Thomas Cook is the world’s oldest travel agency. But after surviving wars and natural disasters for 150 years, the company was in real financial trouble in 2011.
Marketing magazine listed the problems: “Emergency loans, travel-agency closures, job cuts and profit warnings,” and about $786 million in losses in 2012. The company closed 200 of its agencies and shuttered its publishing arm, which had produced 300 travel guides.
But with new CEO Harriet Green, Thomas Cook reorganized and stabilized. And then it needed what Head of Communications Vicki Burwell called “a face and personality to the body that we have worked so hard to make fit and healthy again.” That is: a new brand.
With input from stakeholders across all its divisions around the world, on October 1 the company changed its logo from a blue sphere to a “Sunny Heart” and trimmed its lengthy tagline from “Don’t just book it, Thomas Cook it” to simply “Let’s go!”
But how to roll out this new branding to 27,000 employees at offices all over the globe — some of whom worked at home? What followed is a case study in smart internal re-branding. Here’s what Thomas Cook did right:
Supporting managers first “We first unveiled the Sunny Heart to our Leadership Council, 140 senior managers from across the Group,” Burwell told All Things IC. “They then owned the rollout to every single employee over a two-week period” in the run-up to the official launch. Rather than a single directive from the CEO, which wouldn’t have been customized to each division, Thomas Cook let managers lead the way. And even better – they gave the managers a launch kit with videos and slide shows to communicate a consistent message across all departments.
The importance of employee buy-in Thomas Cook could have rushed or overlooked the employee roll-out; after all, the branding was already done, so who cared what the workers thought? But Burwell saw that it was crucial to have employees on their side: “For them to understand why this is so much more than a new brand image, and the role that they have in our ongoing transformation, is vital for them to deliver our all-important brand promise.” Spoken like a true brand advocate!
Employee trust The agency unveiled the branding to employees first, so there were 14 days where one leak, anywhere in the world, could have diminished the public unveiling. “We trusted them with all the detail and asked them to keep it under wraps until launch day so we could maximize impact,” Burwell said, “and it really paid off.”
A “carnival” kickoff Anticipation and secrecy made for a very fun day when the branding finally went public. Burwell said, “There was quite a carnival atmosphere on launch day. Lots of people chose to come to work with heart or yellow-themed clothing and there was a lot of social media activity with photos and reactions being posted on Facebook and Twitter. There was a great sense of anticipation and much celebration on the day.“When employees are actually celebrating your brand, you’ve done your job.
Maintaining momentum The launch is over, but the excitement goes on. Burwell explained how the internal communications team is keeping employees engaged and involved: “We’ll be using [a re-branded intranet] as a primary channel to keep the brand alive and to encourage even greater ‘Groupness,’ a term we’ve adopted across the company over the past year. We’ve asked for feedback and ideas on all the Sunny Heart activity and will be using this to help further shape our ongoing plans.”
Jason Ginsburg, Director of Interactive Branding at Brandemix, explains why it’s important for organizations to integrate their employer brands with their consumer brands — and shows how to do it right.
Does internal communications matter to consumer branding?
You bet it does. Are you a retailer rolling out a brand positioning about knowledgeable salespeople helping customers navigate a myriad of product choices? Better make sure your knowledgeable salespeople stay that way.
Branding for financial services? A Forrest research report reveals that mergers and acquisitions have hurt customer relationships and advises a refocused attention on customer service. You better bring some TLC to your call centers.
What about an admired airline promising an incredible experience and having it come crashing (sorry) down when the baggage is stolen, lost, or delayed through poor handling?
While there are a variety of factors that influence public brand sentiment, your communicating to your consumer brand to your employees is one that is easy to get right.
1. Roll inyour brand. Let your employees in on the big reveal before you launch your new campaign.
2. Show the relevance. Now that you have articulated your brand values internally:
Who needs to do what differently?
What do they need to change?
3. Communicate your brand inward.
Look at your internal communications and the audiences you reach.
Where are the best places to infuse your positioning?
Think about hosting a brand training event so sales people know what the customers will expect from them. Recognize and reward great customer service, and encourage testimonials from happy customers. Make sure your employees know how they are responsible for the success for your business and reap the rewards from a singular brand outside and in.
