Creating Authentic Opportunities for Employee Advocacy
Empowering your people to exemplify your brand and share their experiences must be woven into your company’s core culture.
In August we launched our new brand Cerkl Broadcast to better unify our communications offerings under one name. Also, we wanted to help employee communicators better understand what Cerkl does.
Our Cerkl staff has been engaged from the beginning to help shape our new brand voice. Throughout Broadcast’s evolution, the Product and Design team sought out valuable feedback from employees.
With the launch of our new brand, I’ve been thinking a lot about employee brand advocacy. Inviting employees to own part of your company’s social dialogue reinforces their value. We often talk about our jobs with our friends and neighbors. How many times have you asked your pals, “How’s the job going?”
THE DYNAMIC IMPACT OF BRAND ADVOCACY
In theory, employees should be any company’s biggest cheerleaders. More and more, companies are finding creative ways to encourage employee advocacy—a strategic, sustainable, organic program that drives employees to promote the brand that they work for. In turn, employees must feel connected to a supportive environment that allows them to feel valued and contribute to the company’s success. There are many companies like Cisco, IBM, and AT&T who have masterfully encouraged employee advocacy. A corporate communications team can’t encourage employees to share their perspectives and work experiences to amplify a company’s products or services without the foundational work to create an employee experience. If you’re missing an employee-first work culture along with a proactive communications strategy focused on attracting and retaining exceptional talent, you can’t expect your employees to serve as brand advocates.
LEAD WITH TRANSPARENCY AND AUTHENTICITY
Although companies are well-intentioned about ways to build employee voices through marketing and other social media channels. Too often, communications teams can pigeonhole employee voices when they limit social dialogue to only a few initiatives. For optimal success, brand advocacy must be multi-dimensional and omnipresent. Companies must provide authentic advocacy opportunities to share what it’s like to be part of the company. Think about how employees help to:
- recruit talent
- share kudos
- contribute to your community social responsibility focus
- work to embody your company’s mission, vision, and values
We’ve had plenty of historical challenges this year in which employees have genuinely embodied company values by sharing their experiences. Covid-19, California wildfires, and a string of summer hurricanes have put an immense strain on all of us trying to balance work and life. Whether in times of great change or during celebrations, companies must provide opportunities for employees to share their experiences.
CREATE AN ANNUAL PLAN WITH OPPORTUNITIES FOR EMPLOYEES TO SHARE THEIR WORK
Every aspect of the company from operations to Human Resources has cyclical programs that can offer amazing opportunities for your employees to share the company’s culture and strategic business initiatives. Here are some ideas:
- Recognizing team and individual awards
- Creating a kudos hashtag (#CompanyChampions) to empower employees to recognize high performing colleagues. In addition, reinforce excellence by recognizing those who go above and beyond for customers and one another.
- Encouraging employees to share the important special observances that are meaningful to them and connect to the business. To name a few examples: Customer Care Appreciation Week, National Mentoring Month, Black History Month. LGBTQ+ (Pride) Month, and Asian American History Month.
- Providing opportunities to share work culture with diversity and inclusion, recruitment, total rewards, and service anniversaries.
- Building employee voice with the announcement of new initiatives
- Showcasing employee volunteerism in the community.
PROVIDE SOLID GUIDELINES
Brand advocacy is all about partnering with employees to share important company happenings in their own words, but in order to do so, they need clear guidelines. HR and Legal leadership need to develop a social media policy if you don’t already have one. And you need this policy in place months before even thinking about ways your employees can be brand advocates. Most companies cover social media etiquette in the employee handbook. However, you need to make sure policy aligns with how you want to structure your employee ambassador initiatives. Employer commentary on personal social media account differs from employees’ interactions with special hashtags or corporate social media accounts. Here are a few must-haves:
- Employees must not post Personal Identifiable Information (PII) about your customers or colleagues. PII consists of full names, addresses, phone numbers, employee IDs, etc. Moreover, you’ll need to ensure that employees are obtaining approval before naming or posting their team members’ photos.
- Implement a blanket photography release form upon onboarding new employees or mandate release forms each time employees are photographed publicly. Either way, you must have a clear process for gaining these approvals when colleagues are posting photos of team members.
- Global operations with employees in the EU must ensure the entire organization understands the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guidelines.
- Encourage leadership to model how it’s done:
- They can be strong voices on social media platforms when it comes to building an engaged company culture.
- They can even help lead your digital communication initiatives.
- Have them use your brand promise and purpose to find ways to show up authentically as you serve your communities.
- Make sure a member of the communications or marketing team manages and monitors your handles and hashtags across all platforms. It’s effective if you establish a two-way conversation and work with your team to retweet/repost to other company Twitter handles/ Facebook or Instagram pages/LinkedIn groups. With Cerkl Broadcast, you can link your external websites to Broadcast’s Content Hub to automate some of your content development.
CONSIDER DELIVERING PERSONALIZED BRAND ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOCIAL
Think about the key pillars of your organization. Could you offer a hashtag for employees who work directly with customers? What about your Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives? Perhaps an environmental sustainability hashtag or handle will inspire employees to share how they value the work of the company. Think about your company’s long-term initiatives and how you can involve employees. Equip employees with a social dialogue one-pager that connects the initiative’s key messages with your organization’s mission, vision, and values. In line with personalized brand advocacy opportunities based on job roles with the company, it’s also important to align your social media presence with employees’ areas of interest. Think about how to showcase career journeys, professional development opportunities, volunteerism, and Employee Resource Groups.
With Broadcast, we set the foundation by personalizing communications based on employees’ content preferences. There will always be news and announcements that employees must read to stay informed, but you have the opportunity to engage employees by also delivering content that interests them most. Using this personalization communications model, your communications team can share opportunities to connect and represent your brand within a social dialogue.
DON’T JUST INCENTIVIZE…RECOGNIZE
In my humble opinion, you lose authenticity if you offer incentives for employees to share their positive work experiences on social. I’ve witnessed social posting incentives. For example, employees who shared company-sponsored volunteer opportunities on social were entered into an iPad drawing. It became a contest rather than an omnipresent culture activity that empowered employees to share why they’re proud to be working for the company.
Instead, look at easy ways to recognize employees’ brand ambassadorship on your social media platforms. This activity should be part of your on-going employee communication content plan. Look at interesting corporate storytelling opportunities to recognize employees who share their tweets and posts about ways they are supporting customers or congratulating team members. As you cultivate this content, designate an area of your intranet to showcase your company’s social media activity. Use social posts to encourage short recaps on their contributions to the community, volunteering, or teamwork. Oftentimes, communicators don’t have time to write up Business Unit-specific communications. With workflow options within Cerkl Broadcast, you can give key content contributors limited access to create and target content. You can even set up permission levels for contributors to create content while you keep reviews and approvals within the internal communications team.
When executed with care and authenticity, creating opportunities for employees to serve as social brand ambassadors can add another layer of engagement into your company’s work culture—your team just needs to make sure employee experience is the central focus.