Who you gonna trust? The folks in charge or the folks who actually run a company, as in the employees?
That’s a question the Edelman Trust Barometer answered when they issued a trust and credibility survey collecting data from more than 30,000 people.
The results showed that the basic everyday employee carried more credibility when talking about their company than executives have – and it wasn’t even really close. It’s something most companies either don’t know, ignore, or don’t believe – because embracing the idea that employees should be helping tell a company’s story is a fantastic opportunity, and one perfectly suited to our times, and one most ignore.
Everyone Has a Voice – Everyone is a Publisher
Encouraging employees to become brand ambassadors is an obvious thing for a company to do, because their strongest asset and their most vocal internal advocates not only have direct contact with the customer base, but an entire external audience as well. For example, the average Facebook user has 120 friends, meaning anything any one person posts on their Facebook timeline has the potential to be seen by 120 of their close (or at least fringe) associates. Our company has more than 200 employees. The math is amazing.
That said, for many work places, the last thing they would want would be for their employees to speak for them. Poor culture, embittered employees and bad management makes externalizing a potential nightmare.
Then there is the enthusiasm gap. According to Gallup’s 2011-2012 study of employees in 142 countries worldwide on average, only 13% of employees are engaged in their jobs, meaning 87% are going through the motions to get that paycheck – and that’s it. That means employers have to be strategic in who they allow to speak for them “out there.”
It’s All About Culture
Or, they can change the culture and get those some of those 87% into the game. John Stix, CMO of Fibernetics works day in and day out to develop and improve the company culture so all Fibernetics, Worldline and NEWT employees not only know their brand, but are advocates for them as well.
“There is absolutely no downside for me in encouraging my co-workers to become involved in the company in as many ways as possible outside of their regular job function. We assist them with an employee wellness program, we encourage and support community involvement and believe deeply in philanthropy. We rely on them to help to drive innovation in our products. It makes for a better work environment, they are more productive, and almost as a fringe benefit, they are happy to advocate to our customers.”
It’s easy to spot a company with employees who love the brand they work for. They are the ones with the social committees, the fundraisers, the community involvement. Having enthusiastic employee base isn’t just great for social marketing, but that same Gallup poll showed that companies with high employee engagement levels have 3.9 times the earnings compared to their industry peers or competitors.
Five Easy Steps
Once you have your culture in place, and you’re ready to unleash the hounds and let your employees spread the word, Forbes came up with five simple ways to start:
- Encourage social media interaction and advocacy. Don’t restrict social media use and enable employees to distribute coupons to customers as they see fit. If your employees are online talking about how much they enjoy their work, this is a good thing.
- Allow employees to help strengthen customer relationships. Create a sense of shared ownership in the goals of the company, and focus on using employee experience and feedback to improve products/services and customer service.
- Enable channels of communication. Who knows best what would improve the products/services a company has to offer? Two groups – the customer service reps and customers. Getting them involved in the improvement process will not only increase their buy-in, but also help spread word of mouth around your brand. Develop a facility allowing both external advocates (your customers) and internal advocates (your employees) to offer suggestions, and ensure that their suggestions are both being acknowledged and considered.
- Invest in employee wellbeing. A little goes a long way when it comes to showing your employees that they’re appreciated. Culture development should be someone’s full time job.
- Make Sharing Easy. Brands should make it as easy as possible for employees to share their brand experience, by encouraging social media use, adding “share” buttons to websites, supplying employees with graphics for marketing campaigns, and allowing them to be actively involved as the “faces” of the company.
Employees are the most trusted sources for customers, so it is essential that they are given the mantle of “ambassador.”
However only when they, and your company are ready.