Virtual Book Tour: A Conversation With Sybil Stershic


It is with great delight that Diva Marketing is a stop on the virtual book tour for my dear friend Sybil_stershic_2_2 Sybil Stershic's  first book .. Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care published by WME.

Take Aways: Easy to read, Sybil's passion for the subject is evident, From concept to how to do it, Smart, Elements of social media e.g., transparency, inclusion - breaking down silos, conversations critical, A must read for everyone in management and those who aspire to those positions.

I hope you enjoy reading my conversation with the author of Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care - Ms. Sybil Stershic.

Toby/Diva Marketing: The phrase “Internal Marketing” sounds so .. well warm and fuzzy .. not very strategic. However, from Chapter 1 you set the stage that Internal Marketing is grounded in ROI with this quote from Francis Hesselbein – “Dispirited, unmotivated, underappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.”  Let’s set the record right. On a high level, what is Internal Marketing?

Sybil Stershic: Internal Marketing is a strategic blend of marketing and human resources focused on taking care of employees so they can take care of customers. While that still sounds warm & fuzzy, nonetheless it’s critical because if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers!

Toby/Diva Marketing: How does it differ from Internal Branding?

Sybil Stershic: Internal Marketing is based on the self-reinforcing relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, whereas Internal Branding is based on making the brand part of the organization’s operations to ensure employees deliver on the brand promise.  While management may use Internal Marketing to address employee and customer satisfaction and/or retention, internal branding is more likely to be used when launching a new brand or revitalizing an existing one.

Those differences aside, both approaches recognize “the brand walks around on two feet” and, as a result, are focused on engaging employees for marketing and organizational success. 

Toby/Diva Marketing: Your book not only details the many aspects of Internal Marketing but provides a tangible work path, from an Internal Marketing audit to where people can develop a customized strategy. a beginning audit to an Internal Marketing Action Plan. Looking at the Internal Marketing Audit checklist where do you find companies fall short? Why? and can you offer a few suggestions?

Sybil Stershic: Surprisingly, they fall short in remembering to communicate the organization’s overall goals and what’s expected of employees in helping achieve those goals – reinforcing  where each employee fits in the scope of the company and how the employee impacts its success.

For most companies, it’s an issue of time and, in some cases, inertia or neglect. The company gives out job descriptions to new employees, introduces them to the company in orientation, and then it’s back to business as usual. The company keeps plugging along and assumes that employees are up to speed with what’s happening in the organization. Meanwhile, face-to-face staff meetings have become almost nonexistent as they’ve been replaced by a barrage of e-mails.

Here’s what I suggest: managers need to develop a checklist of information that new employees need to know (especially in firms too small to offer a formal orientation) PLUS a checklist of regular information that all employees need to know, such as where the company is headed and what its strategy is for getting there, etc.

Managers who aren’t sure where to start with this can ask employees (those who have been with the company for a while and those who are relatively new): What information do you think new employees need to know about the organization? What do you know now that you wish you learned as a new employee?  What type(s) of information do you need to stay updated with what’s happening in our company?

Toby/Diva Marketing: What have you seen is the biggest challenge, from management’s viewpoint, in developing a successful Internal Marketing program?

Takingcarecover_2 Sybil Stershic: The reality is Internal Marketing is more than a program – it’s an ongoing effort. And it’s one that’s best implemented gradually rather than introduced as a new “flavor-of-the-month” management initiative.

I find it ironic that many companies who do Internal Marketing well aren’t necessarily aware that they’re using Internal Marketing. These are companies with a workplace culture and operations committed to the value of both customers AND employees.

For managers and employees who are not part of such companies, the challenge is to apply Internal Marketing despite members of management who don’t get what it’s all about. The good news is you can still have a positive impact by applying Internal Marketing on a “micro” basis – at the department or division level – if not throughout the organization.

Toby/Diva Marketing: You provide great examples of companies who are doing it right. Many are using recognition and rewards as part of their strategy. Sometimes a plaque or pizza party feels like a patronizing platitude. How can recognition and rewards be perceived by employees as a heartfelt “thank you?”

Sybil Stershic: It depends on the manager or management involved. Recognition is genuine when it’s given by a manager who is respected by employees.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s look at Internal Marketing from the employees’ viewpoint. How can employees contribute to the success of an Internal Marketing strategy?

Sybil Stershic: Great question, Toby, and it’s somewhat difficult to answer because Internal Marketing is really seamless.  As mentioned earlier, Internal Marketing is inherent in a workplace culture truly committed to customers and employees – beyond the usual lip service given to employees as a valuable “asset.”

Whether applied formally or informally, Internal Marketing includes any and all initiatives, activities, and programs that connect employees to three levels: to the organization, to customers, and to other employees. For example: orientation, recognition programs, customer or employee roundtables, training, departments coming together for a combined staff meeting, job shadowing, customer and/or employee appreciation events, etc.

Back to your question on how can employees contribute to the success of an Internal Marketing strategy.  They can best contribute by being open and honest with management regarding how they feel about the organization and what they can do to help it succeed; in addition, they should also share any feedback they get on how customers feel about the company and its brand(s).

Toby/Diva Marketing: It seems an exciting benefit of an Internal Marketing strategy is, call it a cross pollination among traditional corporate ‘silos.’ Would you please talk a bit about how that occurs?

Sybil Stershic: Earlier I talked about employees needing to know where they fit in the ‘big picture’ of the organization and how they can contribute to the company’s success. This is not done in a vacuum, however, as employees need to know how their work impacts others within the organization, including “internal customers” – employees whose needs must be met in order to serve the company’s customers. 

