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Why Aren’t You Leveraging Internal Brand Ambassadors in Your Marketing?

By: Danica Kombol, CEO, Everywhere Agency

March 1, 2019

With all of the well-deserved fuss around influencer marketing, it’s easy to forget that sometimes your most influential partners — your employees— are right in your own back yard. If you’re a large corporation, that back yard could be many acres far and wide. Let’s face it: Trust in your customer is a golden commodity that any large corporation is desperate to earn. And who better to help you earn that trust than the people who work for you?

Danica Kombol, CEO, Everywhere Agency

Danica Kombol, CEO, Everywhere Agency

Still, we’ve been averse to unleash our employees’ natural willingness to share their experience at our companies. What if they say something off-brand?

Don’t get me wrong, if employee morale is in the pits, you probably don’t want them talking to the public. But what if you are a  responsible, purpose-driven brand with a robust CSR initiative employing thousands of individuals and contributing to the economy? Wouldn’t you want those thousands of individuals singing your praises from the front lines?

The answer is probably yes, though the evolution of social media has complicated things. The new and seemingly unruly Wild West of word-of-mouth became a legal issue—and has PR departments worldwide drafting overly strict social media policies for employees: “Do this. Don’t say that. Keep your mouth shut on Facebook and LinkedIn, and for goodness’ sake, don’t say a word on Twitter.”

The Edelman Trust Barometer was a huge wake-up call for large corporations. It showed that only half of the general population had any trust at all in companies to do the right thing–yet, many companies are doing the right thing and that message is not getting out. This is no diss to the general news media, but “goodwill” corporate stories don’t often end up on the front page of the New York Times. Equifax-sized scandals do. So where to turn to tell the positive stories of your brand?

Employees, of course.

I’ll wager that your employees are your most believable ambassadors, and that they can propel the story of your brand in ways that your CEO or PR department simply cannot.

Consider this: Studies show that employees are more than twice as trusted as CEOs or senior executives, but when it comes to public speaking, we often leave it to the approved manager or executive to be the talking head. Spoiler alert: Executives may not be as relatable as the average person. In fact, nearly half of all people believe a company’s employees rank higher in the trust department than a firm’s PR division, CEO or founder. Take this conversation to social media and the opportunity to generate positive sentiment and trust skyrockets.

Add to this the fact that customers are 16 times more likely to read a post from a friend about a brand than a post from the brand itself. Think about your own Facebook habits. How often do you read status updates from a brand? How about never, right? Then think about the Facebook algorithm. How likely is it that your brand’s posts will even get noticed without putting a huge chunk of change behind it? How about almost never, right?

Starting an internal employee advocacy program is not for lightweights, and it probably should not come out of the HR function (I could devote a whole blog post to the why behind that, but suffice it to say that the word trust would figure heavily into the equation). You have to be purposeful about what you are encouraging your employees to share, develop a system that encourages that and make sure your policies align with what you are asking.

Remember when Amazon led the way in letting customers rate and review products on their site? Large retail brands were gob-smacked. I imagine the conversation internally looked something like this: “Holy Magoley! If we let our customers rate our products, what if they say something bad?” Today, consumer reviews on e-commerce sites are the norm. What’s not yet the norm—and should be—is the notion that empowering your employees to speak on behalf of your company can be a good thing.

Follow Danica: @DanicaKombol

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