5 minutes with… Chris Moriarty

In November 2018, the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM) officially rebranded into the Institute of Workplace and Facilities Management (IWFM). The professional body had revealed its intention to change name nine months earlier and just two weeks after Chris Moriarty, its newly appointed director of insight, had returned from a two-year stint as UK managing director of workplace experience benchmarking business Leesman. Moriarty, though, is keen to point out that he didn’t wield so much power as to completely realign the Institute’s strategy just 14 days after re-joining.

The transformation into the IWFM had begun, in fact, long before the announcement and comprised hundreds of hours of meetings between senior figures, research in partnership with independent FM and workplace consultants 3edges, and direct consultation with members. The change wasn’t just a new name and fresh logo; it represented a bold new direction for the Institute.

The notion that the workplace can be designed, curated and managed to improve employee experience and productivity isn’t new. Since the publication of Herman Miller’s seminal book The office: A facility based on change in 1968, facilities managers, architects and designers have been making that exact point. And yet an undeniable shift has begun to take place within the FM profession in recent years, as more and more practitioners recognise ‘workplace’ as a bona-fide discipline in its own right.

The link between FM and workplace seems self-evident. Both disciplines belong in the same organisational ecosystem. But that fact didn’t mean the IWFM could rest on its laurels. As a professional body that represents a community of more than 17,000 people, the Institute had to tread carefully and deliver a rebrand that would form a solid basis for the future.

Magenta’s content manager, Simon Iatrou, sat down with Moriarty to learn more about the Institute’s recent rebranding journey.

You were head of communications for the Chartered Institute of Marketing before your first stint at what was then the BIFM. Did you have any previous experience in big rebranding exercises?

I’ve been involved in a number of projects where we are trying to shift perceptions of a current brand, but this was the first time where I’ve helped to launch a whole new proposition.

The catalyst for the for the rebrand to IWFM – the emergence of workplace as a bona-fide discipline – is pretty clear. But it represents a brave new direction for the Institute in many ways. How important has the rebranding been to the overall process?

It all depends on what you mean by rebranding. A marketing purist will bemoan the views of those who say it’s simply a change to the look and feel. Most of the work we did on our rebranding centred around the change of proposition, the change of position and with that the rationale behind our change in name. But, actually, we’re sending a very clear message to the market that workplace and facilities management is what we’re about now and this is what we believe.

It became a different process for us compared with, say, the rebranding of a conventional commercial organisation because our objective in making the change was to reposition what facilities managers do and to reframe expectations of the profession. In reframing ourselves we, in turn, reframe the professional groups that we represent. This added an important dimension to the project because we had to make the case for the change to our members and the wider profession. The Institute had already laid the groundwork for this, including building a robust evidence base during 2017 and early 2018.

Once we had won the support of members for the change, we found the most challenging and resource intensive part of the rebrand to be distilling IWFM’s core purpose into a new mission and vision and developing a new tone of voice, which meant going through all the material that we had and thinking about how we speak both to existing and new audiences. How have we been speaking? Does it reflect the organisation we want to be? Language and voice became critical. In redesigning the website and all our materials, we wanted the new logo and images to be visually appealing, but what we are saying and how we are saying it was much more important because that’s the validation of the promise.

Are you able to articulate at the moment what work still needs to be done or what the organic evolution of the IWFM brand might look like?

We’ve used a quote from workplace expert and author Neil Usher: “The workplace is being in perpetual beta.” We’ve said to ourselves that we shouldn’t assume this project has finished. Yes – there was a massive package of work that needed to be done for 19th November 2018, which was like turning a big switch on, but since then we’ve been releasing updates on the website and making lots of other plans.

How have you seen the IWFM’s rebranding efforts take effect across the entire institute?

It’s important that the brand works internally as well as externally. If we say we’re all about professional development, but we don’t develop our people, that just won’t do. When rebrands land, you should start to see a change in all aspects of the way that you work, and how you are represented.

We put a three-year plan in place, which I believe is a good timescale. The reality, however, is that you cannot take so many people in such a big journey in the same instant. The massive leap we took externally in 2018 was based on a year of research and rewiring behind the scenes in 2017. We need to maintain the momentum of the rebrand into and beyond 2019, but we want to do more internal work so we can live up to our ambition to become a modern professional body. This time last year, so much of what we had planned was sitting in the hands of our members ahead of the AGM. We would have done a lot of the same work but under a different name – but we had to get out there and see what our members wanted.

Rebranding is about looking inside and out – your people and your culture and what you’re about. We need to cover both bases.

To read more on the issue of branding and rebranding strategy, download Magenta’s new report – ‘Building a new brand’.

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Ben Keeley