This session is all about internal brand engagement – but let’s start by defining the relationship between the internal and external brand (next slide)
Every brand has its brand positioning – what it means and stands for. This manifests itself in a customer promise with its benefits, associations and reasons to believe – that is how we ensure the brand is rewarding to the consumer. That positioning also manifests itself internally as a population promise with its benefits, associations and reasons to believe – this is the employer brand, it ensures the brand is rewarding to existing and potential employees. Internal brand engagement is the process that ensures that employees (easyJet called them their population) play their part in delivering the brand positioning to customers – it’s about behaving in a way that helps build the brand
When working on a new or refreshed brand positioning – especially for a service brand - it is important to keep both the internal and the external brand in mind
easyJet came to us in 2005 having got to their brand positioning: they wanted their brand to be all about ‘low cost with care and convenience’ – the brand, what it means and stands for had been defined in the new vision and identity statement – their pillars and values
Our brief was pretty loose – it was a conversation around these themes. They didn’t ask for a brand engagement programme, they asked us to go away and think about how we could help them.
But they were clear about the desired result….
With 6000 people, a multi disciplinary team, tight budget and tough targets – we started by agreeing some key principles of the approach
We all agreed that it would be inappropriate for easyJet to become a highly scripted, automated service business – it would lose personality - but equally, in some cases freedom had led to inappropriate behaviour. That meant we needed the population to instinctively grasp where the lines were. So we created a simple model: there would be some behaviors and ways of doing things that would be brand-building – ’very easy’ - there would be others that would be brand neutral – ‘easy’ - and others that could be brand-eroding - ’uneasy’. We would be asking teams to try to stay within the inner 2 circles – using their instincts and their training.
Targeting within the internal population was vital to success and is vital to the success of any brand engagement programme. There is very little published academic research where the effects of internal brand engagement have been rigorously tested. This is one of the few and it highlights two key points about targeting
- That without leadership involvement and commitment – you may as well give up. If the leaders aren’t living and breathing it, talking about it – no one else will
- Beyond the leaders – middle management (obviously these people are different depending on who the organisation is) are crucial: they have the power to ensure that things happen every day and they can influence both up and down an organisation
At easyJet, the leadership commitment was a given – this work was briefed from the CEO, Head of Population and Head of Brand. We identified the important ‘middle’ influencers as SCCMs (senior cabin crew members) – these are the leaders on board, they often make the announcements, lead the inflight team and liaise with the pilots.
We designed the programme around a comprehensive 6-stage framework
We identified 6 distinct and sequential stages of brand engagement from the perspective of the internal population
- Understand me: Take into account my situation and my challenges
- Involve me: Let me play a part in developing the ideas that you want me to action
- Inspire me: Help me see how this will work, and the difference it is going to make
- Convince me: Show me that the organization is really up for this, and it is not just warm words
- Reward me: Make me feel good when I play my part
- Remind me: Keep this current or we will all forget and move on to the next thing
This journey of understanding and commitment
So what did we actually do for each part of the programme? We harnessed some existing activities and we created new ones
Stage 1: Understand me
There was already an Internal staff satisfaction and behaviour survey – ‘Pulse’. We added questions and made it part of the programme. We needed to move fast, so we also quickly set up some co-operative focus groups (a research methodology that is more involving and behaviour/action oriented than standard focus groups)
- 11 groups, 10 per group, 6 bases
- Pre-work (questions to ask colleagues) to widen the reach (300) and create buzz
We launched a pre-work task to capture the spirit of easyJet
A very important part of this were the focus groups – they were designed to get the teams thinking about behavior, action and customer experience
Still on Stage 1 but moving on towards Stage 2 – working with the internal population in those focus groups to devise a customer journey map.
Every detail of the customer journey was built and discused in the focus groups. At each point we discussed to what degree what was currently being experienced was ‘low cost with care and convenience’ - also what could be done or changed to make it more so…
The teams were realistic about the changes that could be made… an additional loo clean was costly, but small improvements to food and drink possible – even in the way that they presented it.
