It's what's on the inside that counts: why brands need to start fostering internal advocacy

  • Communications
  • May 26, 2014
  • Michael Easton
It's what's on the inside that counts: why brands need to start fostering internal advocacy

It’s all too commonplace for organisations to underestimate just how crucial it is to get a handle on their internal communications.

Brands spend millions developing TVCs for external audiences, but in-house the brand story is sent around on a scrappy piece of paper. That might be an exaggeration, but brands are too-often dropped on staff from a long way up, without an explanation of the full story, or the thought process behind them.

We all know that word of mouth is a very important tool in making or breaking brands, but it’s surprising how often the potential of employees as a source of positive word of mouth is overlooked. They can be your biggest advocates. But they can’t advocate what they don’t understand. That’s why business to advocate (B2A) communications should be just as crucial to brands as anything seen by external audiences.

Traditionally, a lot of what we do at Goodfolk is within the B2A space. It’s rare for us to find a client that doesn’t brief us on some work in this arena. From the large enterprise and corporate clients down to the small start-ups, they all want their own people to be part of sharing their brand stories. It helps invigorate and galvanise the culture.

A large portion of the best work we’ve done in this respect has, understandably, never “left the building”. It’s not the kind of work that’s seen externally. It’s all about giving the audience within an organisation the tools and enthusiasm to take the brand outside the business in a meaningful way.

Our work with Gen-i is probably the best example of where we’ve really encouraged employees to live and breathe the brand. Developing incentivised sales programmes, keeping staff updated around business performance, interviewing them to get their perspectives on what’s going on in the business. This work is about making sure staff know they matter, and that they’re making a difference. And prior to Goodfolk, our creative director Mark Easterbrook has done some great B2A work for Westpac, Genesis Energy and New World, among others.

Playing a large part in Gen-i’s internal communications for the past five years has also given us all a really strong understanding of how to invigorate a culture on an on-going basis. That part’s important. It really needs to be an on-going effort.

It is encouraging to see a number of local organisations starting to really develop their B2A communications. Air New Zealand would be the first example that springs to mind. It has a great reputation for enabling the brand to be understood, celebrated and communicated by all people within the business, who then project that brand outwards.

BNZ is another. It's very forward-looking in the tools it uses for B2A communications and its use of Vine is a great example of this. Some of the videos it's developed for staff using this platform are fantastically funny and engaging. It's letting the human, people-based side of the business shine through. And while Vine is the kind of social tool that’s currently being under-utilised by corporates, I suspect we’ll see them used a lot more.

Some of the best B2A work builds compelling content from a shared, real world experience, so that employees who aren’t there (and sometimes the public) can share the experience. Westpac’s ANZAC poppy fields are a really simple, elegant example. 

Another great international example a client shared recently was from O2. Employees and their families took part in a relay marathon, with hundreds of individual runners doing a part of the distance. Together, they beat the world record time. It was an amazing event to be part of, and generated some wonderful, sharable stories for the wider organisation.

Organisations now have to fight to attract the best talent. And they’re doing this via social media, using platforms that the new generation of the workforce has grown up with. Recently, Deloitte stepped up to the plate in this respect with a fantastic graduate recruitment campaign. It was a re-take on the Hell Pizza zombie game – pick a path for your career. Lots of fun - and human rather than corporate.

Approaches like this create the expectation that brands and organisations have an understanding of what makes new talent tick, and are willing to provide a working environment that supports that. The only way to achieve this is through a solid understanding of B2A communications.

From a technology perspective, we’re all now used to having the most up-to-date version of Facebook or Twitter at our fingertips. Businesses who want to encourage internal advocacy but stumble along with out-of-date intranet platforms are just seeding frustration.

The war for talent receded somewhat during the global financial crisis, but it’s definitely re-emerging, and as competition increases, so does the importance of B2A communications.

  • Michael Easton is managing director of Goodfolk

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