Let’s start with an important question. Who do you think has the most intimate knowledge of your brand culture and business? Your employees are without a doubt one of the most untapped, organic sources of promotion and content within your organization, and yet few companies know how or when to use that resource and why it works.
There are numerous rewards for cultivating a high level of internal “buy in” before any new product or service is introduced to the market. This article will share information on where brands should be looking for their internal employee advocates and provide some structural campaign ideas that will boost your brand image and improve the collaborative culture of your organization.
Finding your hidden brand advocates.
Not every member of your team is going to be authentically emphatic about your company. You would like them to feel that way, but staff will have varying degrees of engagement and evangelism, depending on their age, business function, department and work experience within the organization. If you have agreed to pursue the opportunity of using employee brand advocates in your marketing strategy, the first step is finding them.
Launching a campaign that asks employees to share their favorite proprietary products or services is a great start. Not only will you score points for valuing staff opinion, but the exercise will give you content that can be used for print, video or blogging and social media. A questionnaire or voluntary online survey will help you expose the staff members who are most passionate about your brand, and the survey model will help them speak freely and comfortably about your products or services.
International brands like Starbucks, Walmart and IBM have been cultivating employee buy-in before launching a product to the public for this reason -- it works better to launch a product that your entire organization is talking about. That level of information and the buzz that is generated through each employee’s personal network is rocket fuel for emerging new products or services.
Once you have received the survey responses, a qualitative review will connect you to the staff members who are activated and ready to share positive things about your corporate culture. Engage those who provided the most energetic responses in the campaign planning. One important aspect about sharing your culture and brand from the inside out, is to make sure that you are involving staff from various departments, and not just sales or marketing. Then what you produce will be an authentic, non-fabricated expression of who you are as a business and why your products or services are outstanding.
Campaign strategies and ideas.
A consumer can use your products for decades and never know how that product is made or the kind of talent that is involved in delivering your product through production and distribution channels, right into your customer’s home. Did you know that one of the most endearing exercises that brands can engage in is transparency?
We are not suggesting that you give away your secret recipe or proprietary information, but giving consumers a glimpse behind the scenes can include:
- Video tour of a production facility
- Meet and greet introduction to staff, from executive leadership to shipping and receiving
- Meeting the talent or creative team behind favorite commercials, products or services
- Celebrating long-term employees who achieve benchmark anniversaries with the company
- Holiday or fun corporate events that punctuate your brand’s mission and how that carries through to cultivating an enriched social and team environment
Consumers love brands who love their employees. And they also favor organizations that are proud of achieving a positive corporate culture -- one that is punctuated by employees who seem happy to be part of the team and proud of their contribution to the product.
From a marketing perspective, once you have made staff the center point of a couple of campaigns, you will find employees more eager to share the promotion on social media and with friends and family. From a human resource perspective, you have provided something more valuable than salary or perks -- you’ve given staff recognition for being an important part of the success of your organization.
Set KPI’s and guidelines.
Every successful campaign starts with a plan and a set of rules that are designed to protect your brand image, while optimizing your promotional opportunity. Introduce the campaign to your employees and document your expectations and standards for sharing appropriately on social channels when referencing the brand. This may involve some training and support about social media best practice for employees who many not be used to sharing in an official capacity.Make it fun! Create an incentive, contest or reward for staff who contribute to any advocacy campaign. It will help keep them excited about their involvement and inspire them to share more often.