We did the same exercise for their experiences as people who work for easyJet
We worked through all their internal touchpoints – recognizing that if they weren’t feeling ’care and convenience’ themselves, then it would be hard for them to give it. It was amazing how small changes could make all the difference: so internal communications was seen as particularly ‘uncaring’ because teams were often told late and without a reason if their shift was changing. A simple – ’sorry for the late notice, we have loads off sick right now’ was all that was needed: completely possible and quickly instigated.
Stage 2: Involve me
This stage similarly involved multiple activities:
- Because of the co-operative methodology, the groups were also part of this stage
- We widened the photographs to the whole population – capture the spirit of easyjet. We then published edited results in the magazine
- Temporary white boards were put up in staff areas with the vision and values on the side – asking for ideas about how these could be delivered (managed with regular feedback from leaders)
- And there were a number of on-going initiatives that we harnessed and directed
- CEO breakfasts
- Uniform – CEO Andy Harrison had already instigated a uniform change and launched a competition for the re-design
- The 6 executive leaders each adopted a base – and were responsible for base ’town-hall’ style meetings
- Base newsletters updated and asked for input
- Intranet site asked for input
Stage 3: Inspire me
A hugely important stage – the moment of crystallisation, the moment to signal change. The leadership must be directly involved and show commitment: this needs to be a statement that gets talked about. In this case:
- Events were held at each base. They had a standard format of ‘presentation meets party meets workshop’. Leaders led the events, brand DVD was shown
- At the same time there was a big launch of the new uniform – again framed by the brand vision
- Finally they moved into a new HQ – where we (working with the designers and architects) ensured that the brand message was clearly communicated through branded space
The move to the new building was a great opportunity to inspire and show commitment. We worked with the designers and architects to bring the brand message inside – but it always needs to be executed with flair and creativity. (Simply sticking corporate propaganda on the walls will quickly be viewed with cynicism)
The orange boards became a permanent fixture in break-out areas. They had to be carefully managed and were monitored daily by the internal comms team; ideas were always responded to
The new café was an opportunity to remind people – in a light hearted way - of the values. The naming of the conference rooms was also part of the communication
We also got involved in naming the café. So let’s take stock: we heard, we involved, we inspired; the easyJet population understood why easyJet needed to move on and what the company was going to be all about. Now we needed to work with them to understand and define what it is that they would do to play their part: on to stage 4
Stage 4: Convince me
The primary activity here was workshops – rolled out across the entire population. We needed to fit with the running of the airline – so we used recurrent safety training as our opportunity and bolted on the sessions
The workshop had a structure that helped people move through to commitment. Every attendee had to define specific actions that they would do and were happy to be measured by.
Tough stuff, but we had some fun with it. Creating the ‘yes, no’ game: which of these responses is ‘low cost with care and convenience’ and why?
Everyone was given a takeaway reminder. We avoided corporate language.
Stage 5: Reward me
Here we worked closely with HR
- The CEO had already instigated improvements to holidays and rostering (a good move; as a new CEO he was already seen as a ‘good guy’)
- The HR team devised a new ‘People Model’ that linked the brand engagement behaviours with personal reviews
- The internal award scheme was refreshed to embrace the brand
- Crew facilities were updated and improved to link in with a ’care and convenience’ promise
Stage 6: Remind me
The easyJet team knew that they would get ’bored’ with the initiative before anyone else did; they also new that momentum would be kept through lots of linked activities
- The induction programme for new recruits was changed
- Internal communications continued messaging
- The intranet included topical games and reminders
Updates on progress in the staff magazine
When we first started the project the easyJet team said one the things we needed to do was ‘reinvent the wheel’. We soon understood that what they meant was come up with a new way of communicating what easyJet stood for on a page. This had previously been ‘the wheel’: youthful, busy, fun - but no longer right for an airline that was ‘growing up’
We came up with this simpler, clearer version
The programme in full – all stages given full attention, multiple activities in each
During the period.
One year later.