Engaged and passionate employees can be your most influential brand ambassadors. Employee advocacy programs are becoming increasingly popular as companies recognize the immense value of having employees actively promote their brand and share their positive experiences. But starting and maintaining an effective advocacy program requires careful planning, strategic implementation, and ongoing commitment. Get our tips to make sure you can keep your momentum.
What is Employee Advocacy?
Before you can create your advocacy program, you’ll need to understand the basics. What is employee advocacy and why can it be a game-changer for things like retention, change management, and hiring?
Employee advocacy is when an employee wants to be an active champion and ambassador for their company.
At its core, employee advocacy is about leveraging the power of employee networks and personal connections to extend the reach and impact of your brand’s messaging. It recognizes that employees are trusted sources of information and can play a crucial role in building brand reputation and credibility. By encouraging employees to advocate for the organization, businesses can amplify their marketing efforts, enhance their online presence, and foster a culture of active participation and engagement.
While you can ask employees to be ambassadors and spread awareness with their personal platform, a lot of employee advocacy comes from employees choosing to speak up. And that’s the most powerful type of advocacy you can get from your workforce.
In public relations, there’s a concept of “earned” versus “paid” media. Earned media is coverage that your company doesn’t have to pay for. It’s journalists wanting to write about what you do because you’ve “earned it”—or your employees shouting you out on social media for being an incredible employer. And it’s the authenticity of this earned advocacy that is truly powerful.
Why Employee Advocacy is Important
Employee advocacy plays a crucial role in today’s digital landscape. Strong advocacy helps your business with the following:
- Amplified reach and engagement. When employees share company content and messages with their personal networks, it extends your visibility. This leads to broader audience engagement and potentially attracts new customers, clients, or job applicants.
- Improved credibility. People trust their peers more than a company’s carefully curated marketing and PR messages. By leveraging employee advocates who genuinely believe in your business, you can build credibility and brand trust.
- Increased personalization. Showing the real faces and voices behind your brand is powerful. This can humanize your company and help you build more meaningful and authentic relationships.
- Boosted marketing impact. In today’s competitive environment, your company must work with the algorithm on social media for organic reach. Putting people at the center of your marketing strategy can help you maximize your organic marketing efforts.
- Increased retention. When your employees see their peers saying positive things about the company or sharing their stories, this can make them feel more hopeful about the future of the company and their place in it.
How to Start an Employee Advocacy Program
So, how do you tap into these amazing benefits? Starting your advocacy program can be a bit daunting. But we’ve broken it down into eight simple steps.
- Set goals. Any project has to start with goals so you know what success looks like. Figure out what you care most about—and start with SMART goals you can reasonably achieve.
- Get executive support. For your program to succeed, you’ll need buy-in from leadership and an executive sponsor to ensure the program receives the necessary resources, budget, and backing.
- Develop program guidelines. If you’re going to ask employees to be ambassadors of your brand, it’s helpful to give them guidance. Define what is appropriate for sharing, the preferred tone of communication, and how to protect sensitive information.
- Identify advocates. Identify employees who are enthusiastic and knowledgeable about your company. These individuals can serve as early advocates and help drive engagement within the program.
- Provide training. Equip employees with the necessary training and resources to become effective advocates. Offer guidance on using social media platforms, content sharing best practices, and strategies for engaging their networks.
- Create compelling content. An easy way to get your employee advocacy program started is to create amazing content and stories that they can easily share with their network.
- Encourage and recognize participation. Make it desirable for other employees to get on board and advocate for your brand. DO this by celebrating and recognizing employees who participate in the program. You can even establish incentives, rewards, or gamification elements to motivate employees.
- Measure and Adjust. Remember those goals you set? This is where everything comes full circle. Measure regularly to see if you are getting closer to achieving your objectives and adjust as needed.
Top Challenges for Creating Employee Advocates
To make sure your advocacy program is successful, keep an eye out for these barriers to success.
- Lack of buy-in. One of the biggest challenges is getting employees and leaders on board with the concept of employee advocacy. Some employees may be hesitant to share company content or promote the organization on their personal networks. Overcoming this resistance requires effective communication and education about the benefits of advocacy.
- Lack of training. Without proper training and resources, employees may not feel equipped or confident in their ability to effectively advocate for the company.
- Lack of control. Even with training, you won’t have complete control over the messages your employees share. That’s why it’s very important to closely track advocacy. We suggest working with your marketing team to see what kind of social listening tools they have access to.
- Measuring ROI. Measuring the impact of employee advocacy can be challenging. Determining the metrics to track, establishing a measurement framework, and connecting advocacy efforts to business outcomes are important for demonstrating the value of the program.
- Sustaining participation. Perhaps the biggest challenge is not losing steam over time. Over time, enthusiasm may wane.
3 Tips to Maintain Your Employee Advocacy Program
Because it can be really difficult to keep your employee advocacy program alive and well, let’s talk through three ways you can keep things running.
- Actively recruit advocates. One big reason that these programs fall off is because people get busy, they forget, or they don’t even know it’s something they can participate in. That’s why it’s important to constantly be recruiting employees to share their stories and your content. So, keep spreading the word and remind employees to share your external-facing content and success stories.
- Audit your content. Another reason advocacy can stall is because maybe your content just isn’t that shareable. Maybe it’s not interesting to them. Remember, you’re asking employees to associate with the content they share. It has to really mean something to them. So, audit your content and ask your employees what makes them feel proud to work for you or what kind of content they would like to see more of.
- Mix things up. Initiatives tend to die when they get boring. If you are recognizing participating, or even rewarding employees for it, try mixing up your methods to see if there are other ways to incentivize or motivate employees.
How Internal Communication Can Help Create Strong Advocacy
At the end of the day, your internal communication efforts are going to be critical. Employees that don’t feel informed and valued aren’t going to want to be advocates for your brand. And that’s where internal communication comes in.
Internal comms is absolutely essential for building trust, fostering a culture of transparency, telling stories that employees want to share, and keeping your employees engaged.
By leveraging the power of internal communication, you can create a strong foundation for employee advocacy within your business. Remember, advocacy is not a one-time effort but an ongoing journey that requires consistent nurturing and support. With effective internal communication strategies in place, you can cultivate a passionate and influential community of employee advocates who are eager to promote your brand and contribute to its success.
If you have questions about getting started, we’d love to talk with you about how the right technology can make it even easier for employees to spread the word about what you do.
About the Author
Sydney Lauro is the Demand Generation Manager for theEMPLOYEEapp. Prior to joining the team at theEMPLOYEEapp, Sydney worked in internal communications for Chipotle Mexican Grill. She uses her internal comms expertise and passion for improving communication and the employee experience to create content and share best practices to help other communications professionals.
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