It’s no longer just brands like Netflix and Disney that need to entertain audiences with always-on content.
By Alex Moulton, Chief Creative Officer at Trollbäck+Company
Organizations of every size and in every sector need to build ecosystems that enable them to engage with savvy audiences in ways that are both meaningful and memorable.
Caught in a loop of infinite scrolling and instant gratification, it can be tempting to follow trends, chase quick wins, and hope for a viral hit. The social influencer playbook is showing signs of wear too, begging questions about whose brand you’re building—that of the paid influencer or your business. These popular approaches to engaging audiences largely ignore every brand's greatest untapped resource—your own staff.
Enduring, long-term strategies, rather than disruptive approaches, are the way to win trust and build long-term loyalty. While these have traditionally been delivered in partnership with external advertising and marketing agencies, the most effective, authentic examples of brand awareness we’re seeing today begin closer to home.
The best place to start branding efforts, especially as a business without a billion-dollar content pipeline, is internal. In fact, the most powerful brand communication resources any organization has are the people that live and breathe its brand every day.
When you design a content strategy that engages and empowers your own people to become content creators, you can deliver more effectively on brand goals, increase product awareness and consideration, and enable internal company culture to shine.
Defining the need
Most organizations have an intuitive understanding of their foundational mission, vision, and values. Over time, these can become blurry or overcomplicated, especially during pivots in business strategy, the arrival of new executives, or during a merger.
The very first step for an organization embarking on inside-out branding is to clearly articulate, clarify and sharpen your core reason for being. Start by defining your brand’s meaning and purpose (beyond making money) so that everyone inside the organization is speaking the same language.
What is a healthy content ecosystem?
Let’s start by defining what a healthy content ecosystem is not. Despite offering an opportunity to create more honest brand content for less investment, an internally powered content system is not a replacement for advertising. Nor is it a strict mandate to create video or animation. Rather, it begins with an intentional, strategically designed framework and system of implementation that meets the demands of today’s always-on communication channels.
In the same way that entertainment and media companies have designed strategies and systems that empower their teams to create, promote, and sustain engagement, it is now vitally important that every brand build its own content ecosystem.
Having defined the need to build your brand from the inside out, the next step is to align and engage your people. It’s time to give them a platform to use their diverse voices to advocate for your brand. Writing, video, and motion design all play essential roles in giving the people inside your organization a stronger voice externally. After a successful rebrand, the fintech firm Betterment expanded beyond publishing helpful articles to filming interviews with their staff, efficiently creating a library of content.
The interview clips humanize the brand on Instagram because audiences get to know who is helping manage their money—an especially powerful move for a financial services brand. The interviews also form the backbone of a brand film that we made about what makes the company a great place to work. This is an excellent model for designing a content ecosystem that not only demonstrates great products and services but humanizes the people behind the business.
Empower teams to become content creators
For global businesses with large teams, implementing a content system that can be used consistently in every market can feel daunting, impossible even. Take CBRE, the world’s leading commercial real estate services and investment firm with a diverse client base and 115,000 employees around the world. With its recent brand evolution, CBRE is placing greater emphasis on providing access to its wealth of data and insights by consistently delivering trusted expertise to both investors and occupants.
To help CBRE design a content ecosystem that leverages the knowledge of their experts and thought leaders, from executives to brokers, we developed a thematic framework, a discrete set of content types, and training modules that empower employees to create insightful content. The system helps realize CBRE’s business and communication objectives while informing additional communication initiatives, including events, marketing, and sales. CBRE’s insights are now easily available to its customer base via a thoughtfully organized and continually updated website.
A clear framework and platform
Brands are built through the efforts of many talented people. The foundation of inside-out brand communications is to provide a platform for employees to become day-in, day-out builders of the brand. After creating this framework, the key is to consistently nurture and encourage individuals to be more creative and consistent over time. If it’s hard work for people to create brand content, they won’t stick with it.
Initial training and ongoing education are both important for an internally driven content ecosystem to be sustainable. Without a clear set of guidelines and formats, businesses will end up with inconsistencies across content in different regions, markets, or countries. The goal is for everyone to speak in the same brand voice, creating distinct but unified pieces of content.
Inside-out communications borne from an intentional, clear framework manifest as clearly organized, easily findable insights, with internal teams as empowered (and thus passionate) contributors. A knock-on benefit of empowered people is the positive impact on internal culture, which over time can have a positive effect on employee retention and even attraction. Visibly enthused colleagues aligned to a clear company purpose are an attractive proposition to candidates.
Crucially, while an inside-out approach to brand comms is ideal for larger organizations, it can be flexed to suit organizations of all sizes. The magic ingredients are intention, flexibility, and last but not least, passion. While comms should be aligned, individuals should feel empowered to share what they believe in. In this way, the most authentic, meaningful, and enduring brand-building starts at home, from the inside out.