When aiming for external success with your employer brand, internal communication is the hidden champion.
Because nobody is more authentic than your own employees. But speaking of authenticity: it is not certainly not cool to develop an employer brand by pretending to be authentic. On the contrary, real authenticity is natural. Be natural, let them be natural, let it flow. Today, PR must understand that the time of excessively designed (employer) brands and over-controlled communication is over – especially when you want to score on social media.
Some of you might be thinking: naturalness and wildness in professional communication? That’s crazy talk! My answer is that accepting that your employees can be more than just carefully-rehearsed ambassadors is not crazy. They ought to be natural ambassadors. They ought to still be themselves. Because they are the employer brand, not you. It is your job to show them at their personal and professional best. You just need to accept this and see the profit.
What is the goal of an employer brand? To hire new employees and colleagues who match your business culture more than any set job requirements and to keep them in your company for at least a few years. So the best way to keep newly hired folks is to show the reality of your employees’ everyday working life. Showing potential applicants “professionalism” only won’t keep them in your company for good, because they won’t experience what you led them to expect in their new job. Never market promises you ultimately cannot keep.
"PR must understand that the time of excessively designed (employer) brands and over-controlled communication is over."
The most important part of increasing brand awareness is naturalness. You need to draw it out of your employees. Do not guide the details too much; rather, your job is to sculpt on the grand scale. Otherwise employer branding communication becomes prefabricated persuasion with the cited knowledge of a PR pro. But how do you get from here to external communications by not letting the employees messages become artificial? It is your job as a communication pro to find the right frames and channels for communication. Find the right frame that doesn’t obscure naturalness but is professional enough to give you communication credibility on a professional level.
What you need is freedom of choice in cross-functional operations. The borders between communication, HR and marketing must be broken down. You might think there are enough counter-arguments against a welding of specialised departments – especially when you are an HR or marketing head. But you’ll hardly ever reach a sufficient point of collaboration for an employer brand internally and externally if you don’t change your mind. Because who has ever forged ahead by making things like everybody else?
Communicators should have the leading position here. Are communicators finally getting above themselves by announcing this? Not at all. It is the self-awareness of a fucntion that others don’t want to call a profession, but what is a high-level profession in its output. Self-awareness for brand awareness is the mantra. Because corporate communication is the strategic extension of each and every management team and, ultimately, the company as a whole - and where they’re not, they should be.
"Corporate communication is the strategic extension of each and every management team and, ultimately, the company as a whole - and where they’re not, they should be."
To sum up, internal communication is at the same time external when it is the integrated communication of an employer brand. But this you’ll only reach this goal by having the courage to behave like communication pros should do: it is your job to prove this, to create this, to combine this. In the end all types of “ambassadors” will follow you as long as you lead them gently, but insistently. Rely on yourself and your profession. This is why you got this job. Your HR and marketing colleagues won’t love your ideas in the beginning. Maybe not your CEO, too. But in the end they’ll love it. Because there’s nothing better than being aware of your employees as natural and confident ambassadors – even your CEO.
Martin spoke in depth about employer branding at a Regional Debate organised by the European Association of Communication Directors (EACD) on November 5 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. EACD Regional Debates take place across Europe, and focus on a broad range of topics related to corproate communications and most are open to non-members. To find out more about upcoming EACD events in your area, visit http://www.eacd-online.eu/association-agenda