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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Using Social Media to Promote Your Internal Brand

Lately, it seems that every time you open a newspaper, read a blog (a blog is also a social media app) or surf the Internet there is someone commenting about social media applications, such as Facebook, MySpace and more recently Twitter. Social networking Web sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, now attract more than 100 million visitors (the most recent stats I have seen say Facebook has 175 million users and MySpace has 110 million) a month and are valued in the billions of dollars. Those statistics are staggering.

The past four years has proven social media is no longer an Internet phenomena but rather something that is here to stay that drives innovation, collaboration and unleashes human potential. It brings people closer together to create abundant conversations around topics that range from consumer topics like pregnancy to business topics like production throughput.

From a consumer perspective it has created an environment where the collective knowledge of a group is leveraged to the benefit of the individual user. For instance, I recently joined Facebook, because my son posted some photographs of a recent trip he took with his wife. As soon as I joined I was inundated by friends, relatives and old acquaintances that requested that I befriend (term is "friend" them ("befriend them" - I didn't even know that was a term until two months ago). My first reaction was how much time do these people spend on the sites? When I started digging deeper I realized it wasn't just for passing gossip and reconnecting with acquaintances, I realized that real knowledge on a variety of subjects is being conveyed.

Social Media Applications Work For Business Too

Some of the most popular consumer social media are real people promoting their own views and sharing with others who have similar interests such as Moms talking to Moms, gamers communicating with gamers or political junkies talking to whomever. A simple Google search of blogs on your favorite topic will yield limitless results. The same can be said for business topics:

  • Blogs: A blog (a contraction of the term weblog) is a type of website, usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. Check out the Inward Consulting blog as an example: http://inwardconsulting.blogspot.com/. We use Twitter to allow our readers to follow what we are doing every day. http:twitter.com/shteinman.
  • Social Media: Social media is information content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies that is intended to facilitate communications, influence and stimulate interaction with peers and with public audiences, typically via the Internet and mobile communications networks. Sites such as LinkedIn, and even Facebook and MySpace are very useful in disseminating and collecting information. Check out my LinkedIn profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/43/333.
From a business/professional perspective I have been a member of LinkedIn from its inception (at least four years ago) when a professional colleague who I respect asked me to join his LinkedIn group. At the time I had no idea what I was doing, why I was doing it or what benefit I would derive from making these connections? However, if my professional colleague made that request I couldn't deny him. Over the four years I've come to realize that it indeed is a very powerful tool for business development, asking probing questions and receiving advice, and finding talent for filling vacant positions

The referrals I receive through LinkedIn are substantial and have benefited the growth of our company in many ways. More importantly, I have been able to expand my relationships with people all around the world, in several networking groups to clients and friends in ways that I would otherwise rarely have a means to communicate with them. I now have 289 connections and 28 recommendations. If you would like to join my network, send me an email invitation, or let me know and I will invite you to join mine.

Using Social Media to Promote Your Internal Brand

To take it one step further I started to investigate how the aforementioned social media applications are being used within corporate cultures as a medium to facilitate effective change/communications. What I found was amazing. I found that social media is now being used through corporate platforms to unify, and establish collaboration, create innovation, solve global client problems, establish corporate standards across large multinational corporations and the list goes on and on.

Here are a few poignant examples:

EMC has an internal social platform called Global/One:

  • Their goal was to build relationships on a one-to-one "personal reference" level amongst staff and the corporation with virtually zero-budget toward branding.
  • Over the last three years it has become the driving force behind a cultural shift in a collaborative environment that is spurring innovation, global collaboration and solutions that solve client's problems.
  • It has created social media "rock stars" within the company who are becoming recognized leaders for their blog writings as the go-to opinion leaders who people respect and follow for their thoughtful ideas and inspiration.
IBM has created a similar platform called Beehive:
  • Beehive is an internal social networking site that gives IBMers a "rich connection to the people they work with" on both a personal and a professional level.
  • The Beehive team created the site to help IBM employees meet the challenge of building the relationships vital to working in large, distributed enterprises today.
  • The team is also exploring if Beehive can help IBMers discover people with common interests or the right skills for a project, whether learning more about someone -- either personally or professionally -- facilitates making contact, and to what extent it entices people to learn about ongoing projects and activities beyond their immediate team.
Google uses social media tools as a reporting mechanism:
  • The company's engineers use blogs and wikis as a way to report work progress.
  • Managers stay abreast of their progress and provide direction by using tools that make it easy to mine data on workflows.
  • Engineers are better able to coordinate work with one another and can request back up help when needed.
Pixar has a video wiki for animation collaboration:
  • The company started with text based-then moved to video based wikis to share information about films in production and to document meeting notes.
  • Once the system was installed, critique lead to increased efficiency and faster film development.
Change Management Mindset

