Corporate employees can be the organization’s best brand ambassadors. This means that an army of employees can be dedicated to communicating the company’s key messages and building its brand reputation online through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.
First, it is essential to establish a positive two-way dialogue with employees so they feel involved in the process of promoting the company. They need to know management is listening to them and that they are important to the company’s success. The key is trust – companies can’t control what employees say but companies that have good relations with employees can trust they will represent the company well. Zappos, Intel, Comcast, IBM, Diamond Technologies and a host of other companies have proven that it can be done and that it works well.
Here are 7 steps to making employees brand ambassadors that my colleague Amy Dean, president of Keyword Communication, and I developed. We call the process “Inside Out Public Relations.” The accompanying slide presentation will give you more details. Here is what we believe needs to be done to mobilize employees as brand advocates:
- Establish two-way dialogue with employees. Ask employees about their perceptions of the company’s strengths and weaknesses and the words they use to talk about the company.
- Survey employees on social networking habits and interests. What social networks are your employees using and would they be willing to create branded accounts to serve as the company’s ambassadors.
- Cherry pick a pilot group. Use the survey to identify enthusiastic employees and train them. Integrate the social networking inside out program with traditional marketing campaigns.
- Craft information networking guidelines and incentives. Strike a balance between freewheeling and overbearing in advising employees what they can and cannot say. Incorporate responsibilities and goals into job descriptions and provide incentives and rewards just as you would for their other responsibilities.
- Work Your “Wingmen.” Start first with senior executives, the lead pilots, and ask your brand ambassadors, or wingmen, to comment on their posts and RT their tweets. With senior executives setting an example, employees can create their own branded content within company guidelines.
- Identify keywords to coalesce around. Establish the company’s keywords in priority order, with senior executives and employees using them as “smoke signals” to communicate with customers, partners and industry peers.
- Establish metrics. Every company will have its own measurement systems, but it will be important to know if relationships are extending beyond social networks and improving business. Is the company moving up with search engine rankings? Are employees motivated and is customer service improving?
Engaging employees won’t happen overnight. But who could better represent a company to the outside world than its employees, singing the praises of the company and what it stands for?
Inside Out Public Relations Slide Show