By Lynn Manternach / Guest Editorial
Brand advocates are a powerful force. They are the people who talk favorably about a brand without being asked to do so. They love the brand, what it stands for and how it makes them feel and they want to share that with others.
Are your company’s employees brand advocates? I’m not talking about the interactions employees have with customers while they are being compensated by the brand. I’m talking about what employees say about the brand in their lives outside of work.
People actively seek and tend to trust information from their personal networks. When employees advocate on behalf of a brand, they leave a powerful impression.
Employee brand advocates are valuable for recruiting new employees, motivating co-workers, influencing purchase decisions and spreading the word about the great work your company is doing.
The 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer shows people are more likely to trust a company’s employees than its CEO, academics or the media when it comes to providing credible and honest information.
Your employees are your voice and trusted representatives in your bricks and mortar locations and on the phone. Why not help them be advocates online?
The very first step is to make sure your organization has a clearly focused and understood brand platform. It needs to be authentic and reflect the culture of your organization in a way that is relevant to both internal and external stakeholders.
Of course, employees have to be happy and have to believe in the brand promise before they will want to advocate for their employer to their own connections and online audiences. Brand building has to start with a focus on internal brand building.
You need to give employees the tools they need to advocate your brand in ways that benefit the organization. You can’t expect your employees will know what to do. You need to guide them. Here are some ways to help turn your employees into vocal brand advocates.
Tell your brand story internally. Maintain an ongoing conversation about the company’s heritage and purpose. Make sure everyone in the organization understands why the organization exists. It’s not just about making money, there has to be a higher purpose that motivates and inspires people both internally and externally.
Give your employees the messages you want them to share. Look for messages that would be useful and meaningful to their friends, family and online connections. That means absolutely no sales-related content. No one is going to push sales content to their network.
Give your employees the content you want them to share and talk about. Beyond the messages, provide actual content. Consider YouTube videos, info graphics, articles, photos, slideshows and more. The content has to be meaningful, useful or entertaining, or no one will share it. Again, keep self-promotion to a minimum. The content should focus on brand storytelling and tapping into emotions. The overall goal is to build brand awareness across a wider audience.
Recognize the brand advocates. Respond to employee brand advocacy online and acknowledge them offline. They will have more motivation to continue spreading your brand story if they feel appreciated for their efforts. If you have measurable results, make sure employees are aware of how their efforts are affecting the brand and the company.
Employees put a face on a corporate brand, to consumers, the community and prospective employees. Essentially, engaged and motivated employees who understand the brand translate to happy customers. Helping employees become equipped and motivated to support the organization’s brand may be one of the most important and effective ingredients in building market share as well as the brand.
Lynn Manternach is brand arsonist and president at MindFire Communications Inc. (MindFireComm.com) in Cedar Rapids and Le Claire. Contact Lynn at email@example.com.