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How to launch a new brand internally in your accounting firm

You’re busy going through a rebrand and you can’t wait to show it to the world.

Before you do so, the first people who need to experience your new brand are your team. They’re the ones who will be living out your brand day to day so they need to understand it and see how it connects with your firms’ culture and values.

Bringing your team in too early in the branding process could cause issues as there will be too many personal opinions. Leaving your team out completely means you may struggle to get buy-in once you’ve created your brand. So what’s the answer?

Go through the brand process with as few people as possible and only those who have decision making power and/or who will directly be involved in the marketing for your firm. You might be thinking, “But aren’t the team valuable? Don’t they deserve to have a say?” Absolutely, but now is not the time. The more people you have in the branding process, the harder it will be to come to a decision because people have different opinions and different likes and dislikes.

However, have regular sessions with the rest of your team to keep them up to date with the rebranding process. You could dedicate some time to do this in a weekly team meeting or have a separate session every couple of weeks just to talk about the branding process. Your team will appreciate being kept informed because they want to be part of the story. Remember, it’s their brand too.

Educate your team. Help them to understand what brand is, how it fits in with your marketing, how it affects the way you do literally everything at your firm – your processes, systems, hiring, prospecting etc. Find ways to take them on the branding journey with you.

Before you have identified and fully crafted your brand, you’ll need to set up at least 3 sessions (some of these could be split into 2 sessions) with your team so you can chat about your client’s story, your values and your tone of voice. These 3 elements are a crucial part of your brand and it’s critical to involve your whole team in these stages.

1. Hold a client story session with the team to work on your firms’ story:

Your brand is so much more than just your name and your logo. What’s the story behind all of that? As Donald Miller says in Building a Storybrand, “your client is the hero and you are the guide.”

Image from Building a Story Brand, by Donald Miller

Together with your team, talk about who you serve. Who is the hero in your story? Who is your ideal audience? Who do you love working with? Who do you not enjoy working with and why?

Once you’ve identified your hero, think about their pain points. What problems are they dealing with? What’s keeping them up at night? Why are they getting in touch with you in the first place?

Think about what makes you the guide in the story. How do you show empathy and authority?

What plan or solutions do you have for your ideal audience that will fix the problems they have?

Look at the opportunities for success for those who choose to work with you and what failure could look like if your prospects choose not to work with you.

Once you’ve been through this process with your team, take your findings to your management team or your marketing team (whoever you are doing the rebranding process with). It’s so important to have your team’s input in this part of the process because they are the ones dealing with the clients directly. They hear your clients’ pain points first hand. They are on the receiving end of all the questions your clients ask.

To get the team fully invested, help them to understand why the story is so important. Encourage them to go through the Accelerator so they can see the big picture and how all the pieces of marketing fit together. There’s a team option so anyone who’s interested can attend at the same time.

2. Hold a Values session with the team:

Hold an in person team meeting or a virtual session over Zoom to discuss who you are as a firm. What’s important to you? What are your values?

We’d suggest about 90 mins for this session or two 1 hour sessions spread a couple weeks apart. You could do this on your own or get the help of PF to guide you and keep everyone on track.

We’ve had a couple of sessions with clients where the team are shy and don’t talk much. This is very normal as it’s generally a new topic for your team. Tell them what you’ll be discussing before the meeting so they can come ready with their thoughts and ideas. Ask them good questions to pull out their thoughts and opinions.

Ask them:

  • What do we strive to achieve?
  • What words do we use constantly that describe our behaviour and the behaviour we want our clients to have?
  • Who do you think we are?
  • What characteristics do you think we have as a firm?’
  • If you had to describe our firm as a person, what would they look like and how would they act?
  • What makes us different from other accounting firms?
  • What do we offer that other firms don’t?

3. Hold a Tone of Voice session with the team:

Hold an in-person team meeting or a virtual team meeting to discuss your firms’ tone of voice. Your tone of voice shows how you express your values so it’s important to have this session after the values session so those values are top of mind.

Explain to the team what tone of voice is before the session so they come to the session with a good understanding of what will be covered and get them to think about a few questions.

Ask the team:

  • What words do you use often?
  • What words don’t you use?
  • What style and tone do you carry?
  • Do you use swear words? If so, in what situations?
  • Do you use emojis?
  • How do you show individuality amongst the team whilst still carrying the same tone and style?

After the session, document the agreed words somewhere that everyone can access. Ensure that you share the sheet with everyone in your team, including new employees when they join your firm. Once your brand is defined, get the tone of voice sheet designed so it’s visually appealing too.

Once you’ve gone through each branding session with your marketing or management team, give feedback to your team to let them know what you’ve learnt and what decisions you’ve made.

After the rebrand is done, here is how you can share the new brand with your team:

Tell your brand story

Tell the story of your brand so your team really appreciates where it comes from and how it came about. Get a brand book created for internal use that covers who you are, who you serve, your values and your tone of voice. Give a brand book to each team member so they have it to refer to whenever they need it. Talk about your story on your website, record videos for social and discuss it with your team whenever it feels relevant.

