Category: Branding

Employee engagement at BDHT: Doing it because you want to, not because you’re told to

A couple of weeks ago I shared a picture on LinkedIn of the ‘Little book of Thank Yous’ my husband had brought home from his annual staff conference with employer Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT). It got 20 Likes- many of which were from people I am not directly connected to. I like to think I started something that went viral!

Joking aside, I was quite surprised at the response. Here’s the post:



I think the positive reaction to this piece of internal communications which included a bold statement that it qualified as #CommsHero work, perhaps shows how immature the concept of employee engagement still is.

Companies have long recognised the ‘happy staff = happy customers = profit’ cycle but despite this, many still fail at identifying their key internal messages and communicating these in a way that resonates with the workforce.

In my husband’s case, his employer’s message was one of thanks. BDHT’s book of Thank You’s contained small but powerful ‘favours’ in return for all the hard work of the staff, for example an extra hour in bed and a cup of tea made by management. For my husband, this translates into good feeling, into appreciation of the recognition, into wanting to carry on being effective at his job so he can continue to work in partnership to achieve positive outcomes for customers. It really does go very deep.

Internal communications should be treated with as much, if not more, importance than external communications. If you’re trying to drive forward a new company culture, a set of values or ‘way of doing things’, you need to approach the ‘campaign’ in the same way as any customer or corporate marketing with stages of analysis, planning, execution and evaluation. It’s about knowing your audience, developing appropriate messages, choosing the most effective mix of communications tools and testing awareness and engagement so you can be sure when it is no longer a ‘campaign’ but is truly embedded.

My husband’s company are also very good at being consistent. His Personal Development Plan contains questions like: ‘How can you contribute to BDHT’s success?’ and ‘How have you been able to develop BDHT to feel like ONE team? What would you like to do?’ I am also told that the Chief Exec has a genuine ‘open door’ policy. BDHT has successfully created a clear vision for the organisation where staff feel they can personally grow, where their wellbeing is really important and they can give something back to the communities BDHT works in.

BDHT personal development plan
The BDHT Personal Development Plan

What is your internal communications like? Do you effectively engage your staff? Would the way they speak about your company to their friends delight you?

Let me know about the best piece of employee engagement communications you have seen by leaving a comment. 


We need to have a quick chat about the loo…

This month I had the pleasure of travelling on the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to Brussels. The experience from booking our trip to arriving back home has made Eurostar stick in my mind as an example of a business that truly understands how to convert a set of brand values into behaviours and marketing communications.

From the copy on their website to the toilet signs on-board the train, the tone of voice from Eurostar is:

  • Friendly, helpful, no-nonsense, fun, young and trendy.

It makes me want to engage in a long-term relationship with them. It makes me feel comfortable in my purchase and that I know what to expect in return for my money.

It’s the detail like: “That’s as long as each item is no bigger than 85cm…” and “…so make sure they’re not too heavy”, and “We need to have a quick chat about the loo” that works for me.

Screen shot of Eurostar baggage page
Eurostar website baggage page- informal language makes this effective
Photo of toilet sign on Eurostar train
We need to have a quick chat about the loo…

We know in life that sometimes the service delivered doesn’t match up to customer expectations. (The Marketing-Geek in me wants to tell you about the Serv-Qual model here). But with Eurostar the complete opposite happened.

My expectations were very high and Eurostar certainly delivered. My friend Vicky (I write about her quite a bit!) broke her foot on our trip and needed wheelchair assistance. Eurostar arranged this with no forward planning by us. They collected Vicky from our connecting train, wheeled her through customs, waited while we bought some coffees, got us on the train before everyone else, and supported her UK-side too.

While we were on the train home I spotted another piece of advertising that I liked:

“If you have any ideas about things we could improve, or fancy letting us know where we’ve got something spot on, text us…”

I like the informality of this and indeed it was effective- (I had to let them know our carriage smelt of wee!) (Oh how relevant that toilet sign really was!)

A poster asking for customer feedback on the Eurostar
A poster asking for customer feedback on the Eurostar

So Eurostar’s brand values, which came through in their messaging was also prevalent in their personality as delivered by their fantastic staff. The only let-down was an unfortunate smelling return journey. Smell aside, this adds up to make a proposition that sets them apart, for me at least, in the travel industry. I feel the value added through engaging communications and a service that marries up to the expectations they set, is unique.

brand proposition
A model for brand development

Have you had any similar experiences?

In-house or outsourcing: keeping Marketing in the family or farming it out

I was recently at a seminar where we debated the merits of using a consultancy firm to deliver brand development, versus keeping it in-house.

Choosing whether to outsource the marketing function, projects or tasks, or manage it in-house, is a decision faced by most organisations at some point. The key to making the right choice, in my view, lies in asking the following questions:

1. Do we have the right mix of skills at the right level?

Sometimes a skill is needed for just a short period of time. For example initial brand development is often a one-off activity and a business could be better off employing someone with transferable marketing skills rather than a brand development expert, drawing on the expert at certain times. If the project or task at hand requires a skill set that you don’t already possess in-house and the business can’t or isn’t willing to gear up to fill gaps, you’re almost left with no option but to outsource.

If the organisation employs the right sort of people but they don’t have the influence or decision making ability needed ‘in the moment’, then outsourcing is definitely the better option. But don’t forget, managing an agency is a special skill all of its own and if not done well, can be as resource intensive as managing in-house delivery.

2. Can we be creative enough?

It takes time to be creative. It also takes space.

In-house marketing and design can become stale simply because we don’t have the head-space to give the creative process the treatment it deserves. We’re too busy ‘doing the day job’ to come up with anything new or different. If a project or your marketing strategy needs a creative kick, a consultancy firm can often be your knight in shining armour.

3. Does the ‘problem’ need a fresh pair of eyes?

If you stare at a circle for long enough, it can start to look like a square. An outsider looking in can be just what you need if you’re looking to change direction.

Consultants can also be very useful for telling the Board or your senior team something they may not want to hear. Feedback from outside the business can evoke a very different response to the same message given internally. Using consultants sparingly but at the right moments in time can often give a much needed nudge.

4. Does the context we’re working in mean only we can make the right decisions?

All companies have their quirks. Sometimes businesses can be so complex that it would take longer to communicate the nuances to an outsider than it would to deliver what is needed in-house.

In the case of the long view a good relationship with a consultancy firm who get to know your business well enough to overcome the quirks but still provide innovative approaches, can pay back dividends. If your business is full of obstacles and the project you’re working on is short term, it may be that in-house delivery is the most efficient route.

5. Does our culture lend itself to outsourcing?

The bigger a company gets the less likely it is that there will be a need to outsource marketing (or any function for that matter).

Size aside, some organisations are simply better at outsourcing than others. And some organisations are better at knowing what marketing will work for them and how to recruit the best talent to get the job done in-house.

For outsourcing to work, the organisation’s culture needs to be one where relationships with suppliers are open and transparent and decisions can be made in good time. A good agency will tell you things you didn’t know. It will also tell you things you didn’t even realise you needed to know! Culturally, you need to gear up to act on this valuable information.

Managing marketing in-house and outsourcing it both have a place depending on the context. Essentially if you employ good marketing managers they’ll be able to manage the process either way.

I’d love to hear your view. Leave me a comment…