This post is a continuation of my series on “How to Make Employees Social Media Ambassadors“. See further down for related links on using employees as social media ambassadors and employee engagement.
The other day, I was sitting at a restaurant bar (as I’m prone to do) and started a conversation with someone — yes, I know, I make for a captivating dinner companion — on how employees are a company’s most under-utilized asset for communicating its brand. However, as my fellow bar person pointed out, how do you have employees represent your brand if they don’t even know what it is … if they even care? So yes, before you can use your employees as brand ambassadors, you might want to not only make sure that they understand your brand, but that they actually embrace and support it — the values for which your brand stands and the services and solutions you provide.
So how do you launch a social media brand ambassador program if your ambassadors don’t know the brand?
Obviously, you don’t.
Whether or not you’re looking to launch a social media ambassador program, the key to success for any company who wants employees represent its brand is that they MUST not only appreciate and understand its value, but be able to also communicate it. And in order for them to understand it, you must effectively internalize it to them. Seems kind of logical, doesn’t it? Of course it is, but it seems to be a one of those things that are either: 1) assumed or 2) not executed effectively. So how do you educate, so that your employees can effectively communicate?
Align with Go-to-Market Messaging
Marketing and internal communications can sometimes have a tenuous relationship. But this is the time for these two organizations to become BFFs to ensure that the internal Employment Brand doesn’t conflict with external Marketing messages. Work with the marketing team to determine the key external messages, and internalize those key messages into a primary message that is broad enough to resonate with employees, and structure that message into easy-to-understand formats, so that they can in turn spread the word about the company’s offerings as well as being an employer of choice.
Determine what your employees already know, and, more importantly, if what they know is what you WANT them to know. Focus groups and surveys are essential for establishing a baseline. In this same vein, your collected data can segment which functional areas of your organization know what. That is, you might assume that your IT organization knows more about your networking services; whereas they might not have extensive knowledge regarding your collaboration solutions.
Training and Guidelines
Surprisingly, most customer-facing employees do not receive training on how to represent the brand. If you’re launching a social media ambassador program…. this is VITAL to the success of your program. Employees need to understand the different marketing messages as well as the various products and solutions provided by your business. And since social networking sites are becoming an extremely important resource for recruiters, it is important to establish and promote certain branding ideas that will make the company attractive and appealing to employment recruits — that is, if trained properly, your employees are your best opportunity to “humanize” your organization to external audiences as an employer of choice.
Lead by Example
Your senior leaders should be the loudest spokespeople for your internal brand through all established communication channels. In organizations where senior leadership are seen as “living the brand,” the “engagement gap” becomes a little more narrow between the overall goals of the organization and building a culture that effectively channels employee effort to enhance performance.
When you have senior leadership involved in social media, it gives your organization a level of authenticity that will better resonate with not only your employees, but also external audiences. If you are an organization that has come across rogue “groups” or “pages” for your company, then you know what I mean. Help your employees, and ultimately your external audience, to distinguish between ones that are company-driven and which ones are “grassroots.”
Make your internal brand resonate with your employees, by using your internal channels to reinforce and explain the values and behaviors that reflect your brand promise. Create secondary, targeted messages for your functional groups, so that each area understands how their slice of the pie contributes to the company as a whole.
Integrate your internal brand through all employee touchpoints so that new and current employees can become familiar with the internal brand to the point that it becomes second nature. Include the internal brand into your talent acquisition processes by including it in new employee orientation. For current employees, develop training sessions that are informational, yet fun, and tie the training to the employee’s performance plan.
If you think that your employees are NOT a reflection of your business, don’t forget the story of the employee who, while working for one wireless provider, was observed to be using the wireless solutions provided by the competitor. While it seems small, the silent statement behind this lack of endorsement speaks volumes… if employees don’t understand or don’t believe in their company’s products and solutions, why should anyone else? Give your employees a reason to live the brand.