Employee advocacy – the promotion of an organization by its own staff – is increasing in popularity, recognition and value.
It can also be an important catalyst in enhancing a brand’s reputation while resulting in employees who are more engaged, more productive and more committed.
Brands can augment their reputations with carefully chosen employee advocates. The benefits include extending brand reach, making the brand seem more approachable and “human.” Readers can do without another “I am not a robot” box to check on a form. Companies can cultivate trust by showcasing the talent of their own people through authentic content.
Cisco reported that the combined social networks of employees generally are 10 times larger than those of corporate brands. And even though ”word of mouth” advertising is old school in its longevity, it remains relevant and authentic. Word travels more quickly and with greater reach in cyberspace when all one simply has to do is post a comment or hit “send.”
A well-orchestrated employee advocacy program helps your staff better understand the brand. How can customers understand what you do if your employees are not sure themselves? A Gallup poll indicated nearly 75% of employees believe they are missing out on company information. It may be the case of a company official stating, “As you all know…” when employees in fact do not know because they were never informed in the first place by the very people responsible for informing them. When only about four in 10 associates can say with conviction what their company does, there needs to be greater internal planning and education before initiating an external campaign. Employees can retain their own voice while speaking in a common language on behalf of the company when they know the expected parameters.
Reach your workforce and connect with your associates first before looking outside your company for influencers. Let their newfound confidence and enthusiasm be contagious once they are armed with clear and empowering messages. The resulting information will benefit the marketing of the company. It will boost the desirability of your organization with the general public, social networks and industry specific representatives as a great place to work. It will position your organization as a thought leader with an energetic, empowered and appreciative workforce. Of course, your organization needs the innovative philosophies, service and community involvement to legitimately substantiate the claims of excellence.
It is important to carefully choose leaders and establish a framework for success before deploying new initiatives in the social media realm. Provide talking points that associates can personalize so messaging intent is crystal clear and concise. Resources should be shared. Absolutely every associate is a brand ambassador, whether you’re sweeping the floor or occupying the top floor executive office with a sweeping view of the city.
Recognize in an appropriate way the great work when employees go the extra mile in extending your brand reach. Recognition can be simple, such as being entered in a drawing for a gift card or a pizza party lunch for stellar performers. Doing so will provide incentives to continue their efforts if the sharing of posts is perceived as valued and not just one more item on the to-do list. Little acts of recognition show that you notice the extra efforts without “buying” loyalty. A company can provide some perks without costing the company any more money, such as a free day off away from work, compliments of the employer.
Having the right facts to convey helps enhance your brand reputation with the help of all associates. It adds to their expertise and confidence in amplifying the company voice through social media while you invest in your company’s most valuable – and sometimes most volatile – asset: your human capital.
A 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report stated that 73 percent of employees expect potential employers to provide opportunities to shape the future of society. Take a look at your onboarding process and see how substantive it is in addressing your corporate culture, vision and mission. If it has changed so much that veteran employees need a refresher by having an abbreviated version of what the new kids on the block are learning these days, invite them to their own special session to reward their service and get them up to speed. When new products are rolled out, do you inform all of your associates, or just the sales force? Your accountant and administrative professionals need to know too to share in the excitement.
At least before the pandemic hit, some employees were spending more time with their co-workers than with their own families. As a result, talking about work on social media is a natural extension of that. By preserving your company’s reputation with thoughtful guidance and training, you’ll be training the next thought leaders for your company and your industry. Consider the growth of LinkedIn as a platform. You’re reaching the chiefs (Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Chief Financial Officers, Chief Marketing Officers), key influencers and decision makers. Curate your own content through social sharing so that the trust employees have within their networks can be empowering for your company and them. There also needs to be an element of selectivity in messaging so that employees are not just sharing directly for the company page but making it their own. Supplying your employees with relevant, interesting content keeps your workforce and your brand fresh, consistent and energized.
Communication must remain a two-way street to be authentic and effective. By utilizing the built-in tools within social media platforms, you’ll be served with analytics that can tell you if your brand messaging achieves a standing landing or has crashed and burned. Add industry happenings and other interesting posts for your brand advocates so they can share compelling content without always sounding like a company bullhorn. Sending messaging to the employee advocates within the company most sensible to deploy it will help prevent fatigue with the program, preserve authenticity and prevent employees from being viewed as posting something “out of character” for their voice.
If your own employees are believers in the brand, it is more likely that they will share their enthusiasm. After all, quality people make quality products. Provide your employee advocates with relevant content. Let the program build organically, realizing that growth can be gradual. Have a blueprint and operating procedures to deploy your employee advocacy program, just as you would reveal another policy or product. For the sake of your brand, arm your employees with the tools they need so they can positively present your brand in their own positive light and preserve your brand reputation in social networks.