Link Internal and External Branding, or Else

March 6, 2014by Mike LepisInternal Communications


Everyone hates false advertising. In the old days, you might have said, “I’m going to write a letter,” and then never do it. Today, you’d say, “I’m going to Tweet about that,”—and you probably will. Everyone has a megaphone, a soapbox, and a captive audience that can echo, relay, text, re-tweet, post, like, favorite, cut and paste… you get the picture.

Your external brand is your advertising for employees

So, what happens when internal branding does not match, or contradicts, external branding? You lose credibility, you anger your workforce, and a population of people who could be your key brandambassadors become disengaged. Employees see how you put customers on a pedestal. All they want is a little of the mojo you focus on external communications to show up in internal communications.  Since everyone has personal mini self-publishing empire, your exposure is high.

Taking that customer facing brand energy and focusing it internally is not that difficult. It just takes some care, concern, and exploration to discover many creative options.

  • Your marketing department is probably sitting on a gold mine of beautifulassets that you can re-purpose for internal communications.
  • Your PR department probably has great messaging that you could leverage to engage employees like you would clients, press, or influencers. Think about what is relevant to your culture. How do you take it to the next level for internal communications?

Who is doing it well?

NIKE: I’m a little biased because I’ve had a long relationship with them, but Nike does a great job at this. Their communications are current, relevant, and compelling. Their biggest assets (after their employees) are their athletes, who often make campus appearances and engage in fun employee-only events. They use their product endorsers to amplify the employee experience. They treat their employees as “special customers.”

IBM: A great digital example is what IBM is doing with their VOICES campaign. I Almost hesitate to call it a campaign because it is much bigger and bolder than that. Part of VOICES is to encourage and promote IBM employees as experts in their fields. Employees can share, interact, discuss, and engage… I bet you can even set up a coffee date with one of them to talk shop if you want. Employee publishing is complementedby curated content relevant to IBM and its customers. Their philosophy is to give employees a forum, NOT a 60-page PDF of social media guidelines and the email address of the corporate attorney responsible for approving their posts. The kicker on top of all of this is that they publish metrics on every post grading reach, amplification and engagement (

The entire VOICES experience elevates the employee as an expert, and returns value to clients and the business community. I can’t think of a better example of a company standing behind their digital philosophy for employees: “IBM is people.” This is truth in advertising and it feels right.

This month we are exploring linking internal and external branding in our blog. I hope you enjoy it! Please use your mini publishing empire to share with others. Tweet me @mikevignette.




Mike Lepis

As a Chief Strategy Officer, Mike leads our team to develop strategy, insights and creative solutions to drive employee engagement. He believes through human-centered design and strategic communications—employees will get behind a brand and its mission.