Social media advances are getting so much attention that McKinsey recently conducted a analysis and assessment of what major corporations were doing and what some of the impediments and obstacles were that were preventing more wide scale participation in social networking technologies. The result of their analysis was reported in the February issue of McKinsey Quarterly.

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Six_ways_to_make_Web_20_work_2294

In summary there are six initiatives/ideas that are promulgating effective use of social media. McKinsey sees it as a major development within corporate cultures with potentially higher success factors in comparison to the CRM and ERP initiatives of the late 90s. It is not just a timely phenomenon that will likely pass with time, but rather a rules changing paradigm shift that will dramatically change how companies will compete and conduct business. Some of the items they suggest are as follows;

  1. The transformation to a bottom up culture needs help from the top. Social media channels need senior leaders using it as an example to gain credibility and traction. Senior executives need to become role models and lead through informal channels for it to catch on across the board.
  2. The best uses come from users-but they require help to scale. Applications that drive the most value through participatory technologies often aren't those that management expects. When management chooses the wrong uses, organizations often don't regroup by switching to applications that might be successful.
  3. What's in the workflow is what get's used. Adopt social media as part of the daily work routine-not just something extra on the side.
  4. Appeal to the participants egos and needs-not just their wallets. Recognize and reward employees' positive participation in social media experiments publically. Like EMC, shower contributors with public praise, make them "Rock Stars" and reward their enthusiasm, acknowledging the quality and usefulness of contributions.
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants. Getting the right audience to participate is critical to the quality the social media channel. Select users who will help drive a self-sustaining effort (often enthusiastic early technology adopters who have rich personal networks and will thus share knowledge and exchange ideas). And be committed to create collective value.
  6. Balance the top down and self management of risk. A common reason for failed participation is discomfort with it, or even fear. In some cases, the lack of management control over the self-organizing nature and power of dissent is the issue. In others, it's the potential repercussions of content-through blogs, social networks, and other venues-that is detrimental to the company. Make sure the content and participants in any social media channel are managed and expectations are set so there is a balance. Include all stakeholders in the discussions to resolve potential issues before they arise.

As all the current thinking suggests, there are major employee mind set adjustments and change management communications requirement with implementing an effective social media strategy inside your company. Change management communications were also required during initiation and launch of reengineering and process redesign in the mid 90's and CRM systems after the millennium. If you don't motivate your people to embrace the new technological change by educating them, by demonstrating how the change is relevant to their lives/jobs, the acceptance/adoption of new habits will never occur and your firm will fall behind on this new technological social media movement.

We have put together a timely PowerPoint tutorial explaining the trends with advice on how to get started. If you would like us to set up a time to review that with you and your team or would simply would like a copy, reply back to this email. Also at Inward, we are curious how social media is changing the rules of engagement, so if you have stories from your own experiences and ideas to share with us please reply back to this email as well.

So jump into this new social media world. You can decide to dip your toe into it or your whole body. Let us help show you the way. We have the skills, strategic relationships with some of the best social media designers, strategists and technologists around and the change management communications capabilities to insure your success.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Internal Branding? What Is That Exactly?

Everyone knows what a brand is, and everyone knows what advertising is. Some of us may be confused about promotion and merchandising but most have a basic idea, at least, of what they are.

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me about internal branding. What exactly is internal branding? It's definitely a hot topic, on which seminars and workshops are offered all around the country. By my count, seven major internal branding conferences were held over the past year and a half, and we participated in four of them, and even chaired the American Strategic Management Institute's Internal Branding Summit last year, where we heard some outstanding presenters address the topic.

