Build and Protect a Brand From the Inside Out

For companies doing business in this digital age, every consumer with a smartphone is now a potential reporter with an instant megaphone. For PR executives, promoting and protecting the brand is more critical than ever. What organizations are on the outside is a reflection of what they are on the inside. Here are some tips for building your brand from the inside out. â–¶ Have a strong focus on creating line of sight for your employees. Use an employee opinion survey to determine if your team members understand your organization’s strategy. Create a set of key internal communication messages that relay the strategy in a way that frontline employees will understand the role of their jobs in achieving your key strategic imperatives. Educate leaders to consistently use those key messages in department meetings, written correspondence and presentations. Develop online tools that employees can use to educate themselves. My organization, Kaiser Permanente, created an online annual report to communicate our mission and strategic imperatives with an emphasis on storytelling. We also developed an online self-service module for managers to build business literacy and enhance their skills to communicate about the organization and manage change. â–¶ Translate and align your brand promise through all channels. Make sure everyone on your advertising, marketing, communications and PR teams understands your brand promise and how to translate that into meaningful messages for their particular audiences. Our organization works every day to ensure brand platform, Total Health, is extended beyond advertising to marketing, internal communications, PR and issues management (including online marketing and social media). â–¶ Align your PR messages with your communication partners. A brand is built best by integrated communications—advertising, marketing, internal communications, PR and issues management. We all work to influence choice of our product/service. As PR executives, we tell our story to positively influence key stakeholders, often through earned versus paid media. It is our job to build our reputation by highlighting our strengths and vivid points of differentiation. Let internal audiences know what you’re planning to say externally, and be aware of how external messages affect internal audiences. â–¶ Identify key PR focus areas and the messages you want to communicate. Don’t try to tell every story; concentrate on the stories that will make a difference in building your brand and influencing choice. Create five to six focus areas and put 90% of your effort there. Then, identify the messages you want to see pulled through in your media coverage—and measure to see if you are being effective. Remember, it’s not just about the number of media mentions, it’s about communicating the right message. â–¶ Create an external stakeholder database. By doing legwork ahead of time, you can avoid the fire drill of scrambling for a third-party endorsement when reporters call on deadline for a positive story or when an issue breaks. Use this database to proactively send key influencers announcements of major milestones, inform them of an important accolade your company has earned or e-mail a periodic newsletter. â–¶ Cultivate your relationships with operational leaders. Don’t work in silos until an issue arises that needs immediate attention. Create strong relationships with key internal leaders and content matter experts so when an issue erupts, you can activate your network quickly. Be sure you have a voice in crisis management decisions and operational changes. Remember, it’s your job to represent the interests of all internal and external stakeholders. Set up quarterly discussions with your operational counterparts to look across your organization to identify potential risks and mitigate future issues or crises. â–¶ Alignment, alignment, alignment. When planning a major announcement, be certain your leaders from all integrated marketing functions get together in person or by phone to plan your communications strategy, align messages, address individual audience needs and ensure a seamless approach. Before anything is released, be sure to have one leader who reviews all messages for clarity and consistency. Cementing relationships among all communications colleagues creates a true integrated approach and gives you the strongest foundation to build a brand from the inside out. PRN CONTACT: Diane Gage Lofgren is the senior VP of brand strategy, communications and PR at Kaiser Permanente. She can be reached via

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