HUMANS ARE AWESOME
Written by: Hanadi El Sayyed
To have someone advocate your brand is very powerful, and when it’s your employees, the impact is compounded.
Regardless of who is leading this program, whether HR, Communications, or Marketing or all of them combined, a structured approach is necessary to design, launch, and grow a successful employee advocacy program. In this part, I give an overview of that.
You must know that this program cannot be created by a corporate mandate. Try to force it, and you will end up with the exact opposite goal of bringing employees on social media to speak FOR the company. For this reason, buy-in across multiple stakeholders within your organization is key. Your stakeholders include executive level, employees, and entire departments.
Your plan to achieve buy-in must start by creating the concept in the form of a business case around the benefits of advocacy, followed by communicating it to your stakeholders, articulating what’s in it for them, and finally gathering their feedback.
The buy-in you get at this very early stage will help you to design and roll out a successful employee advocacy program.
Two things are what an Employee Advocacy program must be built upon – authenticity and a structure. To that end and for it to be resilient and reliable, the framework must have
At this stage, you would want to have a clear social media policy in place to mitigate risks of exposing the brand to any sorts of unexpected negative repercussions to content shared on social media. Your social media policy should be a simple and clear set of guidelines of how employees should conduct themselves on behalf of the brand, all the so’s and don’t. The illustration below is a Social Media Policy template available for you to use.
Different functions in your organization will want to leverage the employee advocacy program in different ways, depending on their needs. Their goals, objectives, and measure of success will vary accordingly.
Here’s a sample worksheet of what the function goals, objectives and measures could look like:
Social ROI Establishing a connection between social and business results Number of visitors to the website
Once the above are defined, move on to decide the right technology you will use to deliver the value you desire (make sure the solution you choose has built-in analytics capability). It is not about selecting the flashiest digital platform but instead finding a fit for purpose solution.
Employee advocates need, and they must get support from the marketing and communications functions and access to content for social sharing. It is not an exaggeration to say that content strategy is the backbone of the success and sustaining of an employee advocacy program. An effective strategy must be designed in such a way not only to deliver the desired brand messaging but also to bring forward the advocates as experts within the organization. Content must appeal to your advocates’ interests and motivate them. A word of caution here, identifying ‘what’ you want your advocates to talk about must not come at the expense of personalization. The advocates must be able to give the content their tone of voice. That’s how you safeguard the program’s key attribute – authenticity. Personalization also helps advocates build their personal brand on the way, which is a key motivating point why they will want to sign up for the advocacy program for starts.
While each advocacy program is different, here are two guiding points that you can apply when deciding your content:
Content is a live thing and must not be set in stone. Bring your Content experts and Advocates into one team and schedule regular meeting times with them to review strategy performance and gather feedback. Keep the momentum by making these meetings habitual.
So you have stakeholders’ buy-in, defined your objectives, and nailed your content strategy. It is time to identify your advocates, train them, and continue motivating them.
You may already have employees who have an opinion about the industry or the profession they are in, or who are social media enthusiasts, and who may have influence outside and within the organization already. ‘Recruit’ them to launch the Employee Advocacy program and help grow it. These are your micro-influencers population who can also act as a sounding board for the concept and can offer valuable insight into your community and the employee sentiment within the company. Align with them early on and excite them to become part of the team. The earlier you convert them into adopters, the faster they can help get others curious and involved. That’s how you broaden the program’s impact within family and friends’ circles. A pilot approach with a small population of micro-influencers to launch, gather feedback, measure and refine before opening up access to your other interested employees can be very effective in terms of giving clarity, building curiosity, encouraging ownership through a VIP feel for those participating in the program, and predicting success through the various metrics you capture.
Training your advocates upon joining the program, whether on the content itself and or the digital platform, followed by continuous refreshers will be key to the success of the initiative and keeping the participants’ interest up and ensure the program is running efficiently. An effective training strategy will tackle aspects such as classroom training vs. online; training for executives vs. rest of employees; and level of program sophistication tailored to the audience.
The success of the program also depends on answering the “what’s in it for me?” question. The advocates must feel that participation is mutually beneficial for both them and the organization. There are tactics you can apply in order to excite them to engage, for example:
Your content strategy is fleshed out and ready to deploy, your advocates are trained and are excited to start, and your technology platform is in place, you are now ready for lift-off. You likely already have a number of methods for communicating new initiatives across your organization. Things like company-wide emails, internal social tools, newsletters, or other announcements can all be useful tools. Since these programs are social, be sure to think creatively and out of the box for how you can further get the message out in an exciting or fun way.
Measuring the effectiveness of your employee advocacy program is critical. And to do so, you’ll need to set the KPIs you’re going to track. Metrics you should choose will depend on your brand, industry, and your business goals. Refer to the table above for examples of objectives and relevant KPIs.
Finally, remember you measure for a reason – to establish the success of the program. Use the data to refine the content strategy, evaluate the social media channels used, enhance the training program, and attract more employees to participate.
Having employees as advocates is what sets apart a truly great company from the rest. What do you think is the essential part of an employee advocacy program? Have you seen any company that has an employee advocacy program at all and does it well?
Hanadi El Sayyed