This article will offer ways to get colleagues more tuned into and engaged in your company’s marketing and communication efforts and explain the importance of getting them on board.
The fact is, businesses need to focus more of their branding efforts on internal audiences. They should want to help their staff learn, know, understand, and support the brand so they can buy into the organisation’s vision. Engaging employees to help them make powerful, emotional connections to the organisation’s products and services so they can live up to and often exceed customers’ expectations.
It’s a straightforward concept, but it’s challenging to implement and be successful. To succeed with building brand ambassadors, companies need to have a message that resonates and appeals to their employees.
Stretched in every direction
Digital is the direction that sales are going. According to a study by McKinsey, 75% of B2B buyers use social media networks to help make purchasing decisions. Because of COVID19 related restrictions, nine out of ten businesses have now adopted a digital sales model. Companies that don’t develop a digital sales platform risk being left behind and losing potential business.
Many CMOs have also experienced budget cuts, forcing them to achieve even more with less. Employee advocacy is, therefore, one of the most intelligent and most credible tactics.
Employee Advocacy Vs Social Selling
Social selling and employee advocacy are not the same things, but they are closely related. They can work hand in hand to promote sales and awareness. Understanding the primary difference is crucial to mastering both.
For example, social selling is when a sales department utilises its online network to generate prospects, create leads, and ultimately make sales. The KPIs for social selling include:
Creating new points of contact
Creating new relevant content
Acceleration of the sales cycle
Employee advocacy, on the other hand, can apply to almost anyone at the company. While it relies on social networks, it’s less about trying to generate leads and sales and more about promoting company information and perception online.
Naturally, there’s some overlap between social selling and employee advocacy. They both involve positioning the employees as experts in their fields, generating engagement with the network, and promoting the company online to increase traffic.
For employee advocacy, you want to focus on the content that boosts the perception of the company. While the content should be professional, ready to use, and in their local language, employees should perceive it as important and proud to share.
The internal branding role of the CMO
Internal branding is more than promoting a company’s brand to its employees. A brand is a reflection of the internal organisation’s culture and activities. The brand must be incorporated from top to bottom and integrated into the entire organisation.
An organisation’s internal brand-building ability is dependent on the right combination of marketing, human resources, organisational culture, and measurements. Today, it’s often the marketers’ role to link these components to build successful internal brands and ensure that everyone is rolling in the right direction.
Leaders and successful companies purposefully and strategically align and support employee engagement initiatives to build a brand internally. They integrate the organisation’s ideology, ambition, guiding principles and brand values into everyday actions and language—that work to develop a healthy environment so people can embrace the ideology.
These companies lead by example; they empower their employees, take risks, and exchange ideas to encourage and inspire behavioural change. Today’s leaders recognise that leadership is not about pushing associates to try to get more out of them. It’s about investing in people’s needs, so they feel empowered and appreciated, full of energy, and inspired to invest themselves in their work.
These leaders understand what motivates their employees and show appreciation in the ways that matter to their people. As a result of that, employees perform better.
Your best ambassadors
For the brand to be successful, employees must identify with the organisation’s future vision.
Employees thrive in an organisation when they identify with the brand; an organisation needs to be transparent and share its ideology. It needs to share the reasoning behind it. To do this, leaders often enlist the help of brands ambassadors. These are highly engaged and influential employees who activate the brand internally and bring others on board. However, this doesn’t happen automatically. Organisations must invest in training tools and resources to foster that success. Brand ambassadors, in turn, use their skills, training, and resources to engage other employees in the brand. By supplying guiding principles, tools, and resources, employees can internalise what the brand is and what it stands for and learn on-brand behaviours and skills.
This cultural behaviour imbues employees with a sense of purpose who better understand their roles and can see their daily impact and how they truly make a difference.
Together, organisation ideology and guiding principles help employees believe in the brand and courage on-brand behaviours. At the same time, employees feel more invested in the company’s success. Employees are as much part of a brand’s identity as its consumers, products, and logo. They are the heart and soul of any organisation. They are what gives the company personality and makes it tick.
The mistake many companies make is not recognising the vital role employees play as brand ambassadors when connecting with the public beyond company walls. Investing in engaging employees in internal branding pays dividends in the end. High employee engagement leads to better overall business performance. It leads to higher productivity, higher customer satisfaction, and lower employee turnover.
According to research on LinkedIn, we see that only 3% of staff and organisations share corporate content with their network. We know that staff have ten times more contacts than typically follow the brand on social media. In addition, 84% of people have far more trust in recommendations from people they know than from a brand’s marketing messages.
A big reason employees are probably not sharing content is that the value and quality of the posts are weak.
Top of mind marketing has never been more critical. Studies reveal that emotional messaging is 94% more effective than rational messaging and creativity is vital in forming memorable recalls. B2B companies need to invest a lot more in long-term creative brand building. A successful brand campaign mandates an innovative and clever idea that evokes emotion makes your marketing stand out. The excellent news to investing more in creative ideas is that you get more earned coverage. And we often find that it increases pride amongst your colleagues and the likelihood of them sharing. Content should not only add value to readers but your employees as well.