A recent article in Fast Company has once again shown how important employee engagement is to any organization. The more engaged the employees, the lower the turnover, the lower the shrinkage, the higher the customer service, and the higher the profits.
And yet, despite the preponderance of engagement surveys, software, and programs, true employee engagement remains an elusive goal for many companies. While there are several key drivers of employee engagement (corporate image, leadership, job function, work/life balance, managers) that require significant operational changes to move the engagement needle, below I present some tips that can be easily implemented and drive engagement results.
Better Internal Communications Treat your employees like your best customers or shareholders. Customers get fancy newsletters, interactive websites, personalized emails. Investors get elaborate annual reports. What communications do your employees get? Often it’s a simple newsletter with employee anniversaries, “articles” that are little more than press releases, and the latest information about open enrollment. Worse, they live forever on dull, decade-old intranets that are bare-bones, black and white, and boring – the 3 B’s of awful web experience. How can employees get excited about their workplace when the workplace doesn’t seem excited about them?
Internally, your employees are your audience, and you should treat them the way you treat your most valued customers. That means creating internal communications that are interesting and entertaining.
Collaborative Corporate Social Responsibility Some organizations have established CSR programs, allowing employees to select their own cause, which is a wonderful means to truly engage. Employees feel empowerment and camaraderie as they stay involved and seek volunteers for their own “social good.” They also feel a greater sense of purpose. Meanwhile, your organization gets great press and a big tax write-off. It’s a win/win/win/win!
Sure, this seems obvious, but one of the most frequent complaints I hear in
client focus groups, is “Management doesn’t listen to us.” Just as
social media allows a dialogue with your customers, you must find some
mechanism(s) to create a conversation with your employees. Instead of a
yearly survey, do it quarterly. Or monthly. Have an hour of “open door”
meetings every week, where any employee can approach any manager in any
area with any idea or concern. Use your intranet or enterprise software
to let your employee collaborate and ask each other questions. Today,
everything is crowd-sourced, from American Idol to Wikipedia to presidential debate questions. What can your employees teach you?
Little Things There are many free or low-cost methods of employee engagement. Casual
Fridays are just the beginning. Be sure to acknowledge employees’ birthdays and work anniversaries, whether it’s an email, an announcement at a weekly meeting, or an actual gift (I’m a fan of Starbucks gift cards). Bringing in treats every week or month is always nice – try cupcakes, pizza, gourmet coffee, or flavored popcorn. If you can’t afford to send employees to conferences, encourage them to attend free local seminars or online webinars. Give them a small “education budget” to learn software, read books, or subscribe to industry publications.
As you can see, there are all kinds of small ways to engage employees. There are big ways too – gamification, employee referral programs (ask me about this one), social engagement strategies. How to know what’s right for you? When looking at your engagement strategy budget, remember that, according to a recent Gallup poll, employee engagement can mean a 22% increase in profitability.
Want to learn more about these or other HR initiatives, including training videos, benefit communications, or wellness programs? Email me with your questions and I’ll help you out.
According to the NY Times today, Toyota’s chief executive, Akio Toyoda, told investment analysts that communication was to blame for the crisis surrounding the company, not defects on its cars. Mr. Toyoda said the company had been the subject of “negative reporting”.
He has also pledged to have more communication with his dealers and has claimed to already taken ‘a number of important steps’ to improve communications with regulators and customers, who’s loyalty he believes, will help them through the situation.
Isn’t there a group he’s missing?
Given the recent safety problems, negative publicity and downward stock performance, it might also be an optimal time for Toyota to consider an internal employee communications campaign to reinvigorate the brand from the inside out.
Exactly 9 years ago, in April 2001, the Toyota Motor Corporation adopted the “Toyota Way” an expression of values and conduct guidelines that all Toyota employees should embrace.
Under the two headings, or “pillars,” of Respect for People and Continuous Improvement, Toyota sums up the values and conduct guidelines with the following five principles:
• Kaizen (improvement)
• Genchi Genbutsu (go and see)
A branding expert like myself, might consider these to be their brand pillars, and had they stayed true to them, they may have avoided the problems they face today.
