So many companies these days struggle to have their employer brand identity seen and heard. Whether it’s a lack of insight on how to gain traction with advertising, too small a budget, not having enough time to put into the company’s social media presence, or another of the many common difficulties, the road that leads to marketing success can be very bumpy. However, there’s a valuable tool that’s right under your nose but is often overlooked: your top employees.
The very employees who keep your business running smoothly and successfully could also propel your business forward by helping you recruit more top talent. They are already your brand ambassadors, your company’s best cheerleaders, and they are the key to your company’s corporate branding and human resource development. But, as with any marketing initiative, you’ll need a plan to move from conception to implementation. It’s important to not take this group for granted and assume that when and if they want to talk about your company, they will. It’s up to you to awaken the brand ambassador that lies in each of them.
The first step in developing your top employees as brand ambassadors is to get a good reading on their overall attitudes about your company. Is the culture hot or cold? Are employees complaining more than praise? It’s important to be unbiased in your assessment because the rest of the world will not be as gracious as you may be inclined to be when evaluating your employer brand. If you find that employees’ opinions are less than favorable, now is the perfect time to make changes where you can.
One of the main reasons employees don’t talk about their employers on social media or elsewhere is that they are unsure about what’s okay and what’s not okay to share. After all, we’ve all heard (or been part of) horror stories of firings because of social media. Determine what your guidelines will be–how will you handle disparaging posts or comments? How will you help employees determine what company news is okay to talk about and what’s not? These are critical questions to answer and establish guidelines for, to head off problems in the future.
When you’re encouraging employees to become brand ambassadors, it’s important to engage them both at work and outside of work. At work, it’s important that you recognize who they are, since employees who feel personally valued are the most successful, and the most likely to buy into your company’s identity as well. Encourage them to express their thoughts and opinions, and to collaborate with others and socialize in the workplace. Engaged employees are usually happy employees, and happy employees make the best brand ambassadors.
Outside of work, you can utilize social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with employees. After all, these will most likely be the main platforms for your brand ambassadors to spread the word. Post meaningful, thought-provoking content, company news, funny, light-hearted material, job openings, and employee spotlights. Make sure your employees know it’s okay to share these posts and, most importantly, don’t just post but engage in a conversation.
You’ll also want to evaluate what non-social media platforms these employees can utilize, from their professional development groups to friends and family. Consider what incentives they have to do so, beyond loyalty to your company. Are they featured anywhere for presenting to groups or at conferences? Is there a bonus opportunity for job referrals? It’s important that employees want to talk positively about their employer, but it’s also important for them to understand that you value their participation.
Rather than hoping your employees will act as brand ambassadors and do so appropriately, let them know that you’d like them to. You can do this in a number of ways, and some are more direct than others. For instance, you could have a social media training session, where the emphasis is placed on encouraging them to share (while also talking about what’s not okay to post publicly). You could also launch or re-launch your company’s social pages or even ask employees to share when you post things (i.e.: starting a job opening post with a line such as “spread the word, we’re hiring!”).
Developing your best employees into stellar brand ambassadors isn’t something that happens just one time or overnight. It’s an ongoing effort brought about by a continual conversation, both at work and at home, and across many platforms. Keep the momentum going and eventually, it’ll be second nature for both you and your employees.
How do you engage employees and enable them to become brand ambassadors? Let us know in the comments section below.
Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.