Creating good content is crucial in 2021. People are more mature in subjects now and are accustomed to top-grade material, so personal, authentic, and good quality content is vital. Above anything, the content, your company’s posting, needs to be more in-depth and contain more than a few generic sentences of repetitive content.
Take the time to make rich, visually appealing content of your own, share good content that you find, and follow the right thought-leaders. And don’t be afraid to use curation tools to keep a steady stream of quality content coming your way.
Your business content strategy needs to build content related to buyer personas. You need to have articles and news relevant to your company’s industry and what you stand for. Content must answer questions that your buyers and clients would have to solve their problems. It needs to tell exciting stories about your company or culture and how you relate to each other at work.
It would be best if you had easy-to-click content and the top of the funnel. At the same time, you need to have more detailed content down at the bottom of the funnel. All of the above will arm your employees with industry value and significantly increase content sharing amongst employees to their networks.
When employees have a mix of related material that doesn’t make them feel like they’re delivering a sales pitch for their company, they’ll more likely want to contribute. Additionally, employee’s social connections will continue to trust and view them as knowledgeable leaders in their industry as they share outside resources. It’s all about the long-term. It’s about the importance of being top of mind.
So now that we know that we need good content to get more attention, the next step is to remove barriers to sharing.
Often, the main reason for staff not sharing is that they’re not even aware of the content, and they are unsure of how to present it to others. They may also not want to mix private and work. Getting more shares is a long-term effort, and it’s all about being patient and viewing it as a marathon.
The simple solution is to have great content made available in exciting corporate news or innovations. Stuff that is great for the planet, the business and its people. Projects that the staff are involved in, and that shows the company’s and employees’ expertise. When a company stands for something and has meaning, your colleagues will want to talk about it. Sharing must be made accessible, and the stories need to be exciting. In our experience, when you involve your staff in your marcomms efforts, they also tend to come up with really cool angles and stories that you can market.
The late PR guru, Harold Burson, captures this point nicely:
“If you take care of the inside, the inside will take care of the outside” – Harold Burson.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Social responsibility is good for the world and an effective way to get your workers motivated and engaged.
People want to work for a company that makes the world a better place.
Social sharing is a great tool that can get your CSR program off the ground. By telling great stories that make people proud, your employees will share them.
As marketers, we know that data privacy is getting a bigger and bigger issue. New policies for different social media platforms and GDPR means that privacy and data security need to be considered when you form a strategy and choose an employee advocacy platform. The Google privacy sandbox is another factor; they will make advertising more user-friendly and impose limitations on viewability. There’s no doubt that traditional online marketing is going to be more restrictive and more limited. Many of the old techniques will no longer work.
Employee Advocacy is an effective alternative because it’s authentic it builds on real connections across social networks. It also won’t be affected by budget cuts or privacy restrictions in the same way as traditional online advertising, marketing, and public relations.
So, we have learned that to succeed with employee advocacy; you need to highlight to employees that they need to tell your company stories. We think it’s essential that you let employees know from the start that they need to contribute to the business’ content marketing efforts. When content generation is a job responsibility, a manager can use it during employee reviews. Even if you only ask for employees to contribute once a year, making it official prevents them from making excuses. It’s simply an item on their to-do list that they need to check off. Ensure you give your employees individual bios and photos to give credit, where credit is due. It may take a little bit of time to get these author bios set up, but it’s well worth the effort. While employees will have additional incentives to share the content, it will also appeal to your readers when they see real people sharing their expertise.
Maintain interest in contributions alive by showing employees how their content is driving traffic and increasing sales. Linking sales metrics with content engagement and web traffic statistics can prove to your team that the content contributions are precious to your business.
Why not stir up friendly competition amongst your staff by rewarding the top content creators. Maybe you can give an extra vacation day for the posts that get the most likes, shares, or hits. Or offer a gift card or a small bonus to the employees that generate the most content each quarter.
Using these methods, you can encourage all employees, regardless of their job titles, to turn their expertise into sharable marketing content for your business.
Four key take-aways
Suppose your employees have an average of 500 connections each, and you persuade just 10 of them to share an update. In that case, That’s 5000 more people who can potentially see your content without putting any advertising, money, extra budget behind it.
We know that sharing content raises your employees’ profiles. It pushes them to the front of people minds when it comes to new opportunities and establishes them as experts. There’s a real value in this for any professional.
When somebody you know shares content with you, it positively influences your perception of that content through social validation. If someone like you saw the value in that content, then the chances are you will too.
Last but not least, sharing your content helps your employees sell more. LinkedIn analysed the characteristics of different sales reps engaged in social selling. They found that the most successful shares 23% more content than the rest. These top-performing social sellers create 45% more opportunities per quarter and are 51% more likely to hit their quota.
About the author
Andreas Thue is the founder of BBN’s Norwegian partner agency specialising in PR and digital services. He has 20 years of marcoms experience in B2B marketing for IT/tech, Energy, Building and Construction sectors.
We've gathered thoughts and expertise from our top strategists to bring you this insightful publication in B2B marketing.
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