For Toyota, finding internal support may not be initially easy. Consider 2 of the 14 Principles that are part of the Toyota Way:
• Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
• Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.
With more than 50,000 employees in the US alone, Toyota needs to launch internal research to uncover the teams applying these principles, and then highlight the positive efforts on its business.
Through a solid communication campaign that shows the relevance of the Toyota Way in today’s troubled climate, and the recognitionof those embracing the Toyota Way, they can continue to build on the success of their strong culture.
It’s another case of a brand gone bad, but I believe that the Toyota Way can be their way back to the top.
Now can someone just tell Mr. Toyoda about BRANDEMiX?
Are your internal communications keeping up with the times? BRANDEMiX can help!
Gartner Highlights Four Ways in Which Enterprises Are Using Twitter
By 2011, Enterprise Microblogging Will Be a Standard Feature on 80 Percent of Social Software Platforms
As businesses struggle to consider the uses of microblogging platforms such as Twitter in the workplace, Gartner, Inc. has highlighted the four ways in which organizations are using Twitter.
“Despite the fact that Twitter is primarily aimed at individual users in the consumer market, many of those individuals work for companies and ‘tweet’ about business issues, leading businesses to explore how they could best use it,” said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.
“In general, Twitter usage by employees should be covered by existing Web participation guidelines,” Mr. Mann said. “As Twitter is a public forum, employees should understand the limits of what is acceptable and desirable. It is good practice to remind employees that the policies already in place apply to this new communication forum, as well. If organizations have not defined a public Web participation policy, they should do so as quickly as possible.”
Twitter allows users to post short, 140 character updates, on what they are doing right now. Users distribute quick thoughts, news and ideas, and this broadcast element of Twitter has led this type of service to be called microblogging, as each individual message (called a “tweet”) can be considered a very small blog post. Users select other “Twitterers” to follow or receive their messages in close to real time.
Gartner analysts predict that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature of 80 percent of social software platforms on the market. While other consumer microblogging platforms exist (such as Plurk, Jaiku, and Identi.ca), Twitter is the most popular.
Twitter is primarily aimed at individuals, so it is not imperative for every corporation to be actively participating at an official level. However, the popular impact of microblogging is leading many companies to explore how they could use it. In addition to the individual use of Twitter, Gartner has identified four different ways in which companies are making use of the Twitter application: direct, indirect, internal, and signaling.
Direct — The company uses Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel
Many companies have established Twitter identities as part of their corporate communications strategies, much like corporate blogs. They Tweet about corporate accomplishments, distributing links to press releases or promotional Web sites, and respond to other Twitterers’ comments about the brand. Gartner maintains that this approach should be used with caution because uninteresting or self-serving Tweets could hinder the brand image as much as it could help. Responding to comments can be particularly risky, as the anonymous nature of Twitter can easily descend into a negative spiral. Gartner recommends that at a minimum, companies should register Twitter IDs for their major brand names to prevent others claiming them and using them inappropriately.
Indirect — The company’s employees use Twitter to enhance and extend their personal reputations, thereby enhancing the company’s reputation
Good Twitterers enhance their personal reputation by saying clever, interesting things, attracting many followers who go on to read their blogs. As people enhance their personal brands, some of this inevitably rubs off on their employers. Twitter provides a way of raising the profile of both individuals and the organizations they work for, which elevates these companies that want to be seen to employ influential leaders.
Internal — Employees use the platform to communicate about what they are doing, projects they are working on and ideas that occur to them
In most cases, Gartner does not recommend using Twitter or any other consumer microblogging service in this way, because there is no guarantee of security. It is crucial that employees understand the limitations of the platform and never discuss confidential matters, because as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about going to see a particular client can tip off a competitor. Other providers, such as Yammer and Present.ly, provide Twitter-like functions targeted at enterprise microblogging with more security and corporate control.
Twitter streams provide a rich source of information about what customers, competitors and others are saying about a company. Search tools like search.twitter.com or the twhirl application can scan for references to particular company or product names. Savvy companies use these signals to get early warnings of problems and collect feedback about product issues and new product ideas.
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