Observing the whistle-blower complaint and reputational challenges thereof for Infosys, I recently wrote an article in Mint on how Infosys could leverage its employees to come to the brand’s rescue. The overwhelming response that the article received and the connect it found amongst believers in brand reputation, convinced me that organisations need to do a lot much more on employee advocacy. One of the direct impacts of the same will be to transform employees into brand ambassadors – a trusted and direct source that can manage brand perception closer to reality. This is not just a useful marketing technique or a crisis management support system but can also help improve your business outcome. Like Richard Branson famously said, “Take care of your employees and they will take care of your business.”
How Employee Advocacy can help your Brand:
Larger Network and Improving Business Impact: Consider a company with 1000 employees – each with a minimum of 30 acquaintances. Even if only 40% of your employees engage with their connections – you still have a pool of 12,000 potential clients and customers. Moreover, people are likely to take the word of an employee more seriously than that of earned or owned media. Employees are considered as more authentic, reliable and less-biased sources of information.
One of my favourite examples here is Adobe. Adobe observed that one of its employee’s efforts on social media drove in more revenue for the company than their branded social media handles usually did. The company then invested in training their employees to understand their social media guidelines and actively provided opportunities to employees to become brand champions.
Instilling Ownership: Being involved with the company’s core focus areas and priorities strengthen your employees’ understanding of your brand and makes them feel more connected. Starbucks refers to its employees as their “partners”. This simple but effective strategy makes an employee feel valued and elevates their sense of being involved with the company. Making employees feel like a part of the brand’s journey instills a sense of ownership into them.
Apart from engaging with potential and existing customers, employee brand ambassadors can also play a huge role in recruitment. I have seen several examples of my connections sharing the experiences they have had with their employers on their LinkedIn profile. Hearing first-hand from my connections about their employers gives me a more realistic and reliable picture of the company’s work culture.
A Few Quick Tips:
An employee advocacy campaign can go horribly wrong for an organisation if some sensitivities are not kept in check. A few simple tips can help your campaign:
- Include employee engagement in your communication plans. This might seem obvious, however, often we do not give internal communication the same importance as we would to media communications’ plans and social media strategies. Make a conscious effort to take employee engagement seriously. Please do not limit it to “Funky Fridays” and “Motivating Mondays”. Instead, make townhalls meaningful, bring discipline around scheduled one on one meetings with key talent; recognise and reward performances more empathetically than just as a tick in the box, communicate with people at times of crisis and let them feel they are important and involved. The list can go on….
Also, this should be an ongoing process with regular involvement not only from the human resources team but senior management too. This helps the employees stay updated on the development across the business, and gain a better understanding of the brand and its core messaging. A word of caution: Be mindful and sensitive to what you communicate and ensure that the tone is more informative and encouraging.
- Make internal communication a two-way process, include closed-loop feedback and encourage engagement between employees and the management to include suggestions about the brand beyond routine tasks and deliverables. In the long run, the employee is more likely to feel connected with the company and can even help in spreading a positive message during a crisis.
- You could also provide your employees with best practices and brand guidelines of communication on social media. Of course, employees should feel free to communicate as they wish – however, it always helps to outline some basic language tips.
Employees are our biggest assets, but we often tend to overlook the fact that they can be our brand ambassadors as well. In the past, I have come across employees who have been the stalwarts of their company and influenced people’s perceptions through their passion and commitment to the brand. It thus becomes important that the people who manage and create our brands need to be invested and involved with us the most. Creating a sense of ownership and belongingness towards the brand forms the core of leveraging employee advocacy.