Branding? Then Train Employees to Walk the Talk It's one thing to promote a company's brand to customers and the public. But how many companies make an effort to internalize the brand so that employees' actions and rewards are in sync with the firm's external messages?

Not as many as you'd think, says Jeffrey Horn, a principal with Towers Perrin (www.towersperrin.com), a management and human resources consulting firm in New York. Results of a recent mini-survey of 27 companies conducted by Towers Perrin showed that branding in general is considered a valuable asset. However, the corporate communications managers surveyed said that most of their employees don't fully understand their company's brand promise and that insufficient time and resources are spent communicating that promise. Further, respondents said that most employee reward and incentive programs did not connect with the corporate brand.

"Not very many organizations have what we call a clear line of sight between employee behavior, the incentives they receive, and what is delivered to customers." Yet, he says, branding to employees will likely improve productivity, teamwork, morale, and even recruiting and retention.

Horn cites American Express (www.americanexpress.com) as one progressive company that "gets" employee branding. The company's brand promise, which he describes as "doing whatever is necessary to help customers succeed," gets "pounded" into employees. The company also rewards staff who walk the talk, further reinforcing the brand promise.

Lynn Parker, co-author of Integrated Branding: Becoming Brand Driven Through Companywide Action (Quorum Books, 1999), agrees that brand awareness should be enhanced throughout the organization. Parker, who is also the creative strategies director for Parker LePla (www.parkerlepla.com), a Seattle-based brand development and public relations firm, says that when all employees from the president to the receptionist are "on brand," it creates a stronger emotional and intellectual bond with customers.

Parker cautions that employee branding is a long-term commitment.

"Employees can become cynical about branding efforts, thinking they're just the latest fad - especially if the company is constantly launching new strategic initiatives," she says.