Branding from Within: 3 Steps to Get Your Employees on the Brand Wagon

When your employees feel aligned with your brand it’s a game-changer for your company’s reputation and success. Here’s how you can make it happen:

1. Establish Brand Guidelines

If you already have an established brand, revisit it. Does it still make sense? Does it feel relevant? Do you believe in it? Does it truly represent how you want to be seen by prospects and employees? If not, it may be time for a rebrand. If so, great! You may now pass GO and move on to the next step. If you haven’t yet established a clear brand or you believe you’re all set with a logo and some colors, please stop here and take the steps to do so.

Your brand is your reputation. If your brand isn’t clearly established, nothing else matters.

2. Make it simple

I can’t stress this enough:  Create. A. Brand Guide.

If you’ve worked with an agency and they provided you with a brand guidebook, simplify it. If you haven’t already created one, it’s time to git ’er done. Here’s a tip: go to Canva and type in “brand guides.” Choose a simple template and make it your own.

Here are some things I cover when I create simple guides for my clients:

  • Visual identity – logo variations, color codes, fonts
  • Image guidelines – Real people vs. illustrations. Filters vs. no filter. Should they be tech-related, edgy, focused only on nature, or strictly action shots? Another important tip: be very careful with your choice of stock photos.
  • Personality – Consider tone of voice, language, motivations, and fears. I like to include a personalized description of the brand as if describing a person (Ask me about my “Your Brand Walks Into a Bar” method). This helps clients and their teams more easily relate to and understand your brand.
  • Mission, Vision, Values
  • Tagline (if applicable)

The idea is to provide your employees with a handy reference as a reminder of how they can best represent the company, whether through emails, meetings, or casual conversations with friends at a summer cookout.

Now, create branded templates and design assets, making sure they, along with the brand guide, are easily accessible.

3. Communicate the Heck Out of Those Guidelines

This shouldn’t feel like a game of whack-a-mole where you’re randomly posting on the intranet platform and lobbing emails at your employees. The key is designing a step-by-step communications strategy for your team. Keep in mind that each company, large or small, is its own special little flower, and strategies will vary.

This is an overview of one particular strategy I developed and implemented with great teammates for a company rebrand. For the sake of time, I left out the timeline and smaller details:

  • Solidify goals by asking ourselves, “What are they (beyond simply communicating our brand)?” “Why are we doing this?” “What’s in it for our employees?” “What will success look like?” This will also help decide how to measure the success of this initiative.
  • Know our audience. Who are we communicating with? How will this affect them?
  • Decide on the tactics that will best support us in meeting these goals.
  • Establish a designated team member, team, or department to be responsible for brand oversight and updates.  In this case, as the Internal Communications Specialist and all things branding, I was entrusted with that responsibility.
  • Translate the brand guidebook (Yes, it was a book. We had a lot to cover) into a pared-down version outlining just the essentials.
  • Create branded templates for company presentations, email signatures, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets, Job Aids, etc.
  • Set up a brand asset library (I’ll refer to this as the “brand folder”) where employees can access approved logos, templates, and the simplified brand guide.
  • Work with leadership to design a presentation introducing the brand. Craft a relatable way to explain why it matters.
  • Plan out a series of posts for the intranet platform.* Include the link to the brand folder in each one.
  • Leadership presents the brand at the town hall meeting. Leave time for questions and clarification.
  • Print and distribute the brand guide during the town hall for employees to hang in offices and cubicles for quick reference.
  • Email the simplified brand guide and link to the brand folder to all remote and onsite team members.
  • Design and insert a version of the brand introduction in the “New Employee Onboarding” program (ours was part of a comprehensive onboarding video series I created).
  • Managers schedule periodic brand “check-ins” with their teams. These can simply be incorporated into team meetings.
  • Measure. The method of measurement will depend on the subject and tactics used.

“All work and no play…..” Well, you know the rest. So find ways to have some fun with it. For example:

  • Infuse creativity and friendly competition into implementation and beyond.
  • Ask employees for feedback on how they’ve successfully infused the guidelines into their work.
  • Share client comments about the new brand (keep in mind, we’ll never please everyone).
  • Create a few funny memes for your intranet posts, for example, poking fun at incorrect vs. correct brand usage.
  • Provide a pizza or sandwich lunch during the town hall and send lunch or restaurant gift cards to remote employees. Don’t forget dessert!

Final note: It’s critical for leadership to consistently represent the brand in their communications and interactions. If not, it all falls apart. And, yes, there are times when someone colors outside the brand lines. This typically just requires a friendly reminder from the brand oversight team member, team, or manager.

What other strategies or ideas have worked for your teams? I’d love to hear about them over Zoom, coffee, or email.