Lee Groeger - 09/09/2014
Would you trust a car salesman who didn’t drive the same brand of car he was trying to sell you? What does it say about a cell phone service provider whose employees have contracts with a different company? What if an executive at Bing was seen conducting searches on Google? These scenarios all depict an extremely poor implementation of the ideas behind employee advocacy.
Walking the Walk
The concept of employee advocacy is as simple as being in a Verizon Wireless store, having a salesperson recommend the Samsung Galaxy, and then hearing their phone ring, only to watch them pull that very phone out of their pocket. This creates a sort of inherent trust between the employee and the customer. It says, “I’m not trying to fool you; I believe in my brand strongly enough that I have chosen to use it in my own personal life.”
Communicating is a Team Sport
Organizations constantly strive to keep the promise behind their brand through advertising, services, product reliability, warrantees, etc. But an oft-forgotten factor in maintaining that promise is the behavior of an organization’s employees. While public relations programs help raise brand equity and awareness through press releases, media relations, blogs, social media and more, employees remain a key piece of the marketing communications puzzle. In fact, they can be some of the most effective marketing tools at an organization’s disposal. By using the most devoted and engaged employees to deliver its message, a brand can reach a wider range of networks.
Employees are Your Best PR
According to PEW Research Center, as of January 2014, 74% of online adults use social networking sites. Individuals on these platforms, including your employees, have established trust among their networks of friends, families, colleagues and other followers. According to a recent report, 41% of people believe that a company’s employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or founder. By using their individual networks, employees can produce referrals, advocate for the brand, recruit great potential employees, and successfully communicate the brand’s promise.
You Get Out What You Put In
It would behoove a brand to put as much effort into communicating with its employees as it does with its external audience. Things like internal newsletters, company events and employee-facing apps can go a long way. Think: company picnic, a contest to win tickets to a New Jersey Devils game, or an engaging app that provides education about a new product. Be creative! These efforts play an important role not only in ensuring employees comprehend the brand messaging, but they also promote morale.
The Ripple Effect
This entire strategy of employee advocacy revolves around the idea of concentric circles of trust, meaning: employees trust the organization, the employees’ social networks trust them and, therefore, a trust in the organization is being spread throughout a wide range of networks. Utilizing this approach can benefit numerous areas of an organization, whether it creates leads for sales, expands your marketing outreach, or simply apprises people of what your organization has been up to lately. A recent Gallup study shows that companies with engaged employees outperform those without by an average of 202%. Sound like an advantage? Of course it does.
Putting the Wheels in Motion
You may be asking yourself, “How should I begin putting this plan in action?” There are three crucial aspects of employee advocacy that you must take into account if you want to use the approach successfully.
- Convenience. You must have a system that makes it simple for employees to participate in, and for administrators to manage and support.
- Compliance. The organization must establish what is appropriate and legal for employees to be sharing, and employees must abide by these regulations.
- Accreditation. This is vital for the process to continue to work. As an employer, you must figure out how to measure and track your employees’ contributions and establish a system for rewarding their involvement.
Covering Your Bases
One of the easiest and fastest ways for employees to share is through social media; today, reaching an entire network of people takes nothing more than a few clicks of the mouse. If you are going to utilize a social media approach with your employees, make sure to create and enforce a social media policy, explicitly outlining what employees can and cannot share and do. Making use of social media, inclusive of a policy, covers both the convenience and compliance factors.
You can measure the success of employee advocacy through customer reviews, case studies, purchase histories, online coupon redemptions, and e-commerce traffic sources. Through identifying how well employees are advocating for your brand, you can provide them with compensation through whichever reward system you have established. This also serves to encourage continuation of this behavior.
A Holistic Approach
In this day and age, where so much commerce is done online and social media is so prolific in our lives, bringing this concept to the virtual world serves only to exponentially broaden employees’ opportunities to advocate for your brand. Making sure your team is communicating the same messages being delivered via corporate measures ensures consistency, which is a crucial key to brand equity and, ultimately, success.