone their own brand pack that, alongside their new business cards and a ‘quick start’ brand guide, included a branded notebook and some stickers for use on laptops. We also celebrated the moment with a branded and very delicious cake!

As a result of following a rigorous process that was closely aligned to our business strategies as well as keeping a clear, constant eye on our internal communications, our colleagues have responded well to the launch and early customer feedback is positive. Do the same and you’ll arrive at launch day to discover that the battle to win the hearts and minds of your colleagues for your new or revised brand is already half won.