You know that your employees are your greatest asset, so it stands to reason that they can be a powerful force in the marketing and promotion of your business. Enter the new buzz phrase Employee Advocacy. This is where the knowledge of your employees form a crucial part of your content generation, and you utilise their social networks to amplify your message.
I’ve been running Employee Advocacy (EA) programmes for clients for over four years, and have learned what it takes to make them a success. This blog is not a step-by-step guide to running EA, but rather six of my observations on the things that can trip-up such a programme, and what to do about them.
1. Expect resistance
There is likely to be a lot of resistance from your people. They have day jobs. They don’t like using social media. They can’t write. They have nothing to say. These are all genuine concerns and can be addressed, but you have to go about it the right way. My advice is to do some ground work with your people before you decide if this is the right approach for you. You may love the idea of EA, but if it doesn’t fit with the culture of your business, it will be a flop.
2. What’s in it for me?
Understand that a lot of people won’t see it as part of their job description to help promote your business. Isn’t that what marketing is for? So start by helping your teams to understand what’s in it for them. As part of the starter training I run with companies embarking on these programmes, which is really focused on filling in any gaps on their understanding of social media, I discuss the power and importance of the personal brand. What it is, why we need one, how to achieve it, and how participating in an EA programme will help build it; and at the same time help promote the business.
3. I’ve got nothing to say
Tell people that they’re required to write blogs or create vlogs (video blogs), and watch Fright and Flight take place before your eyes. As part of the starter training, I like to address this head on. I run a quick workshop with the group, asking them to give me examples of the questions that they’re always asked by customers and prospects. What is about your area of expertise that people struggle to understand? What changes are happening in the industry right now, that you could explain to someone, because it’s part of what you do? The list goes on, and people have no trouble filling flip charts with their answers; and what you have is the bare bones of your forthcoming content schedule. Put names against subjects, there and then, and you have your authors. You may have to work very closely with people to develop their ideas into useable content, but that’s as it should be. They’re expert in what they do; finding the hook, writing, scripting, etc. is what your marketing department do (or we do for you!)
4. Assess, then stop or go
At this stage, having gauged the reaction of your teams it’s worth taking a view on whether the programme is worth progressing. If the majority of people couldn’t care less about their personal brand, and have nothing to contribute, you should question if this is the right type of activity for you. If you have one or two ‘eager beavers’, great, continue with them and their activity may create a bit more interest from others further down the line. But, don’t expect a steady stream of content from all departments. On the other hand, if you have a good number of people engaged, interested, with ideas flowing aplenty then you know you’re good to continue and start developing your programme.
5. Senior management, please step up
Even though it’s called Employee Advocacy, senior management need to be part of the programme. They are in the best position to nominate people to discuss a particular topic, as they’re seeing what’s going on across the organisation. But they also need to participate themselves, perhaps with the teams creating technical, service-specific content and the senior team sharing more strategic views on their industry. I believe that this is a crucial part of the programme, because people are crying out for leaders to step up and share their views. Social CEOs are generally seen as more transparent and trustworthy. There is an excellent study by Weber Shandwick on the Social Imperative for CEOs, which can be viewed here.
6. Be a ‘suggester’, not an enforcer
Even when the programme is underway, don’t expect everyone to share everything, everywhere. Let people pick what they feel resonates with them, and also what they want to share with their networks that feels part of their ‘authentic voice’. I rarely share my clients’ content because my networks don’t follow me to hear about legislation in the xyz industry. Give people the content, make it easy for them to share, but leave it to them to decide when they share your message with their world.
Employee Advocacy is superb in theory, and when it works well it can be extremely effective in showing the breadth of the experience within your organisation, and present the authentic voice of your workforce, over and above the corporate message. Your thought leadership is no longer coming just from the marketing team, and/or senior management, but instead utilises the knowledge of your people right through the organisation, as well as their networks, which can span sectors, countries, and generations to get your message out and about.
By Christine Jones, Tiger Mouth