Employees as Brand Advocates

When an organisation thinks about marketing or brand building, it takes into account its customers, partners, and other stakeholders and devises specific strategies to reach out to them. However, employees generally are left out in this list. A large number of organisations and leaders believe that the employees should do their jobs well and ensure that they are committed to the growth of the company. These organisations miss out on the important role that the employees can play as ‘brand advocates’

Why employees?

Employees are the ones who best understand your organisation. They spend hours every day to build an organisation’s business. They put their best foot forward to ensure they fit into an organisation’s culture. They are the ones who live, breathe and think about the organisation’s success. They are the most valuable spokesperson that the company can ever have. The sad part is that not many companies understand it.

Brands need to understand that when one is working for the organisation and feels passionate about its vision and mission, the employee is willing to go the extra mile to creating positive brand awareness and sharing about his/her experiences at work.

The need and the rise of employee advocacy

An organisation’s employees can be the biggest asset. However, this is an unexplored marketing tool that has not been leveraged by many.

Employee advocacy has become even more important and relevant today with the rise of social media, mobile and the high penetration of the Internet, across developed and developing markets. Today, with the increasing amount of time that one spends on social media, a large number of people share about their employers on social media. These could be positive posts on how the brand has given them an opportunity to grow, or could be disgruntled employee’s post on the below par experience with the organisation. According to a global study of around 2,300 employees (ages 18–65), 50% of employees shared something on social media about their employer. This makes it even more relevant to have a synergy between employees and employers and leverage the network of the employees to create brand awareness and build brand credibility.

Benefits of employee advocacy

There are numerous benefits of employee advocacy. It helps amplify the brand’s reach and boost sales. Also, it is an extremely cost effective way of driving brand awareness. Employee advocacy can also go a long way in positioning the brand as a great employer, thereby helping it to attract good talent.

Employee advocacy can be a very impactful tool for high employee engagement and garnering earned media value. It can also go a long way in building trust and a long-term relationship with the customers.

Employee advocacy picked up in the United States a few years back. In recent times, brands in India are also picking up this trend. There are numerous case studies of brands that are launching brand campaigns using their CEOs and employees. Trivago’s advertisement featuring its India Country Manager was a great hit and the Country Head became an Internet star. Also, the concept of leveraging the Country Manager in the advertisements helped to build better connect with the target audience and enhance brand credibility.

A good example of employee advocacy done well by a global brand is that of Dell. The company is a pioneer in the world of employee advocacy. Social media is an integral part of its marketing strategy for years. Dell’s senior stakeholders have supported the employee advocacy program since its inception. The company also encourages its employees to share their own content beyond news about the company, across social media platforms.

Another great example and early adopter of employee advocacy is Starbucks that refers to its employees as ‘partners’. This helps to create a sense of belongingness and accountability for their social media activities. The company has defined a set of social media guidelines that are readily available to its partners. It also has dedicated social media accounts for its partners.

Tips for successful employee advocacy campaign:

In order to ensure that an organisation has a successful employee advocacy campaign, the organisation needs to work towards building a vibrant workplace. The senior leadership should take the lead and interact with employees, irrespective of their position. Also, the organisation should have a focused plan in place to ensure that they have high levels of employee engagement and build a vibrant culture.

Here are some tips that can be handy for successful employee advocacy campaign:

Be socially savvy

To ensure success of an employee advocacy campaign, the organisation needs to be socially savvy and understand the need of employees building their personal brands. There could be numerous employees who would be blogging, tweeting or posting on other social media platforms actively. There may be others who write, comment, post or share reviews on an active basis. Companies need to be open-minded and encourage team members to be socially active. Employees should also have the freedom of using their own preferred online assets. While some ground rules need to be set around what employees can share and what they should avoid when it comes to the organisation led information, encouraging employees to be active on social media can help drive employee advocacy.

Be transparent

The company should maintain transparency at all times. Trust your people to speak to you, and trust them with information as well as judgment. In order to get employees excited about branding and make them understand the critical role they play in brand reputation, it is imperative to educate employees about the need of brand advocacy.

Empower employees

There is a need to empower employees to encourage them enough to talk about the brand they work for. They should feel like they are free to choose to represent the brand or not. They need to be passionate about the workplace or really feel excited about the work they do, to go ahead and talk about it.

Share

It is good to share information and keep the employees informed about the business focus, upcoming launches etc. This helps in driving better employee connect and building confidence amongst employees. Interestingly, if an organisation expects employees to invest their own brand in building the company’s brand, they should ensure that the employees are well informed at all times. Engaged employees will always be more motivated to talk about a brand.

Motivate and reward

Appreciation and rewards go a long way in encouraging the employees. If a company wants its employees to become brand advocates, it should be generous in appreciating the best and most impactful work by employees. For example, if an employee’s post with one of your customers on social media received a high number of impressions and recorded high engagement, it is recommended that the employee be rewarded well or applauded for his good work in forums like the company’s Town hall. This will have dual impact. Firstly, it will make the employee happy who will be motivated to write more about the brand. Secondly, it will encourage more employees to join the bandwagon and become brand advocates.

Measure impact

It is advisable to measure impact created by leveraging the networks of the employees. There could be numerous key performance indicators (KPIs) like impressions, reach, mentions, leads, and engagement. There is a need to track who is participating, who is making impact, which platforms are working well, which type of posts are doing well etc. and then redefine the plan accordingly.

To conclude, we are still scratching the surface when it comes to employee advocacy in India. The power of employee advocacy is unlimited. There are examples of numerous global brands across industries that have made tremendous impact, thanks to employee advocacy done right. In India, employee advocacy is just picking up. However, it is expected to be extremely important in the near future.

There is need for organisations to understand the importance and power of an engaged workforce and work towards ensuring high levels of employee engagement. Employees are the true reflection of a working environment and the living walking personification of your brand. With social media taking centre stage, it becomes even more important for brands to focus on employee advocacy. The network of people can have a multiplier effect in creating brand awareness. Businesses across industries should leverage this network to enhance their brand reputation.

 

 


The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Akanksha Jain
Akanksha heads PR and Communication at BharatPe. She has over 15 years of experience in working across global/digital public relations, corporate and brand communications, crisis communications, brand and market communications domains.

In the past, Akanksha has successfully planned and executed public relations/brands campaigns across India and over 30 other countries. She is a start-up specialist and has extensive experience of working with emerging brands. She has been associated with brands like Pine Labs, MobiKwik, VLCC and Power2SME and spearheaded their PR/brand/communication campaigns.

1 Comment on "Employees as Brand Advocates"

  1. Thanks for sharing useful information!

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