Your team needs to be able to tell the brand story in their own words as well.

Show your team how they fit into the story: how they’re a part of it, how they can lean into the values behind the brand, how they can live into it every day.

It’s your responsibility to ensure your team understands the firm’s brand and how it affects your marketing as a whole and ultimately, your firm.

Make sure the values are felt across the team

You must live and breathe your core values. They aren’t just something stuck on a wall in an office.

Your team doesn’t have to be able to recite the values descriptions word for word but if asked what we mean by a value, they need to be able to describe the value in a similar way to other team members.

Find ways to include your values in your processes and systems so they are felt across the team daily.

Include them in your hiring process – skill level and values fit need to be recognised equally when it comes to hiring a new team member. Show your values on your careers or hiring page so the applicant knows what to expect before applying.

At PF, stage 6 of our hiring process includes the applicant completing a values fit questionnaire. The questions are designed to see if the applicant is a values match. We ask questions which help us to see how closely they are aligned to our pillars and values. For example, one of our questions is ??”How and when do you take time off?’ and it helps us to see if the applicant prioritises rest, which is one of our 4 pillars.

Refer to them in performance reviews – before each performance review, the PF team completes a form to share how they have lived out our pillars and values over the last few months. Just like the values fit questionnaire, the questions allow us to see how the team members have lived out the values and not just if they did or not.

So instead of saying ‘have you been gracious?’, the question might be ‘how have you shown graciousness to your clients and team members?’. This helps us to see whether we are leaning into our company values.

Have a values channel on Slack – if you use Slack or something similar, have a particular channel dedicated to your values. Use it to share how someone in the team (or even a client) has lived out your firm’s values.

Have a team meeting based on your values – At PF, we have a recognition team meet once every 4 weeks where we recognise a team member or a client for living out one or more values. We mention the value and tell the story about how they lived out the value. If you recognise clients, don’t forget to let them know they were mentioned in your team meeting. Kind words go a long way.

Use values to resolve difficult client situations – There will always be tricky client situations to deal with. In order to have good, strong relationships with our clients, expect them to live up to your values as well. For example at PF, if a client isn’t being gracious, showing transparency, collaborating or taking responsibility (to name a few), we talk with them about it and listen to what’s going on in their life and business, and talk about how we can help. It’s a two way street and you need to have and meet expectations from both sides.

Help your team understand the firms’ tone of voice

Your tone of voice (TOV) is an expression of your values. Your values are what you say as a firm, and the tone of voice is how you say it.

If you haven’t already got one, get a tone of voice document created. On it, show words you use and don’t use. List words and phrases that are key for you and your messaging. Do you swear? Do you use emojis? What tone do you use when you are communicating with clients and prospects? Are you sarcastic, light hearted, funny, warm, authoritative, firm or caring?

Not only will this help your existing team members, but it will also help any businesses you work with who create content for you. It will also be a great tool for training and onboarding new team members.

Give your team any training they need on how to adapt to or embody your TOV. Don’t be disheartened if it takes time to achieve the right tone of voice, because it will. People don’t take on a tone of voice overnight, even if they do live into the values and are a great fit for your team.

“I’ve made loads of progress with the PF tone of voice, but I’m continuously working on it and at times, I need to be reminded of the difference between how I would say something, and how PF would say something. Your team will never represent your TOV in the exact same way, but as long as it fits with who you truly are, it will keep evolving.”

Steph Coward, Marketing Manager at PF

Redesign your teams’ office space

Your brand isn’t a logo stuck on the front door of your office. That’s one small part of your brand only. The whole brand needs to continue through the office and be not only visible everywhere, but felt everywhere too.

Get signage printed – Start at the front door and think about all the areas your clients and team will see on a daily basis. Get some signage printed for outside your office space (at the entrance) and your reception area, as those are the first places people see when they enter your offices.

Heighten Accountants does this well and even has their trading times and contact info embossed on their glass doors.

Buy furniture and decor pieces in your brand colours – Heighten’s brand colours are blue, green, yellow and black. They have blue chairs and cushions, green plants and yellow decor pieces as accents throughout the office. They have even created branded wall clocks in their colours.

The mountain image in their reception area is the same image from their website which will help prospects and clients to connect them with what they have already seen on their site. This builds familiarity and trust.

Decorate your meeting/board room with your new logo or imagery – Heighten have painted one of the walls black in their meeting room so it doesn’t detract from the TV screen on the wall. On the other wall, they have their logo on a perspex sign. It’s very subtle but it does the job of continually reminding you about the brand.

If your team works from home, give them stickers for their computers and branded artwork for their walls – Many of your team may still be working from home or you may have a hybrid model where the team works from home for part of the week. If this is the case, try your best to carry the brand through to their home offices as well.

We created this artwork for Saint & Co which shows off their values.

