We all know that a brand is an intangible asset. It's a heavy word though. Branding is what makes or breaks a brand, isn’t it? Well, it's certainly an exercise that can help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. For instance, with consistent advertising, and a decent product, you can create a brand image that is way above your competitors. It can help you make your brand aspirational. What’s more? It can influence people to associate with your brand. Even if that means they have to pay a premium to associate with your brand. So, the power of branding cannot be ignored.
Unfortunately, more often than not, we think that branding is all about external communication only. But to cut a good picture externally, companies tend to forget that branding is a lot about what’s done internally too. It's only after burning our hands that we tend to really understand the power of internal branding.
As an advertising agency, being in the business of branding, even we ignored this subject called internal branding. We were all about making sure that people externally connect with our brand. And we strengthen our brand positioning externally. But internally, we failed! Perhaps, that’s why they say that your employees and vendors are your first customers.
When we started our journey in 2010, we didn't have a single client on board. That's when our first business pitch was to first employee, who was actually our ex-colleague. Before selling anything externally, we had to sell our idea to him. We had to make sure that he took up our offer, and joined us. Having gone through a lot of issues with the earlier company where we all worked, we knew that timely salary was his priority. So, we had to assure him that he would be paid on time, every month. That was the most difficult pitch we'd ever made. A company is a lot about its initial hires. And that made our pitch even more crucial and difficult.
Soon, we started fixing different aspects of our business. And kept crossing one milestone after the other. We showcased decent growth as well. But we didn't realise that, with time, our brand was fading internally. We reached a stage where people didn't even remember when and how we started our journey! In fact, our clients had a lot more information about us. It was an alarming situation.
We decided to list out the reasons that put us in a spot like that. And this is what we listed out:
It all began from the first touch point. This is first time a potential employee connects with an organisation to seek an employment. The fact that he has approached the company makes his seriousness pretty evident. And this is exactly when the potential employee starts forming an impression about the company. This is where your internal branding begins. We didn't really have a clear process in place. People would apply, and we used to connect with them in an erratic fashion. So, we were sending out a clear message that as a brand, a company, we’re not process-oriented. And when that's the kind of initial impression one gets, he's bound to hold onto it even after joining the company. Though advertising is a very unorganised industry, some processes can still be implemented.
The solution was simple. We made sure we connected with all the potential candidates in a stipulated timeframe. A process was created to help the HR manager make the first shortlist of candidates. The first thing we did was to create a clear company structure. Then we jot down the positions we were hiring for. Along with that we also created certain guidelines for each position. These guidelines ranged from minimum experience to qualification prerequisites. Based on these prerequisites, it was easier for the HR manager to make sure he is taking the right candidates ahead.
The next issue was the lack of clarity for the potential candidate in terms of his interview process, duration et al.
The next step was to make sure that the shortlisted candidates are called for an interview. That was our second touch point with the candidate. The objective here was clear. We made sure that we introduce the company, share a job description, and define the complete interview process along with timelines. This would help the potential employee be completely aware of his interview process, knows brief history of the company, and is clear about his job role. This didn't just help us brand ourselves better. It also helped the potential candidate plan his days better. As an underlined message, we were re-iterating the fact that we are company with defined processes and expectations.
The interview would continue as per process. And we would make an offer to the candidate who would clear all rounds. However, this was time to make sure we are prepared for the candidate's first day at work. That's because you can set clear expectations during the interview stage, and make sure that there's no gap. However, nothing can match the first day real-time experience of an employee. This is when he will believe his experience more than anything else. And if you have his first day at work chalked out with a detailed induction, job role description, key performance indicators, and performance management system, you will reiterate the fact that you're a company he can’t fool around with. And that's one of the key messages every company wants to convey. We adopted this defined process, and it didn't just help us brand ourselves internally, it also worked as a filtering mechanism to weed out the candidates that were looking for cushy jobs too.
Once the candidate was done with his first day's process, we'd generally put him on the job the very next day. However, we realised that it was important to do a skill and role analysis before that. So, we'd make sure that any gaps between the employee's skills and the role could be fixed with training them, and getting them to shadow others in the team. This helped us make sure that we were giving enough ammunition to the employee, before he hits the battlefield. But while this is happening, it's important to make sure you're monitoring the employee on regular intervals. If there's any monitoring that an employee needs, it's primarily in his initial days. Creating a process is not even half the battle won. It's all about execution and monitoring the said processes.
Finally, we realised that our core values, purpose, culture, journey, and accolades were defined and conveyed. But like they say in advertising, "Creating a strong recall is what a brand should work towards." So, the challenge was to make sure how do we create this recall. To tackle this, we just made sure that we used the internal office space to convey different things. This helped people see some important information on a regular basis. But it’s important to spend some time on this aspect, and create communication that’s unique. That’s because a run-of-the-mill communication will position your brand also accordingly. So, focus on originality.
These might seem simple solutions. But when done religiously, the results can pleasantly surprise you. You'll soon witness that your brand value is going up internally. That's a great sign for any entrepreneur or brand. In fact, it will also have a very positive impact on your business. Well, at the end of the day, whether it's external branding or internal branding, the audiences' memory is short-lived in both cases. Hence, every branding effort has to be reiterated in different ways, at regular intervals, across different channels. Ultimately, an entrepreneur's struggle to make both ends meet is inevitable. But one thing that's in control is the effort to raise their brand above the ordinary - externally, and internally.