When you think about who the champions of your company are, who are the first people that come to mind? Is it your board of directors? Your marketing team? Your CEO? When it comes to creating brand awareness and championing your company, your most valuable asset may be right under your nose—and it doesn’t require a hefty marketing budget to execute: your employees.
Employees often know just as much, if not more, about your brand than your marketing team. And when employees talk about the brand they represent, consumers listen. In fact, studies show that employees are more than twice as trusted as a company’s CEO, a senior executive, or an activist consumer. The impact of peer-to-peer conversations about your business, whether online or offline, cannot be overstated. Considering that word-of-mouth is one of the top influencers for buyers, how employees talk about your brand can have a big impact on your bottom line. That’s why it’s essential to implement an employee advocacy program that enables employees to sing your brand’s praises and attract top talent to your organization. An employee advocacy program gives your company’s biggest influencers—your employees—the tools and resources they need to promote your company’s brand.
Here’s how to make employee advocacy work for your business:
A meta-analysis of a decades’ worth of data by Gallup found that high employee engagement—defined as having a strong connection with one’s work and colleagues, feeling like a valued contributor and enjoying ample chances to learn—leads to higher productivity, better-quality products, and increased profitability. Providing access to learning and development opportunities, a strong work-life balance, flexible scheduling, and opportunities for advancement also go a long way to building trust and engaging employees. Research shows that employees who enjoy these benefits are happier and more productive employees. They are the individuals who are the most motivated and willing to promote your business to others.
Remember, an engaged employee is going to be a believer in your company and able to communicate the company’s vision with a high level of confidence and clarity.
Consistency is one of the keys to successful branding, and a consistent brand voice extends well beyond your product to your people. How do your employees talk about your brand to their friends and neighbors? How are they conveying your brand’s promise to their networks? You will likely need to provide training to help turn employees into brand ambassadors and guide them on how to make an impact. Many of your employees may naturally have some talent for this role. Others may need some guidance. Once you’ve identified the employees who would be comfortable being brand ambassadors, you can begin to develop the skills they’ll need, such as how to write with influence and present with persuasion.
Each of your team members has a story to tell. Your job is to help them tell it.
First and foremost, it’s important that your employees understand the value your company is providing to your customers. Your brand promise, mission, and goals should be consistently reinforced by senior leaders and managers so employees can really see the value in their work. When employees feel invested in a company’s mission and have a strong sense of purpose within the company, they are more loyal, passionate, and able to speak eloquently about your brand and why it matters. In short, they are more likely to be strong employee advocates.
Getting your message out into the world is essential, but employees should be aware of expectations when it comes to what they can and can’t share publicly. Provide clear guidelines that establish social media dos and don’ts as well as talking points for how to properly refer to your products and services. Don’t assume your employees know what they can and can’t voice publicly and don’t expect all your employees to be talking about your brand the same way. If you want them to use specific language, you must make them aware of what that language is from the start. Provide your employees with the resources they need, such as a one-page “cheat sheet” that clearly outlines your company’s key messages and talking points, and it will eliminate any unease they may feel about discussing the company’s brand. This isn’t rule-setting, this is helping employees by providing them with the resources they need to confidently, effectively advocate for your brand.
It’s no secret that consumers are suffering from advertising fatigue. To break through the content clutter, empower your employees to talk openly and honestly on social media about how they feel about your company’s mission, values, and culture.
If you’re like many employers, you were probably wary of social media when it first became popular, maybe even going so far as to ban it at work for fear that it would cause a distraction. Now that social media is used by pretty much everyone on the planet, it’s important to relax the rules. Employees who are engaged in their jobs will want to post, tweet, snap, and share about the work they’re doing, especially when it comes to organizational milestones and events.
Give your employees permission to post, tweet, and snap freely about your company. You may be pleasantly surprised at the positivity this creates for your company. Consumers are naturally wary of messages they receive through advertisements and the rhetoric of business leaders. However, consumers trust their peers. Employees with wide social networks who communicate positive messages about your company to their peers are your most valuable advocates. What’s more, allowing social media use at work increases employee job satisfaction and engagement.
Each of your team members has a story to tell. Your job is to help them tell it. You can do this by encouraging them to talk about their jobs publicly at trade shows and meetings, offering them the chance to contribute to your company’s blog and asking for their honest feedback.
Be sure to publicly recognize your employees for their contributions, and make those recognitions shareable. Giving a shout-out on social media or in a company newsletter can go a long way to boosting employee morale and elevating your brand. When employees are offered a moment in the spotlight, it makes them feel special and appreciated, which makes them feel good about the company they work for, which makes them more likely to sing your company’s praises over their various social networks.
Your employees are the stars of your company, allow them to take center stage. Then, when they share their accolades and achievements with their networks, it shines a positive spotlight on their personal brand as well as your company’s.
Make cultivating a brand spokesperson mentality throughout your organization a top priority. But be careful not to set mandates. If you make advocacy easy, fun, and worth your employees’ time, they’ll be less likely to disengage. Help your team members make the jump from employees to brand ambassadors. You’ll be happy you did.
Before you can create an effective employee advocacy program, you need a solid brand strategy.