It's hot, but what is it? Very little is written that defines internal branding; so as one of the pioneers of this new branding phenomenon, I decided to pound a stake into the ground with my definition. We have earned the right to do this, because, for six years and more, since we started our firm, we have been promoting the power of internal branding with our Inward Marketing Methodology: we really are the internal branding company.

Before I explain what internal branding is, let me clear up some misconceptions. It is NOT letting your employees know about your new advertising campaign. It does not consist of handing out t-shirts and baseball caps to announce a new strategic initiative, name change or company vision statement. Really, it is not anything remotely like these things.

So what it IS internal branding? Why is it important? When should I do it?

Here is Inward's definition: Internal branding is a cultural shift within an organization, where the employees become more customer focused and more business focused. You achieve this by an organized, communications and behavior driven process, which leads to a desired end state. Meanwhile, at all levels in the company, one big question is answered - "What's in it for me?" After they hear and learn about the internal brand initiative, every single employee should understand what job behavior you expect from them, and how they contribute to the company's success. You need to reinforce the behavior you want, and bring it into line with HR policies, internal communications and corporate marketing efforts and strategy.

Effective internal branding brings huge benefits. Companies whose workforces understand how they operate and make money perform better. Committed employees provide stronger performance and higher customer satisfaction.

Important data that supports this connection between understanding and internal change was released recently. This study (produced, much as I hate to admit it, by our competitor, McKinsey) concludes that change-management programs succeed only when employees at all levels-senior managers, middle managers, and the front line-share the will and the skills to change. McKinsey studied change programs at forty organizations, and found a strong correlation between good skills for managing change and the value an organization carries away from these programs. These skills, I would add, are the product of effective change communications and internal branding programming. The more knowledgeable, convinced and supportive the workforce is, the faster you can implement change. Strongly accepted change is sustainable, and that saves both time and money.

When all is said and done, successful internal branding lifts brand equity, customer focus and ultimately shareholder value. One of our high tech presenters at the April conference shared startling numbers that demonstrated a powerful correlation between internal branding efforts, external branding efforts and shareholder equity. It's all about the facts, the data, the metrics and accountabilities.

So the question becomes, "How should a company do internal branding or Inward Marketing?" Here are some of key elements/best practices we've gathered from studying this topic for the past seven years.

* A brand is a process driven, long-term proposition. Not a deliverable! And so is internal branding.
* Internal branding follows a sequential process; through which employees achieve internal brand success. There is a difference between communicating a message, getting it understood, and changing behavior.
* You must have senior leadership participation and involvement throughout the process of internal branding. You can't delegate this or let the managers drive it.
* Start with a clear company vision and purpose. If you don't have one, work with the senior team to establish one and communicate throughout the company by both words and action.
* Set clear objectives and well-defined roles at the outset, and revisit them throughout the process.
* Consider assigning dedicated people to internal change communication and internal branding. Let them create a sense of such urgency that staff see no alternative to change.
* Conduct an audit of the enterprise understanding of the business objectives and strategy so you can address areas where people don't "get it".
* Internal branding, done well, allows employees to transition from being "Informed," to "Understanding" the information, to becoming "Committed", so that they "Change Their Behavior' in support of the company goals. As a result they should "Receive Recognition & Rewards" and positive reinforcement for changing their behavior.
* Recognize the importance of the customer and all their points of contact with your company: call and service centers, sales associates, statements/invoices, advertising and more.
* Align your brand externally & internally. Let your inside be like your outside: what you say externally should be the same thing you say/do internally.
* Go for participation, consensus and employee dialogue. These work better than edicts and policies that travel down the hierarchy.
* Having "Employee Brand Ambassadors" is critical--involve a cross section of employees from all levels, who will promote the brand internally through experiential communication.
* Obtain metrics and measures before, during and after program implementation. Research your employees regularly and track their progress over time.
* Hard, Simple, Easy - Work hard to make complex concepts and ideas simple, so they are understood and communicated easily.
* Seek outside help from experts and consultants in the field - this is hard work, but with help in methodology and process, it can be done effectively.

If you are thinking about an internal branding program, or need help to create internal support to initiate a program, let us assist you. We have proven methodologies, delivery teams and the thought leadership to lead your company to a much better place. We will also be very appreciative if you share our ideas with others who may be thinking about internal branding, or send them to our website.