Change the world


Who would have thought that internal marketing would pay off at a time like this? Where traditional marketing focuses on satisfying external customers, internal marketing focuses on keeping internal customers — that is, the employees — happy.

One of the benefits of internal marketing is empowerment to make decisions within certain guidelines and this can result in feeling that you are respected and valued.

A stronger brand reputation is another benefit.

Let me explain.

When Nelson Mandela University started working again after our autumn recess, everything was different.

We were not physically present at work, we had to work from home, using a variety of additional “tools” such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom if we wanted to have meetings.

We had been given the chance to think out of the box and come up with creative ideas on going digital.

The environment also became different as we could switch off the video camera when we had a meeting via Teams or Zoom and no-one would have been able to see that we were comfortably wearing our pyjamas.

The more technologically experienced colleagues started to assist the not-so-technologically experienced ones.

Right now we are all trying to work together to make life easier for our students when they eventually do return to campus.

All of this helps to make us feel that our top management values our input.

They take the trouble to make online training possible and staff may claim back the cost of data to a certain amount.

We also have built stronger bonds — colleagues who never spoke to one another now send motivational quotes around and we have one common goal in mind — to complete academic year 2020.

And, yes, it is extremely important to complete the academic year, not only for the physical and mental wellbeing of students and staff but also for the national economy.

We do miss the open spaces on campus where we can take a coffee break or chat, just as we miss the visits from students to our offices.

However, it’s great to know we can still make a difference in a student’s life.

By empowering employees with tools to help students to carry on learning and teaching, employees do feel that, despite the difficult circumstances, they have something to offer again.

That will make both parties satisfied — and happy internal customers mean happy external customers.

How the universities are viewed in these uncertain times will directly influence their brand reputation.

Will they be able to pull off blended and online learning, or not?

A favourable brand reputation means that students trust a specific university and feel good about studying there.

Delivering on promises will increase the brand reputation of an institution.

In other words, if we promise the students that they will be able to finish academic year 2020 and stick to our promise, the brand reputation of Nelson Mandela University will definitely increase.

You can take this message and apply it to your business: use this time to upskill your staff so that they feel valued and empowered.

Make it clear that they are appreciated and their contribution is important.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) of 6 May 2020 written by Professor Madéle Tait, Director of the School of Management Sciences in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences at Nelson Mandela University.