Employee advocacy and personal branding programmes are a powerful and cost-effective way to help promote or champion an organisation’s brand and boost visibility in the market. It also demonstrates that you’re prepared to invest in their professional and personal development.
An employee advocate will, most likely, already have a certain standing in their community and extensive networks but may lack the necessary digital expertise and mastery of social media to be fully effective in the role.
Despite not being the finished article, these internal assets have the potential to be powerful ambassadors for improving brand recognition. The meaningful content they will ultimately curate on social channels will enable organisations to extend their reach and tap into networks that could open new business opportunities.
It could also provide access to fresh talent and customers as well as enhance market reputation and standing.
These individuals should be willing and highly enthusiastic about the business and capable of generating positive feelings and reactions towards the brand through their actions and behaviours.
They will also have a degree of influence in the sector and be considered thought leaders. Employee advocates typically come from customer-facing roles as they are used to communicating brand messages but need not necessarily be the case.
There can be a tendency to get excited about the potential reach of a large-scale employee advocacy programme to broadcast messages and content, but it is better to start small with specific objectives.
Appoint a small band of employee advocates and carefully monitor and track progress of the programme. Determine what it is you want the programme to achieve: for instance, do you want to generate interest in a new product or service?; do you want to attract new talent by alerting them to what a great company you are to work for?; or do you want to generally increase engagement in the brand from existing and new customers? Set targets and goals and measure them as you would for any initiative.
One of the reasons why employee advocacy is potentially so powerful is that it comes from the individual and messages are not rooted in corporate-speak.
Employees must be given scope to be themselves and advocacy programmes should, therefore, be relatively fluid, flexible and reactive in terms of when an individual is expected to share content or tweet messages. Employees do need some guidance about what is expected of them though when it comes to frequency and which channels they should use.
It is also advisable to have some style guides in place to ensure consistency of content. And while trust between the employee and organisation is a key part of an advocacy programme, it is important to ensure the company’s social media policy is clearly understood by all individuals in the programme.
Clearly communicate what being an employee advocate means to the individual and ensure they are comfortable in their role as an ambassador. Convey how the organisation will help build their personal brand and expand their networks and the potential career benefits this will bring.
Ensure they are aware of how they will be supported in areas like content generation as they may have concerns about it adding to their workload. Making them feel valued and worthy of such investment will help to engage them in the programme and their wider role within the organisation.
Employee advocacy programmes work best when employees naturally have positive messages to broadcast about the brand. Employers with a positive corporate culture, great leadership, innovative products and services and excellent levels of customer service are already providing their advocates with top-quality material to share through word-of-mouth online or offline.
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