6/26/16 • The Ultimate Brand Ambassadors: Your Employees

As published by The Gaston Gazette:

(6/26/16) BELMONT, N.C. – You’ve developed a branding strategy, approved the print ad and you’re on top of your social media presence (or at least trying to keep up). But are you overlooking one of the most valuable brand assets available to you – your employees? The old saying “You’re only as good as your people” rings especially true in today’s fickle work environment. If your employees aren’t actively engaged in your brand or your company’s mission, you’re not only risking turnover, you’re also missing out on a massive marketing opportunity.

Savvy managers know that great brands aren’t built by the marketing group alone. Every team member in every department plays a role in brand evangelism, whether they realize it or not. And as employees, they carry more public credibility than the C-level team. Citing the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, “Employees rank higher in public trust than a firm’s PR department, CEO, or Founder. 41% of us believe that employees are the most credible source of information regarding their business.” As trust in CEOs decreases, trust in their employees is clearly on the rise.

So, how do you create happy, engaged employees who can’t wait to play the role of brand ambassador? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Recruit with a focus on their personal branding, not the company’s. Rather than asking, “How did you hear about us?” try asking about what qualities the candidate has that contribute to their best performance in the workplace. Focus on their abilities and attributes – and then encourage them. In their Employee Engagement report, Dilys Robinson and Sue Hayday suggest that employees are motivated by intrinsic factors like personal growth, working for a common purpose and being part of a larger process, rather than simply focusing on extrinsic factors like pay and benefits. The more your employees feel engaged and valued, and the more they’re genuinely drawn to your brand, the more willing they’ll be to go the extra mile. Studies show satisfied employees are 1.3 times more likely to be high performers and five times less likely to quit.
  • Walk the walk and talk the talk. In a recent Gallup poll, 3,000 random workers were asked to agree or disagree with the statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand different from our competitors.” Only 41% of employees strongly agreed. As a leader or manager, it’s your duty to not only live and breathe the brand and its messages; it’s also your duty to educate employees about them. Let others learn by your example. We spend so much time ensuring our customers understand what’s special about our brand, we sometimes forget that we need an internal marketing plan, too. LinkedIn blogger Rebecca Feldman suggests sharing communications on multiple channels, multiple times. “…Not everyone is going to read an email, join a company-wide meeting, and check their intranet, but chances are they’ll do one of those things.” Be transparent and authentic, and your employees will feel truly engaged.
  • Reward often. Who doesn’t like a pat on the back for a job well done? Recognition programs can go a long way in making employees feel genuinely valued in addition to creating a sense of pride, ownership and responsibility. Entrepreneur contributor Zeynep Ilgaz says, “Organizations with recognition programs have 31% lower voluntary turnover than companies with non-existent or inadequate recognition programs.” In other words, praise yields higher-performing employees and encourages them to stick around.
  • Determine the guidelines. Since employees rank high on the public’s “trustometer,” let them be your brand’s front line. Adobe excels at this strategy. The company focuses on making all of its employees brand ambassadors. Employees are educated on social media guidelines, informed about best practices for social sharing, and even privy to announcements before they become public. This allows Adobe employees to be the first to share it. And unlike other social training programs, Adobe gives staffers confidence by testing their judgement through various scenarios. But even if you don’t have the resources for a formal training program, casual and informative lunches or emails with tips about social media messaging can go a long way.
  • Release your employees into the social media jungle. Have faith in them. Turn your (informed) employees loose into the world and let them be your strongest brand evangelists.Ilgaz points out, “…social media posts shared by employees reach 561% further than the same posts shared by company pages. This can have huge implications for brands that empower their employees to become advocates on social media.”

In our social media era, there’s no better time to empower employees as brand ambassadors. Everyone in your organization should be trained, comfortable and confident in your corporate message and fully engaged in the company’s success as well as their own. Remember, brand ambassadorship is about consistency, not conformity. Give your people the tools to succeed and you may be surprised by the profitable ripple effects for everyone involved.

Lyerly Agency’s President and CEO Elaine Lyerly and Executive Vice President and COO Melia Lyerly share their 35+ years of marketing, advertising, public relations and brand strategy experience with readers each month in a column published by The Gaston Gazette.