5 steps to employee advocacy success [Viewpoints]

I think George Clooney is a pretty good actor. But that’s not why he’s in those entertaining Nespresso commercials. He’s there because, while people are skeptical about what companies say, they are far more willing to trust people they know and like.

The power of personality has huge implications for companies interested in moving the needle on their marketing performance meter, and you don’t need an A-list actor to make it happen.

For years, motivated staff participating in digital discussions has helped to improve awareness and create trust in their organisations. With a little guidance and the right support, these natural brand champions can easily form the core of a formal “Employee Advocacy” programme and drive the business forward.

Five steps to employee advocacy excellence

Step 1 – Culture
Without a motivated and engaged workforce that are passionate about the brand, the advocacy won’t feel genuine and customers won’t feel a personal interaction or derive value. So make sure that the corporate culture is geared to support an Employee Advocacy initiative.

Step 2 – Strategic planning
Defining how Employee Advocacy fits into the broader organizational picture is critical. For instance, is it going to be led by HR, driven by the communications team, or perhaps by a specific business unit?

Step 3 – Training & Education
Ideally, employee advocacy should ‘feel’ organic and not forced, since forced advocacy will simply come across as sales. Consideration should be given however to how advocacy fits into the company’s training or education programmes, so that employees understand the vital role they play. This might include, for example, guidelines on social media use, or a quick reference guides on advocacy.

Step 4 – Technology
Ensuring that employees have the tools to make sharing easy and convenient. Technology can automate some of the process, notifying people of any new piece of content via their mobile devices, for example. Then they can decide on-the-fly whether to share it on their own channels.

Step 5 – Activation
Once the technology is in place, you need to push out content. Make sure that every story contains at least one of six key characteristics:

· Utility – Solves a problem
· Education – Feel smarter about a topic or subject
· Entertainment – Makes people feel happy
· Access – Connects to others that share similar passions
· Information – Current news, views and “insider” information
· Promotions – Raises awareness of product related promotions

If the content doesn’t deliver on at least one count, reconsider. Also keep in mind that you’re unlikely to build advocacy around sales-oriented content, so simply recycling sales collateral isn’t going to lead to success.

Advocacy in action

A successful programme isn’t something you can implement overnight. For example, we recently completed an Employee Advocacy programme for a Fortune 500 client that took nine months to develop and roll out.

However, when organisations get it right, the rewards are well worth the time and effort. Not everyone can be George Clooney, but every employee has the potential to be a brand champion. It’s up the organisation to unlock it!

Scott Pettet is senior vice president APAC at LEWIS, a member of the Council of Public Relations Firms of Hong Kong (CPRFHK)

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