How to design a great online brand – starting with your employees

A company’s brand is so much more than a fancy logo or a wacky color scheme. At its heart, great branding is about relationships – both with your customers and your employees. A business is only as creative, innovative and inspiring as the people behind it, driving the engine. They can reinforce your mission and enable you to thrive, if you choose the right candidates and provide the necessary motivation. In the digital world, it is a compelling brand that helps one of many similar companies stand out from its competitors. So how can you build a successful online brand from the inside out?

Make your brand a priority

The first step is the simplest – you need to make defining and driving your brand a priority. What are your company values ? If you asked your employees, would they know? When employees are informed and inspired by the values of the organization they work for, the results shine through in their performance. Not only that, but they will talk about your business more to their friends and family, and on social media. This should be encouraged.

So how can you motivate your employees to engage with your brand? Here are some ideas:

? Invest in internal branding at your workplace. Visible branding, graphic installations, photography, artwork and messaging all convey a commitment to your purpose and a sense of ‘home’

? Let them know that their contributions are valued. Everyone wants to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves, working towards a common goal. When ideas are shared, make sure that everyone gets a chance to speak

? Embrace the personality of your brand. If you run an ecommerce operation that is all about fun, creativity and playfulness, but your working environment is run-of-the-mill, you are not truly living your brand ethos

Turn your employees into brand ambassadors

Your employees are at the front line of your business: dealing with customers, handling the products, managing the accounts – you name it. As such, they are the ones representing your organization, not the people at the top. They are also the most powerful advocates for your brand to prospective hires. This is why it’s so important for every employee, however junior, to fully realize your brand values and to feel part of the fabric of the business.

As your employees interact with customers, clients, partners and suppliers, they need to know what they are representing and what is expected of them. This is especially important in matters of customer service, phone manner and professionalism. Everyone needs to be on board, and there needs to be consistency.

Try the following tips for building brand advocacy from within:

? Look at your hiring criteria and ask yourself, are you hiring the right kind of people to represent the personality of your business? Bear this in mind during the recruitment process. Perhaps try asking interviewees what they perceive to be your brand values. Do they get what you’re all about?

? Streamline your internal communications so employees always know what’s expected of them. Intranet solutions are the perfect way to inform and engage your employees and make sure nothing gets missed

? Give each employee their own personalized performance objectives, particularly those who interact directly with customers, or manage your social media, for example

? Give rewards to provide recognition for those who regularly advocate the brand and encourage others to do the same

Have a plan

This is where you put your vision into action. Your employees should by now have a firm understanding of your brand and what is expected of them as representatives of your business. Now you need to create an actionable plan that outlines how each team member will be involved and what their responsibilities are. Every member of your company will have a different perspective and something unique to offer, whether it’s an insight, an idea, or a story. This is the foundation of a great content marketing strategy.

The ideal outcome is for every employee to engage with your brand and live its values their own special way. So come up with a template that will help your workers to get organized. Your content marketing template should include variables such as:

? Intended audience

? Key messages

? Who is responsible

? Desired outcome

? Timing and frequency

? Content type

? Which online channels to use

Content marketing is easier when you delegate. It also showcases your experience, expertise, and personality. So mix things up and get everyone involved – not just the company leaders and writers.

Use an accessible CMS

As an online brand or ecommerce company, a lot of your business will happen on the internet. Naturally, a professional branded website is top priority – and you likely have one already. But if you’re still in the process of starting your business or planning a website migration, consider using a CMS that will be accessible for your employees. It’s super easy to train people up in software like the Shopify website builder or WordPress platform – you’ll find countless training resources and videos available.

Consider the same approach to usability when it comes to your internal communications tools. An intranet with a simple, easy-to-use CMS will encourage your employees to contribute content such as blogs or interact on forums and discussions. With an accessible CMS for your external website, your employees can also take care of a multitude of online tasks and take some ownership of the brand, rather than leaving it all to a specialist developer, which can cause a bottleneck. They can add new product listings, upload blog posts, add pages, manage comments and update your website for seasonal sales. They can also track analytics and run successful email campaigns. This all becomes much more complicated with a custom-built site.

Of course there are other website builders too, namely Wix and Squarespace, but these platforms are generally considered to be less powerful, less flexible, and less appropriate for businesses – they are mostly used for personal websites.

If you want to build a great online brand from the inside out, then you need to make engaging your employees a priority. Hire people who are passionate about what they do, and keen to take on the brand ‘persona’. A great online brand is a team effort, and customers love to see a human side to the businesses they buy from. So get everybody involved, whether they’re in communications, HR or IT, and watch your online brand flourish and grow.

Got an idea you’d like to share? Comment below – we’d love to hear from you.

Patrick Foster is a Freelance Web Specialist & Emarketer. Visit his website at