Whether you realize it or not, you’ve already branded your pension, benefit and other reward programs. The “look” and “feel” of your plan communications send an immediate message about the quality and value of your plans.

Even if you don’t give your “brand” a second thought, communication materials will still convey a message that goes beyond the words on the page (or screen). Unless you’ve invested the time to develop an appropriate brand, that message will likely fall far short of what you want it to be. It could even undermine your program—no matter how generous or well designed that program might be.

As any successful marketer will tell you, building an effective brand involves more than designing a logo—and has little to do with turning out a flashy end-product. It’s about codifying, synthesizing and reinforcing your organization’s value proposition—for both current and future employees. Done well, your brand will:

• Reflect a clearly articulated corporate vision
• Reinforce program objectives
• Engage members and build program appreciation
• Unify all communications materials graphically and thematically
• Promote consistent messaging

Your employees are (or should be) pre-occupied by their work. That means, at a basic level, you need your communication materials to have a clear and immediately recognizable identity that attracts their attention. From a broader perspective, you want your materials to align the day-to-day thoughts and actions of employees with the organization’s business strategy. A well-conceived and effective internal brand will help do that by engaging employees in the ongoing success of the organization and clarifying decision-making.

From the inside out
A common mistake made by organizations trying to establish an internal brand is to go straight to the “quick fix” —a new graphic identify. The reality is, however, “embedding” a successful brand within the organization’s cultural fabric is a process; one that requires input and support at both the leadership and member levels. Bypassing the process may save time and money, but will almost certainly compromise outcomes.

For starters, your brand not only needs to present a clearly articulated leadership vision, it needs sustained and visible leadership support. To secure that support—and ensure leaders walk the talk—you need leadership buy-in. Unless you’re prepared to invest the time to involve leaders in the process, that buy-in will be difficult to achieve.

Keep in mind, too, that we respond more readily to what we experience than what we read or hear. So, it’s critical that your brand reflect the rewards you offer. For example, if your benefits program provides an inadequate level of disability income, a brand built around the concept of financial security will be quickly dismissed as little more than propaganda—and may provoke cynicism among members.

This brings us to another key step in the branding process: member input. Early in the branding process, you need to measure employee perceptions and determine how closely they align with current reality and leadership goals. Only then can you determine what you need to start, stop, and continue doing. Later in the process, testing your new brand on a representative group of plan members will help to ensure that it’s effective, credible, and sustainable. It will also help to cultivate a sense of ownership for the new brand at the grassroots level, especially if you include unofficial opinion leaders in your “test team.”

A coming of age
Producing the media to support your brand is one of the last steps in the process. If you’ve obtained the necessary input and nailed down your audience and objectives, choosing the appropriate media and developing key messages should be a logical extension of the groundwork you’ve laid.

So, is the branding process worth the investment? Ask any organization that has gone through it. If the payback in terms of clarity of purpose, consistent messaging, member engagement and appreciation, and streamlined communications, doesn’t justify the investment of time and money, chances are you took shortcuts…or your measurement was flawed.

For organizations that arrive late to the notion of HR branding, the branding process can help re-energize the workplace by reaffirming the corporate vision. For organizations that recognize the power of HR branding from day one, the process can help put them on the fast track to success.

Susan Deller is a principal with Eckler Ltd. and specializes in benefits communications consulting.

These are the views of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.

Copyright © 2022 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com