While the tendency of marketers is to discretely segment, the real world is much more porous and fluid than that. Certainly a company’s most powerful ambassadors can and should be those who work within its walls.
The irony is that at many companies, external and internal communications operate in independent silos. So that more often than not employees learn about new campaigns at the same time they are released to the rest of the world, if not later, without any additional context.
This means that when they go home and interact with family, friends and their wider networks, employees aren’t armed with any of the messages the company wants consumers to know -- a huge missed opportunity.
Whether they number in the tens, hundreds or thousands, employees offer a valuable layer of credibility that sits in a unique place between company management and an objective third party. As a collective of insiders, they can vouch for whether the company lives its values every day or if they're simply taglines.
They can organically spread the word about a new product or service with the power of ownership and pride. An employee authentically excited about a company’s mission can in some cases be a more effective spokesperson than a media-trained executive or celebrity in igniting consumer action.
To engage employees and inspire them to become ambassadors for your company, approach them as you would your most valued consumers in the following ways:
1. Wow them.
Remember that the employees of one company are the target consumers for many others. Yet some companies with the most engaging consumer campaigns are the least creative when it comes to talking to their staff.
As every parent of a teenager knows, just because your audience is captive doesn’t mean it has to listen.
Ditch the standard company announcement and intranet post in favor of consumer-friendly tactics to grab your internal team’s attention and get its memers excited. For example, a new ad campaign's launch announcement could be as elaborate as a theater screening or as simple as a clever desk drop of popcorn and branded treats that invites staff to preview the spot from their own screens. The key is that it should not feel corporate or like business as usual.
2. Involve them.
Other consumers look to employees as experts: "What do you mean you don’t know?" they might remark. "You work there." While most companies can’t and shouldn’t require employees to promote a new product or campaign, many err on the side of being so conservative that they don’t provide employees who are eager and excited to share the news with any tools or parameters for doing so.
Here is where marketing, corporate communications and human resources departments need to be closely aligned in developing a rollout plan and guidelines that are engaging, easy and clear, including parameters on social posts, special offers to share with family and friends and key messages (in simple, clever language) about the product or campaign.
3. Recognize them.
Being on the inside yet feeling like an outsider can create a sense of disenfranchisement and apathy. Perks like thoughtfully designed, staff-only commemorative T-shirts for company milestones reinforce insider status and serve as conversation starters with people outside the organization.
Consumer tech companies, such as Google, Twitter and Zappos, are particularly savvy in ensuring that employees feel like an integral part of their message. Because of product-launch rituals and social events and their own lexicons of brand-inspired terminology, employees at all levels of these organizations feel connected to the greater whole and as a result are some of their companies' most enthusiastic evangelists.