I believe we all know that engaging storytelling contributes to improving brand awareness and reach, enhancing reputation (or turning it around) and building the employer brand, to mention but a few outcomes of compelling communication.
Companies are starting to see the true potential in getting employees involved with the so-called influencer marketing, empowering them, which is proving to be more effective than traditional advertising. Smart companies are looking internally and asking: “Who are the people inside the organization who might be able to help amplify our messages?”
I think we are witnessing a shift in where companies are moving: they don’t see employees only as a resource, they now truly understand that employees are the core of the company and as advocates can help a corporate as well as employer brand.
So, is it easy to convert employees into brand ambassadors, publicly advocating on behalf of a company? It definitely takes time and effort and there are many useful tools which can help implement such an initiative.
I experienced an employee program working successfully in my previous job in the UK and I’m very pleased to have recently found out that my current employer is piloting it right now. However, success depends on many factors and I’ve listed some obstacles that one should watch out for when entering the -still for many – uncharted waters of employee advocacy.
It’s important to show to employees that employee advocacy, which for many spell promotion and advertising, is not only a marketing job, and help them understand why it matters to the success of the business and to their own personal brand, while participation is voluntary. Continuous communication about the importance and impact of social media can help as well.
In addition, some employees may not want to share work-related content. As the employee advocacy study by the Marketing Advisory Network revealed, 30% of employees who choose not to share information about their company on social say they don’t use social media for business reasons at all. 15% say they don’t want to overwhelm their network with posts about their company.
Here, helping your employees understand that advocacy is part of their job is critical, as is creating a work environment where they feel passionate about what they do and the business.
Absence of guidelines
Some employees organically share content but may not be doing it in a way that is aligned or compliant with brand guidelines; giving them a structured way to share content supports consistency in company messaging. On the other hand, there are people who don’t – or won’t – share that content at all for fear of doing something wrong. So, before you launch any employee advocacy programme, consider writing and subsequently communicating clear guidelines.
Leaders not active (or present!) on social media
It is hard to promote this program and sustain it, without leaders being involved. Senior executives should become advocates and pave the way for the others, as well as middle management who have the closest relations with their employees. The trick is to start with those who are present on social and ‘get it’ – they may be great influencers converting the stragglers, driving the programme from the onset, leading by example.
The right tool
Although this is crucial, there are many good tools out there which can help companies foster employee advocacy and above all, measure it! Employees initiatives are not new but they are trackable now in a way that makes them much more valuable than ever before.
I also believe it is absolutely necessary to run a pilot thus acquiring early adopters across the business, turning them into ‘programme ambassadors’ well ahead of the launch to the entire business, ensuring employees understand what this initiative means for them and the company.
Just like the right mechanism to share content, employees need to have access to the right and strong content to share. The content should inspire the feeling of pride, belonging and purpose. Part of this is to determine how the content is sourced throughout the company, who actually writes, approves and generally manages it; a good content strategy contributes to the success of this initiative. In addition, not all content needs to be generated by the company – industry or company-related news can be also relevant.
Weak company culture and lack of motivation
Employee advocacy is only effective when employees value the company culture and its values resonate with them. They need to feel connected and trust their employer. Employees who feel disconnected, do not trust leaders / the company will not care about its success and will not want to be part of it. It’s also important to consider whether the company is ready for a programme like this and that finding may determine the right approach.
The list of challenges may not be exhaustive but looking at them before launching an advocacy programme may help accelerate its adoption. Employee advocacy is a long-term process aiming to engage and influence employees within an organization so that they acknowledge they need to advocate for their employers online. So it is not a one-off ‘event’; it needs continuous support. It should also become part of the onboarding process, which will ensure early and smooth adoption by new hires.
There is another good outcome of having an effective employee advocacy programme in place. I’ve seen how this initiative helped employees who wanted to be more active on social media but felt they didn’t have the right content to share or lacked confidence. This is a great way to help them find their feet on social as well as strengthen the connection between employees and the employer.
Employee voice is very powerful, authentic and so credible. However, although there are a lot of proven benefits, companies tend to be still reluctant to step into this territory. On the other hand, many have been pursuing customer advocacy, i.e. getting customers on board, keeping them happy, encourage them to participate and share. So one must ask: why not try employee and customer advocacy? After all, they both can add a great value to the business.