So I advocate opening up communications within as well as across departments. Some companies do this by encouraging employees to trade places or ‘shadow’ another employee to better understand that person’s job function. Departments can also host an “open house” (in real time or online) to showcase what they do. At a minimum, you can begin to break down organizational silos by opening up your staff meetings to other employees. (There I go again pushing staff meetings!) Seriously, such activities serve to create empathy and appreciation for other employees.

Toby/Diva Marketing: Let’s wrap this up by talking about the next generation work force. How do you think the Millenniums will impact the future of Internal Marketing? Do they expect a different work environment then the XYers or the Boomers?

Sybil Stershic: I believe there will still be a need for Internal Marketing as the work environment and workforce continue to evolve. Here’s why.

Despite different generational attitudes in the workplace, companies will still need to engage their employees. And that’s where Internal Marketing comes in – enabling organizations to communicate and reinforce a sense of common purpose, a sense of belonging, and a sense of being part of something special, particularly in workplace that’s becoming increasingly insular. Internal Marketing will continue to be relevant as a ‘high touch’ people-centered management approach in a ‘high tech’ world.

Thanks, Toby, for allowing me to share this with your readers.
Thank *you* Sybil!

Special Discount! WME is kindly offering a 20% discount when you purchase Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care from the WME online book store. Please the code 107VBT on the checkout page.

On The Virtual Book Tour - Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care

Lisa Rosendahl, HR Thoughts, posted a great review.
Chris Bailey, Bailey Work/Play: The Alchemy of Soulful Work, shared insights in his review.
Kevin Burns, Burns Blogs Attitude, provides his views about about Taking Care of the People. 
Toby Bloomberg Diva Marketing (moi!) a conversation with Sybil Stershic
On June 6th, Becky Carroll,  Customers Rock!, gives us a two for one .. an interview and a review.
On June 9th, Paul Hebert, Incentive Intelligence, will review Sybil's new book.
On June 10, 2008, Phil Gerbyshak will post an interview on Slacker Manager

Diva Special Treat! The first person who drops a value-add -to-the-conversation comment (as determined by Sybil herself!) will win a copy of On The Virtual Book Tour - Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most: A Guide to Employee-Customer Care.

More Sybil: Catch Sybil on the Diva Marketing Talks  podcast when she dished with me and Nettie Hartsock about being a new author.


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This was a TERRIFIC interview, Toby. I find this a very interesting discussion because there is so much 'millenial' bashing for their need to feel valued or they walk.

I have found in my journey through employment, there has been a shift from valuing the employee (showing appreciation) and a sense of family to 'employees should be grateful to have a job' as they strip them of long time employees of health care, pensions and more.

Then they criticize the next generation (millenials) for not being grateful or showing loyalty to a disloyal management.

I think they confuse selfishness and immaturity with a new generation of employees who are saying, "I'm not going to suffer through this like my parents." I value myself too much.

Remember, they watched Enron, many corporations being unmasked for the criminals they were and jobs being shipped overseas and towns literally going bankrupt over a manufacturer closing. No gold watch and retirement dinner for these folks.

So, Sybil, to phrase it as 'internal marketing' is more about the management's heart and understanding that happy employees make happy customers. It is a sound business decision...not just coddling of the new generation. Everyone wins in the bottom line.

Thank you for this interview, Toby.

Posted by: Susan Cartier Liebel on Jun 5, 2008 7:01:49 AM

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get every corporate management team to read your interview. I wrote a post on my blog in January about reducing employer liability through employee motivation. And that motivation starts with taking care of them. Sybil has it right.

Posted by: George Kittredge on Jun 5, 2008 9:07:58 AM

Ok, I'm Sybil's publisher - needed to get that out up front - but I am also a big fan of this book and its concept. I have always said your most important executives were and are the ones who do the work, not the ones sitting behind closed doors.

If we don't value our employees, if we don't SHOW them they are valued, how can we expect them to value the product or service we sell?

Sybil not only shows the benefit of that approach, she gives examples of how to accomplish it. This book is a must-read for everyone.

And Toby, what a fantastic interview. You are a pro at this! Thank you - for being so good at what you do (and for being my BBBF!)

Posted by: Yvonne DiVita on Jun 5, 2008 9:19:40 AM

@Susan - thanks for your insights. The concept of internal marketing makes so much sense to me also. It encourages an authentic boss employee relationship and it would seem employee employee too.

@George - Would love every corp mgt team to read the interview .. and of course Sybil's book. ;-) Will stop by Labor and Employment Law blog to catch your post!

@Yvonne BBF - WME did a great job in publishing this book .. that should find its way not on to book shelves of HR and managers but wide open on their desks!

Posted by: Toby on Jun 5, 2008 9:47:45 AM

I'm truly honored & humbled by this response to my book.

Susan, congratulations on winning a copy of "Taking Care of the People Who Matter Most" courtesy of Toby! You're spot on about internal marketing being "management's heart" ...

I so appreciate the wonderful and ongoing support from Yvonne and George and the rest of the WME Books team.

Special thanks to you, Toby, for your incredible interview and for encouraging me to share my message of internal marketing as a way to create a better workplace - through my blog and the many terrific bloggers you've helped me connect with over the past several years.

I hope your readers will share their comments and questions about internal marketing so we can continue this conversation.

Posted by: Sybil on Jun 5, 2008 10:39:11 AM

Toby and Sybil,

Great interview and superb information! I know the book will be very valuable to all who read it.


Posted by: Nettie Hartsock on Jun 9, 2008 11:37:22 AM

great blog and people sharing is great too

Posted by: rachel on Aug 27, 2013 5:54:07 AM

as a traditional above the line marketer I enjoy your blog!

Posted by: sarah on Aug 27, 2013 5:55:38 AM

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