Creating Staff Buy-In for a New Brand

thumbs upBy Elliot Cowan

The world of brands is changing and each year hundreds of companies, nonprofits, and foundations decide it’s time for a rebrand. This means different things to different people and we often hear the phrase, “Our logo is our brand and that is all we need,” but that’s a different topic you can read about in a previous article here!

People are being bombarded by more materials and more information than ever before, so organizations are finding it harder and harder to break through the noise and get people’s attention.

What we’re seeing, and what we have been saying for some time, is that the job of a rebrand or new idea doesn’t start with your message to the outside world … it starts with the message to the inside world: your organization’s staff members and closest supporters. If you think about the reaction and skepticism a new campaign, promotion, or program is met with from people on the outside, it can also be just as tough to bring it to your own people, too. The questions you need to ask yourself are:

  1. Do our people believe in this?
  2. Can they deliver the message clearly and easily to the outside world?
  3. Are the connected to it?
  4. Do they understand what we’re about and what we’re doing?

Your people are your “brand ambassadors” and they live your company’s ethos on the day-to-day and if they don’t care, then you’re already fighting an uphill battle! By only focusing on the outside perspective, you can leave your team dismissive, uninterested, and in some cases resentful of a top-down approach. They need to be brought on the journey with you and when they are, there’s a good chance that they will help you get there.

To use an analogy from Aharon Horowitz and Ariel Beery (Founders of PresenTense), you are in the desert with your people and you need to get to the Promised Land with them. If you go it alone then you’re leaving everyone behind and disenfranchised. You need them to believe in the end goal and what is waiting for them when they get there. If you do the journey together, then you are all stronger for it and might even share some stories about how you got there. Never leave a man, or woman, behind.

Ok, so how do we do it?

1. Simplify the message for the people on the inside.

The people on the inside need simple messaging that explains what is so incredible about the organization that they are a part of. They need to understand what is rewarding about the mission and vision. What are you as an organization all about?

Imagine a house and the foundation is what brought them to you, then you have four “brand pillars” or walls that are known and repeated day-in and day-out that build on that foundation. The roof is made up of the new elements that can change and are added on top of those brand pillars. This needs to be communicated to the team and people need to lead by example.

2. Involve everyone.

People need to be brought into the conversation at all levels: from senior staff, administrators, internal influencers, interns, and everyone else, from the top to the bottom. These people are on the front lines and if they live and breathe your brand then it will come across when people are interacting with them.

3. Top level staff must lead by examplealong with everyone else.

If everyone sees a brand being lived and launched by the Executive Director standing next to people at every level, it is seen as a leveler and something people can get behind.

4. A memo just won’t cut it!

If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, you’ll know that a memo just doesn’t do the job. You should apply the same amount of time, effort, and creativity to launching internal materials as you do the external pieces. Is there a big internal launch? An exhibit showing the history of the organization? Do you make a video montage of employees sharing stories and have their passion rekindled? Is it a viral video made to show the world who you are? You need to take the time to engage the people inside your circle before looking outwards.

5. Don’t make it a secret.

Your employees will post, tweet, Instagram, Snapchat and anything else that they can. Embrace it. Why not create memes, images, posts, and elements for them to share with the world? Why not prepare them and encourage them? A rebrand is a good thing, so why hide it?

These situations can be catalysts for huge internal motivation and can drive engagement, donations, personal opinions, and traffic to your material. Bring your internal team on the journey!

Elliot Cowan is the Creative Director for Here’s My Chance (HMC), an award-winning creative agency that builds good brands by design. HMC’s mission is to create impactful, engaging designs that motivate people and lead to organizational success. With headquarters in Philadelphia and London, HMC’s clients span the globe and include nonprofits and socially responsible companies that work to create positive change. HMC specializes in branding, graphic design, videos, websites and infographics. Learn more at