Building brands. Building trust. Communicating, inside out.

It jars when your employer presents itself one way externally, and the reality on the inside is very different. Your brand experience is at odds with your company’s external positioning. You feel disconnected from the position portrayed by your bosses – you don’t recognise it and aren’t always told what’s going on. You get told what’s going on after the launch of new product or a company announcement has already played out in the media and on social media. Digging into Glassdoor will reveal many examples of this.

Smart businesses are those which have recognised there’s no difference between internal and external audiences – they treat them both as key audiences on their brand journey. They appreciate employees have the potential to be the most powerful advocates in helping to build a brand.

Smarter businesses and organisations, start their brand journeys on the inside – they share information, they communicate well and often, with honesty and authenticity. They realise employees can make or break a brand – they recognise employees are influential in determining reputations, they shape and influence buying or investment decisions.

These organisations build trust.

There are many factors which help build employer-employee trust, as described in Paul J Zak’s 2017 Harvard Business Review article “The Neuroscience of Trust” [1].

We’re particularly interested in the role communication plays in building trust – of regular and timely updates and bespoke internal campaigns, all dovetailing with external activity.  We believe making this investment will help ensure employees are knowledgeable about the company and equipped to have informed conversations. This in turn can lead to employee advocacy.

Why is this important? Zak says:

“Only 40% of employees report that they are well informed about their company’s goals, strategies, and tactics. This uncertainty about the company’s direction leads to chronic stress, which inhibits the release of oxytocin and undermines teamwork.

“Openness is the antidote. Organizations that share their “flight plans” with employees reduce uncertainty about where they are headed and why. Ongoing communication is key: A 2015 study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries found that workforce engagement improved when supervisors had some form of daily communication with direct reports.”

Zak goes on to say his team found that employees at high trust companies enjoyed their jobs 60% more, were 70% more aligned with their companies’ purpose, and felt 66% closer to their colleagues.

Pretty compelling, eh?

Our employees are our greatest asset. Easy to say. We’ve probably all said it at one time or another. But do we always reflect this in how we act and communicate? In our experience, too often companies invest significantly less time, effort and cash on staff communications than on external, brand and reputational campaigns.

So next time you’ve a big thing to tell the outside world, think internal first. Plan for employees as you would for your external audiences. Build your brand – build your reputation. Keep your employees informed, involved and engaged.

[1] Paul J Zak. The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review. January-February 2017 issue (pp 84-90) []

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First published 11 May 2018 on LinkedIn