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15 Minutes With...Allan Steinmetz

Steinmetz currently describes his company as an ‘internal/external branding, change management communications, team alignment and market research consulting firm.’

Allan Steinmetz built Inward Strategic Consulting from the ground up starting in 1998 under essentially the same premise as Enterprise Engagement – i.e., that the success of a brand and its business depends upon the ability to engage the internal audience as much as the external.

But Steinmetz doesn’t call his company an Engagement Agency or consultancy…not yet anyway. The terms he uses are “Internal Branding” and “Brand Engagement,” but check out his website and you’ll see the philosophy and intent are pretty much the same as Enterprise Engagement.

Premise and Process

Steinmetz currently describes his company as an “internal/external branding, change management communications, team alignment and market research consulting firm,” and if you’re familiar with the Enterprise Engagement Alliance curriculum framework, you’ll understand his company’s basic premise and process. Using slightly different terminology and drawing upon much of the same research as the EEA (and well before its existence), Steinmetz has demonstrated in a compelling way the model for the new Engagement Agency based on applying a formal implementation framework and outsourcing key components as needed to provide an integrated solution.

It’s no surprise that he helped pioneer the creation of an internal branding agency, or a formal implementation process for that matter. Steinmetz was the Senior VP and Corporate Director of Marketing for Arthur D. Little, and Worldwide Director of Marketing and Communications for Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). Prior to that, he was a Vice President with Young and Rubicam for 10 years.

“The first thing I realized was that we needed a formal process to implement internal branding… Organizations cannot implement anything without a system,” he explains, concerning the creation of his company’s implementation process. Again, the overall framework closely aligns with that of the Enterprise Engagement curriculum, with the exception of what he describes as a “secret sauce” around the architecture of communication.

In-House, Outsource

In truth, Inward Strategic Consulting is really the paradigm of the Engagement Agency. In many ways it resembles a cross between a management consulting and agency model – no surprise, given Steinmetz’s background. His company has in-house project management, market research, creative and content, but just like an agency it outsources much of the tactical implementation.

The key is that his organization takes responsibility for strategy design and implementation, as one can see in the multiple case studies he provides that bring to life just how engagement is applied in multiple media with varying learning, collaboration, innovation and measurement strategies. Steinmetz says he doesn’t make money on media placement or rewards and recognition; almost everything is based on fees. He notes that after feeling the pinch of the recession, his business has taken off over the past two years.

When asked why he believes that interest appears to be growing in the field today, Steinmetz suggests that social networking might have provided the tipping point, noting that it has placed unprecedented power into the hands of both consumers and employees and has made it increasingly possible for organizations to manage and measure their relationships on a one-on-one basis.

Tactical vs. Strategic

What’s his most critical challenge? Not competition, he readily admits. He rattles off a number of different well-known names in consulting and marketing that talk about internal branding, but Steinmetz says he feels most of them are still looking at Internal Branding and Brand Engagement from a tactical rather than strategic or “agency” standpoint – in other words, they sell one particular solution related to training, communications, collaboration, rewards & recognition, etc. rather than a zero-based solution that integrates all of the key components under a strategic plan.

His biggest problem, he says, is finding people who understand the tools of his trade, because so few people fully grasp this still-emerging field. But that also gives him a competitive edge because his company is much further along than most potential competitors in understanding how to implement fully integrated programs using different vendors.

Not a bad thing.

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