By Gloria Lombardi

Unify – formerly known as Siemens Enterprise Communications – is one of the world’s leading communications software and services firms. Their rebranding marks a new chapter in the history of the 165-year-old company, and created a new brand in unified communications externally and a challenge for its 10,000 employees worldwide.

Head of Social Media Sally Harrison, and Vice President of Global Communications Tim Bishop, describe the employee engagement implications of the Unify rebranding.

A deep, transformative journey

Siemens is one of the pioneers of the unified communications market – providing integrated communications solutions for approximately 75 percent of the Global 500. Since 2008, Siemens Enterprise Communication has been 51% owned by the Gores Group with Siemens holding the remaining 49%. With this ownership structure, the desire to create a new identity based on our fundamental customer proposition – was very very strong. One thing was clear though – with such a well known and strong brand as Siemens – this had to be a rebrand – not just a rename.

At the core of Unify is Project Ansible. Born out of the company’s engineering DNA, it is the enterprise platform introduced to the market in June and considered to be the next generation of open collaboration and real-time communications. “With Project Ansible , our customers communicate and work with their colleagues without the need of switching from one application to another. All their digital components are unified,” explains Bishop.

For the rebranding, the internal communications team had to ensure employees understood the key values and promise of the new brand, their own roles to make Project Ansible a success, as well as instill pride and enthusiasm in the Unify’s future direction.

Striking the balance between building understanding and creating surprise

Although the business had announced its rebranding in June 2013, the name Unify was kept secret not only outside the business but also internally to employees.

That provided buzz, excitement and surprise, but also a challenge for the internal communications team which had to strike the balance between providing employees with the all the necessary information to understand the rebranding, giving them a say about the change, while also preventing any leaks about the new name – or distracting from daily business.

Communicating the brand attributes

From June up to October, the company started to share internally the logic for the rebranding, with focus and attention on communicating the brand values. Some of these attributes were already established deeply in the culture of the company, such us ‘expertise’ and ‘trustworthiness’. Some others, like ‘connected’, ‘vibrant’, and ‘transformative’, were introduced to reflect the new direction of the business.

Communications around the values were done primarily through the use of videos; audio and videos are in fact well rooted in the company’s heritage. Some of these films displayed leadership explaining the reasons of the rebranding, why it was a good time for the organisation to change, what would be the impact, potential risks and opportunities.

In parallel, the internal communications team launched an employee image/ video competition, were colleagues were asked to contribute with their own images/ films on the meaning of the brand attributes to them. “We wanted our employee to be part of the rebranding journey, making them feel at the centre of the transformation as well as familiarise with the new values,” explains Harrison. The initiative was very successful, with more than 100 videos created by colleagues around the world. These were collected and made into a final movie.

Involving top management

From the start, Harrison and Bishop had strong faith in the success of the transformation, while also being aware that you “have to get the buy-in from senior management,” emphasises the VP of Global Communications. The company organised a face-to-face meeting with all the global top managers of the company. This aimed at creating a conversation, and providing them with all the necessary information and materials to understand the change. Once the top managers were back to their local teams, they were able to run cascades workshops, which rolled out deep in the organisation making the brand real at a personal and team level.

Sharing the story

The transformation was also an opportunity for revisiting and rewriting the company story with strong attention given to Project Ansible and the concept of unified communications. In a very simple, short and concise format the internal communications team shared a set of points highlighting: “Here is where we come from; here is what we did over the last few years; here is where we are now; here is where we are going,” explains Bishop. This helped to give clarity and diffuse uncertainty around the future of the organisations and implications for employees.

Social media at the core

A key element of the rebranding strategy was the social media campaign, ‘Our time is now’. It was run from 1st October to 14th October through #harmonizenow, and on 15th October through #unifynow (once the name Unify was revealed).

Designed to have an impact, the social initiative required a great deal of work internally, which began in 2012. It involved measuring employees social skills, training staff, giving them guidance, and providing them with clear – yet not overwhelming – policies.

The company encouraged employees to use the existing social media channels such us Xing (since a great number of colleagues are based in Germany), Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Communicating through social media was a massive step change for the company, being a very traditional corporation with many rules and regulations. “But the world is changing. Sharing and expanding our audience and messaging at that crucial time for our business, turned to be a real strength.”

No need for costly advertising; the challenge focussed on the simple business of “leveraging the power that was already existing inside the organisation”, and keeping people interested. They selected a group of 100 champions worldwide. These were the company’s top social media influencers who became ambassadors of the new brand. “They contributed massively to the reach and richness of the company’s communications while setting an example to other employees less ‘social’” says Harrison.

For Harrison it was surprising to see how many employees started to engage socially, how much content they shared. She believes key to this success was the clear purpose given colleagues for using social media. “With that, they jumped in and did it.”

Bishop agrees: “for me and from an internal communications perspective it boils down to having had a really meaningful purpose. While in the personal life many people like to share and post on social media, in the business environment, unless there is a real business purpose to do it, people can get very quickly relegated into a ‘I will do that when I have got time’.”

Celebrating Unify

The 15th October 2013 launch event was very much the day of celebration with a massive event in Munich with over 1000 people attending it. There were also 60 more events around the world with people coming together to celebrate the new brand.

On the occasion, Harrison’s team used an idea originated from the London 2012 Olympics Game. They nominated ‘games makers’, employees who infectiously, and enthusiastically welcomed people, made sure everything ran on time, and helped to hand out the merchandise. “Do not underestimate merchandise in these kind of events, ” says Harrison. “People want to see, they want to touch, that is a way of being involved”.

The company wanted all their home-based workers to feel part of the celebration, which is the reason why they live-streamed all the events.

Measurement and results

Was the official launch a success? “The atmosphere was full of excitement with the rebrand extremely well received and understood” says Harrison.

Easier said than proved, naturally. However, Bishop describes the efforts put into the measurement activities run throughout the journey, and how the company tracked improvements.

Starting a year ago they developed ‘Brand Pulse’. This was a simple on-line survey aimed at understanding whether employees saw the new brand as a cause of anxiety or an opportunity for the business.

To that, they added ‘whole-minded questions’ with employee engagement being at the core. These captured both the rational and emotional attachment of employees to the cause, with questions such as ‘Do you understand our rebranding?’, ‘Do you feel positive about the rebranding?’, ‘Do you believe that it will be a success?’, and ‘Do you know what role you will play?’

The survey was repeated constantly every quarter. From the beginning, that measurement gave useful feedback to the internal communications team in understanding where the organisation was, and where they needed to put more energy on. In June, 56% of employees understood the ‘why’ of the company rebranding; a figure which jumped to 92% after the post-rebrand in October; ‘I am excited about the new brand’ went from 40% to 67%.

According to Bishop, the measurement initiative was itself a means of boosting employee engagement around the rebranding experience since people felt they had been given consideration from the start.

“The extraordinary thing for us is to see how overwhelmingly colleagues want the company, Project Ansible and the whole UC concept to be successful. We are aligned and committed to provide value to our customers.”

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This article originally appeared on simply-communicate