5 easy ways to leverage the brand through your employees

In a hugely competitive global marketing environment, how do professional services firms create the competitive advantage they need?  How do they build strong brands? Professional Service Organisations compete with each other in three areas:

  • People 
  • IP 
  • Relationships

If its marketing’s goal to a create a strong successful brand, it needs to take a holistic approach to addressing all three areas and work collaboratively with key stakeholders building internal relationships, listening, educating and adding value. 

Let’s start with branding power of people – your employees

It’s top of the agenda for most HR teams. Attracting and retaining top talent becomes even more critical in professional services where firms vie for the best graduate talent, raise the stakes to hire the best rainmakers and seek to recruit  bright employees who understand how this sector works.  In the majority of cases, employer branding is part of the HR department’s remit. HR is responsible for how job adverts are written, for how new people are onboarded and integrated into the firm. They have a huge role to play in reinforcing the firm’s brand values and in promoting the brand and its reputation in the market place. All too often this results in a siloed approach to branding with HR and internal communication promoting one set of brand values while marketing goes to market with another. That’s not HR’s fault. At the end of the day, they have to deliver the right people, with the right expertise to support the business’ core strategy. It’s up to marketing to ensure that brand, reputation and values are promoted equally.  What should marketing be doing to close the divide between internal and external branding?

#1 Make sure you have a brand book – and use it!

Regardless of the size of the firm, having a brand book will seriously speed up the day-to-day decisions that impact the brand: Which image can I use?  What is our tone of voice?  What are our best brand stories?  Do we have a clear narrative? What are our values and how does that reflect on our behaviours and actions that are visible to the outside world. Some firms we work with have done this really well – even printing coffee-table style books that reflect who they are that are proudly on display; others have created a digital version that can be easily embedded in emails and onboarding materials.  Whichever route you take, I guarantee your Head of People will be grateful for a new asset in the hiring toolkit. 

#2 Keep your boiler plate updated – and on brand.

Professional service organisations are in a constant state of flux.  New hires, new strategies, mergers & acquisitions…  So often boiler plates – the bit of standard text that comes at the end of every news release or job description – are created and then left to stagnate. They are also usually circulated once and then forgotten about. Make it a new year’s resolution to distribute the text to key stakeholders – including everyone in the HR team – and ask them if they have any suggested edits. Take time to craft the text so that it reflects your brand and tone of voice.  Make it relatable. Once you’ve agreed any changes make sure it is available for everyone – all your employees – to use. They should be able to lift the text and adapt it to use on their LinkedIn profile too.  

#3.  Map your key stakeholder insights. This will be easier for smaller firms where everyone knows each other but just as important whatever the size of the firm. Draw up a simple table that contains the name of key people who could have an impact on the brand and its reputation. Including: Who are your experts?  What are they experts in? is an obvious place to start.  You should also include what their goals are and what is driving them: Are they looking to get more leads, hire more talent, position their personal brand, or lead a transformation project….? What are their bug bears? Include a column in your table that captures what you can do to facilitate their goal. How can you be useful to them? Decide what your next action is. Will you reach out to them by email and share an article they’ll find interesting?  Or can they make time for a quick coffee with you?  Perhaps a short meeting to understand what they are trying to achieve and how you can help is more appropriate. Revisiting your stakeholder map and updating is not just good stakeholder management – its key to building a strong internal brand.

#4 Be active about social media use. Employees are your brand’s strongest asset. With the line between personal and professional often blurring, it is important employees feel comfortable knowing what is and is not acceptable.  Do you have a social media policy that employees actually engage with? Or is it a document hidden in HR policies on the hard drive?  A social media policy needs to be visible…and socialised!  It should include guidelines on what they can include about your brand in their profile and any disclaimers they should use like “All opinions are my own”. Don’t forget to cover how they engage on social with the firms’ clients too. Keep it values driven.  How are your organisations values reflected in behaviour on social media? Your social media policy shouldn’t be a list of “Don’ts”.  Rather it should empower and encourage employees to use social media comfortably. Where possible share your social media plans with relevant teams, especially Business Development so that they know what you are planning to post and when and can share and react to the post. 

#5 Encourage storytelling. At the Client Voice we specialise in telling stories about your client’s success and sharing them.  Equally important is capturing stories about employees who are doing something out of the ordinary – or maybe doing something ordinary but in an exceptional way – and who by doing so are reflecting the brand’s values.  At one firm we work with, we nominated one team member to tell a ‘campfire story’ to the rest of the team at a monthly marketing meeting. They need to create a narrative around the challenge they had faced with a client with them as the story’s hero. They would then have to nominate someone else to be the next campfire storyteller. It was a great way to get normally less vocal team members involved and we discovered a few hidden talents! There were also internal stories that we were able to follow up as client case studies that otherwise we may not have known about. Having employees tell stories about the work they do, the attitude they do it with and celebrating the result, builds a strong brand internally…and that is reflected externally too. 

As marketers in professional services we need to be able to identify the branding potential of each and every person in the organisation regardless of role, function or seniority. It’s then up to us to make sure they fulfil that potential by being as useful to them as possible.