The annual benefits enrollment period is on the horizon for many companies in the U.S. That’s why subject matter experts in internal communications and HR are meeting together now. They are partnering to plan and develop a communication campaign that engages employees, makes clear what they should focus on, and calls them to complete an action. Sometimes this is the moment when somebody uses the B word and says: Let’s brand our benefits enrollment! The person is all excited, with the kind of wide-eyed enthusiasm you might have seen in an old Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland musical. And here’s where an internal communications pro can really add business value.
Before I explain, I know that Corporate Communications/Marketing departments have strong reactions to calls for branding. That’s because the word branding is a term of art. It is code for distinctive work, which is informed at the most senior level, engages the client or customer, and has profound resonance in each marketplace in which the organization operates.
In today’s common usage, however, the true mean of the nature of branding has become diminished. Instead, it’s a label that’s slapped onto many different concepts.
So if you’re in internal communications, it’s good to keep that in mind, when your wide-eyed enthusiastic colleague uses the B word. What she’s really referring to is department or program identity.
Now you’re in your internal communications element, because you can educate your colleague on what a department or program identity is, and the fact that every internal communication is an external communication. You can ensure whatever is developed reflects the brand.
That doesn’t mean that department/program collateral is created with a cookie cutter, and looks exactly like every other internal document and digital offering. The look and feel should emulate the same associations and perceptions that comprise the brand attributes, and should be distinctive enough to convey the uniqueness of the department or program and generate positive employee recognition.
It’s a tall order to get right. Yet, this ability to balance brand coherence and unique identity is one of the ways in which a good internal communications function differentiates itself and adds value to the business. After all, the business is what internal communications is there for.
If you’re in internal communications, when you hear the B word, don’t get flustered. Talk about identity.