How employers can create a brand their employees want to talk about
It’s remarkable how much money companies spend with big-name agencies to create a brand while ignoring the very people who can speak to the brand best — their employees.
According to the CMO Council, companies put their money into agencies and advertising with which they hope to garner fans and supporters:
- Marketers are expected to spend $540 billion globally on advertising this year. Mobile search ads will be $12.85 billion in 2015, more than 50% of the search market (March 2015).
- With increased use of smartphones and tablets, net mobile advertising in the United States is projected to increase to $28.48 billion in 2015. Google dominates with 35.17% of net mobile ad revenue share in the country. Facebook is second with 16.68%.
- Planned spending growth on brand building into 2013 is relatively steady at 7.5% of spend, compared to an estimated 7.2% in early 2012 (August 2012).
- Meanwhile, according to a Duke University survey, CMOs are also looking to invest further into brand building (7.2%) and customer relationship management (7.1%), by a greater margin than six months earlier.
In the meantime, employees who believe in their companies and its values are talking your company up — so put some dollars and effort into helping them tell the right message from an insider’s point of view. Think about it: employees have their peers’ ears, AND they have a stake in the good public perception of their company. No one knows your brand better or can talk about it more knowledgeably.
So how do you successfully convert your employees into brand advocates?
- Help them understand your brand. Is it clearly delineated? Do your employees understand your values (and do those values match theirs)? Do they understand your mission and vision of the future? If not, correct that, because no one can advocate for something they don’t understand clearly.
- Ensure your leadership “walks the walk.” Nothing is worse for employees than seeing higher-ups not displaying the same values you share with the company.
- Create a spirit of community in your company, whether it’s through group activities or just MBWA (Managing By Walking Around). Ask questions and really listen to what your employees have to say. They’re on your front line — they deal with customers. If they feel comfortable talking with you, you may uncover insights you otherwise may never have known.
- On your intranet, encourage employees to be thought leaders and problem solvers, creating peer-to-peer education and shout-out systems.
- Select advocates who already are taking on an advocate role. In every company there is a core group of people known from the president to the janitor. They’re on every volunteer committee; they suggest ideas even though you may feel it’s not their place; they’re the ones, in other words, who already advocate for your company. Give them concrete reasons to do so even more clearly — through training, speaking opportunities, and recognition for jobs well done.
- Use your employees as advocates in face-to-face opportunities. A few years ago I worked at a large corporation for whom only a few employees actually interacted with our customers. Those employees wore a distinctive uniform. When it came time to do an ad campaign that would open minds to our product, I selected a foreman who was personable, well-spoken, and of course, knew all about our product and its benefits. In every commercial, he wore the distinctive uniform while speaking knowledgeably and sincerely. Our phones rang off the hook, with a 467% increase in requests for service after the first two weeks of the commercial campaign. He was a marvelous advocate and presented as the trustworthy peer that he really is to our target audience.
- Your employees also are great at trade shows. Many shows are staffed by the company’s marketers, who wrote the company line but may or may not believe it. I just came back from a trade show, and most booths were staffed with marketers. I was astounded by how few were inquiring, pleasant and wanted to tell me about their companies.
Front-line staffers add authenticity to your booth. Simple media training will give them the basics they need to speak on your behalf. It not only provides a break from their day-to-day work, but it also prepares your employees to interact with the public. They also learn new skills, like knowing when to pass hard or technical questions to another, more knowledgeable employee.
- Start small and make advocacy easy. Post great content on your intranet. Let your employees hear good news straight from your leadership and encourage them to post or re-tweet it. Post recognition letters or pictures for a job well done and keep any reprimands private.
- Set the right tone with your employees by making your company a place they’re proud to work for.
According to a white paper by Social Chorus, employee content about their company gets shared eight times more frequently than the company’s official social site. In addition, only eight percent of employees’ social followers overlap your company’s social presence. Your employees are where you want your messages to be online. Give them the tools and messaging they need, and you gain an opportunity to set the stage for employee advocacy.
Online, your employees talk about their workdays as much as their kids talk about school. You can’t control what your team says any more than you can control a competitor’s dialog about your company. Ensure they say great things by being a leader in communications, culture and commitment to your employees.
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