Let your people take the lead in brand advocacy
By PRAVIN NAIR and SHEERIN KAUR
Brand advocacy, known as positive word-of-mouth, is widely recognised as an effective tool for organisational branding. Numerous studies have identified brand advocacy practices that can replicate the results of traditional advertising at much lower costs.
A common form of brand advocacy especially in Malaysia is the use of well-known personalities as brand ambassadors. However, this practice comes at a hefty price, especially for many start-ups and small-scale organisations.
In a saturated social network landscape, organisations should leverage their raw, yet high-potential marketing asset: their own employees.
Cisco Systems noted that from a social media marketing perspective, employees’ social posts conjure eight times more engagement than posts from their employers.
WeRSM, a digital marketing firm specialising in social media, states that only 15% of users trust recommendations from a brand ambassador or the organisation, while 89% of users trusted testimonials from their network.
A research conducted by Hinge Marketing revealed that 86% of its respondents had experienced positive impacts on their career through advocacy, as it enabled them to expand their professional network and keep abreast with the latest trends.
Hence, it had been proven that brand advocacy through employees can increase brand awareness, build trust with various stakeholders and produce higher quality performance from employees.
Everyone in your organisation is an ambassador, so here are ways how leaders can facilitate employees to become advocates for their organisation voluntarily and sincerely.
1. Lead by example
It all stems from your attitude around your employees. Do you spend enough time going to the ground and engaging in honest conversations with junior executives?
Millennials today are looking to work in places where there is less bureaucracy and better engagement with the senior management as young talents are always seeking opportunities to share their ideas with you.
Another valuable technique is to involve your employees in matters concerning your organisation.
For example, if the company is not doing well, organise a town hall session and promptly update them. Use that opportunity to address their concerns. Your employees will appreciate your trust in them, and they will not hesitate to advocate for the organisation.
It’s a norm that, when discussing work among friends and family, the topic of leadership within an organisation will crop up. For many, we tend to gravitate towards how we feel about our managers and executives.
2. Employees in the limelight
Organisations are defined by the products and/or services they provide, but employees play a pivotal role in shaping the organisation’s brand. Encourage your employees to be creative in how they express themselves through their work, and to share it within their network.
Be honest with your employees that they are the most reliable brand advocates your organisation possesses.
Giving due recognition to your employees for their hard work also gains their respect towards your leadership.
Have a look at your organisation’s practices. Do you reward your people for their persistence? Are you providing greater access into personal development through upskilling courses or promotions?
Take a look at your organisation’s social media accounts. Are you crediting much of your employees’ efforts and accomplishments via your social media posts?
More importantly, how you respond to mistakes by employees can also determine their advocacy for the organisation. Employees appreciate it when you, as a leader, provide the moral support during their personal tumultuous period.
3. Skills development
Your employees have the motivation to actively brand your organisation, but how can you sharpen their advocacy skills? No, we are not recommending a five-hour workshop on how to advocate your organisation’s brand based on a set of key performance indicators and structure.
Instead, focus on the key skills that will improve the way your employees express themselves at work and when meeting clients.
For instance, copywriting and photography skills are necessary to capture moments and translate them into memorable posts on social media. Personal branding is also useful when they are meeting their respective stakeholders in portraying the brand image of your organisation.
As leaders, you should place your employees at the centre of your brand advocacy programmes, as there is huge potential to tap into.
For starters, you could encourage your employees to actively advocate through the three ways highlighted, while not running astray from the organisation’s core values.
If the baby steps you take are effective, you would soon find your employees naturally motivated to express your organisation’s brand and its products and/or services.