You could also get stickers made with your logo that your team could stick on their laptops, screens, or notebooks. Have a look here for some great printing companies.

Celebrate individual pillars or values that align with your brand

While the team works together, it’s important to celebrate what makes each member different. We hire and fire by our core values, but we also appreciate we all have our own values that are important to us. You still want your team to bring their own personalities to work and express themselves. For example, maybe you have a ‘no jeans’ rule but some people may get dressed up in a suit with stiletto heels and others may wear trousers with a golf tee. Both could be fine depending on your brand, whilst still allowing team members to express their individuality.

At PF, we have our own 5 individual pillars. These are 5 things that are important to us personally. If you know what’s important to someone else, it’s easier to build a strong relationship, especially if you are working virtually and don’t spend all day together. Some team members may also find comfort knowing someone else in the team likes or does the same things as them outside of work.

We each have our pillars on our website bios as well as on a PF mug. It also makes for a great conversation starter when we use our mug in client calls. It helps to build relationships and trust, find connections and remind us that we are all human.

Gift your team some cool SWAG

You want people to feel the part? Then they need to look the part.

If your team is seeing clients in person or over zoom, attending events, networking or even sitting in the back office, it’s important they feel the part. It’s a subtle reminder of your brand colours and style. And what’s better than pulling on a great hoodie on a cold day!

A few SWAG ideas include hoodies, caps, tshirts, mugs, and notebooks. Ask your team what they would like. Make sure your team is actually going to wear the clothing you get made before you spend time and effort designing them.

Get a proper designer to create your clothing swag for you. It’s not just about sticking your logo onto a hoodie or t-shirt. And make sure the type of swag or clothing you create fits with your brand, too. PF chose hoodies to fit with our relaxed, comfortable, human brand style.

Here’s a list of places we get our SWAG from.

Prepare for both positive and negative responses from your team and help them feel comfortable with both

 

“Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by discomforts”Arnold Bennett

Your brand isn’t for you or your team. Just like all your marketing materials, everything you do is created for the people you serve.

Some people may be thrilled about a new brand and want to celebrate it any chance they get. Most people are resistant to change, and the less involved they are in the process, the more chance of resistance you may feel. You might hear things like “I don’t feel like this is us” or “why fix what’s not broken?” They might not like the new colours, or have a difference of opinion on imagery or tone of voice.

Encourage them to dig deep into why they might feel like this. Talk about what’s behind the feelings they have. Ask good questions:

  • What feelings does the new brand give you?
  • What feels scary about this change?
  • What part about the new brand doesn’t feel like us? Doesn’t fit the kind of clients we love?
  • What kind of clients might find this brand appealing? Do we want those clients?
  • Is there anything we are missing with this new brand?

Your team (and even you too) may be worried about how existing clients could feel. Yes, a brand is for your existing clients; but it’s also aspirational. You’re showing who your firm truly is so all your future clients can decide if they’re ready to work with you. Sometimes a new brand highlights legacy clients who connected with the dated, historical version of your firm which no longer exists. If that’s the case, your new brand is going to do its job by either bringing them alongside to who the new firm now is, or will send them away because they no longer fit (and you’ll be glad to see them go). Let the brand do its job. You’re not rebranding to keep the status quo.

If there are people who are really against the change to a new brand, think about what that reveals about their connection to the firm as it is today (not the firm they joined years ago). Do they live out your current values? Do they have the same (or at least similar) firm goals as the rest of the team? Are they in the right seat? You may need to make a few changes in your team too.

While you are going through the rebranding process, talk to your team. Keep them involved and let them know what they might feel upon the reveal of their new brand. Lots of the clients we work with don’t love their new logo straight away. This is a completely normal reaction.

They need time to sit with it, to read the story about why it’s designed the way it is. To understand how the values connect with the logo. They need to see all the little pieces that make up the brand. The website, the social media platforms, the printed materials, the swag. Only then do they start to really love the logo, because they see how it fits in with the bigger picture.

A brand isn’t just about the logo. The logo is just the start of a brand. From there, we can develop assets, images, designs and content to build the brand. We created a logo for a client that he didn’t love right away. Once he saw his business card, his letterhead, his social media templates and the website homepage, he saw the bigger picture. He saw how all the pieces worked together to make up his brand. Now he absolutely loves his brand!

When it comes to your team, you need to ask everyone’s opinion and you want honest answers. But remember, when you ask, you receive. And everyone’s opinion is not going to match yours, and that’s okay.

Your team won’t simply ‘get it’ upon first explanation. Remember, brand work and marketing isn’t necessarily what they were hired to do. You need to educate them about the concept of a brand and what it’s all about. Give them the chance to understand how much the brand affects the different elements of the firm. Sign them up for the team Accelerator and give them the tools they need to process what brand involves.

And remember that any change is hard. But most changes are good. They allow you to take a step back, look at things from a different angle and adjust, improve, and be better. A better team means a better firm which means you’re able to help your clients even more.

“To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” – Winston Churchill