Brand awareness can often times be one of the more abstract goals of demand generation. It’s hard to quantify and can be hard to measure without the right tools and processes in place. On top of that, the C-suite doesn’t always understand the value.
However, a good, well-rounded marketer should understand the massive impact a good brand awareness and word-of-mouth marketing strategy can have on the organization. From sales enablement to customer retention and even investor relations, everywhere in between, brand awareness is something that needs to be a focal point in any marketing mix.
When you look across your organization, consider who owns the relationships with your prospects, clients, and partners.
Who has the opportunity to best support a brand awareness initiative? Is it the marketing team, the communications or PR organization? Or is it other people through the company who manage and own those day-to-day interactions – client services, sales and sales support, account management, and other external-facing teams?
In most organizations, it is more likely that team members outside of the marketing organization have the ability to have the biggest impact in the market. But the key is understanding how best to find, activate, and leverage those relationships throughout the organization. Here are five steps you can take to successfully launch an employee advocacy program.
1. Understand your company’s culture
Is your company ready for an employee advocacy program? That is the first question you need to ask and answer before beginning down the path. While you as a marketer may be super excited about sharing all of the great content your company is producing, are other members of your organization also excited? Is the C-Suite on-board and supportive? How is company morale?
Typically, happy and engaged employees are more likely to share a company’s content. Employees who are disenchanted and disconnected tend to feel less passionately about their employer and are less likely to share their messages. It’s important to understand your company’s culture and likelihood for success before you get started.
Also consider any recent corporate updates that may have caused cultural shifts. If there was recently a big change in the organization, whether it was a merger/acquisition, key executive appointment or exit, or even an update to their health insurance plans and other employee benefits, be mindful about how you launch the program.
It may make more sense to implement the employee advocacy technology first as an internal communications tool to help provide insights into the recent changes and then to expand it to a social sharing platform. This is a great way to get employees excited about the program and improve communications around any recent or upcoming changes.
2. Be realistic and set appropriate goals
Once you have decided that now is the right time to launch an employee advocacy program, think about what you are hoping to accomplish. If you are launching an internal-only communications program first, your goals will be different than if you are hoping to increase external brand awareness by providing employees with content to share with their networks. Ask yourself how your company can benefit from the employee advocacy program and build your goals from there.
Also consider what types of activities and outcomes you are able to track. Setting a goal from increased share of voice on Twitter is great, but if you don’t have a tool in place to report on that metric, it is obviously not going to be helpful when it comes to sharing your results with your team and your company. If you have a marketing automation platform, you may be able to connect the two technologies and include some lead generation metrics on top of your brand awareness metrics. Think about which metrics you can consistently report on and build from there.
Finally, think about which metrics matter during activation and implementation and which metrics will be more important long-term. In the beginning of the program, you will want to measure the number of people who are sharing your content and how often they are sharing it. This is an indication of initial adoption and buy-in across the organization.
Long-term, you may want to look at network reach, types of content that are generating more clicks and engagements, and copy what drives more interest. Consider tying these metrics to your website conversions and content marketing conversions.
If you aren’t sure which metrics to commit to, reach out to your employee advocacy vendor for tips and case studies on what other companies with similar goals are doing. They might even be willing to connect you with other customers – remember, your success is their success and they should be willing to help you along the way.
3. Identify the key employees at your company
While sales and marketing should all hold licenses and be an integral part of the employee advocacy program, look outside of the “usual suspects” when you are identifying your key employees. Often times, there are people in your organization who love talking about your company and your industry.
In a recent roll out, my team discovered someone in the IT department who was a dark horse rockstar! You might consider doing a survey, a call for participants, a lunch and learn, or a sign-up sheet in the break room. All of these activities can turn up passionate employees who want to share the content you are creating.
Once you have identified key employees, consider using this group to help with content creation. These folks are connected to the industry and are passionate about seeing your company’s name in lights. Often times they are able to look at your industry with a different perspective and help you turn out fresh content from a different point of view. If they aren’t super excited about writing, consider putting together a monthly interview session or a questionnaire that can help you put together content or ghost write on their behalf.
4. Reward, reward, reward
Reward. I’ll say it again – reward! The key to employee advocacy is in creating a fun and exciting culture around sharing. While employees enjoy helping spread news and content for your company, what they really want is to see the impact they’re having on your goals. And knowing that they’re helping just a little bit more than their coworker always helps.
At our company, we use monthly and weekly leaderboards along with separate department contests to keep healthy competition going. Leaderboards are broadcast on TVs around the office in order to encourage a little office banter. This also helps keep the employee advocacy program top-of-mind, especially for employees who get caught up in their day-to-day jobs and may forget about the program.
Offer prizes to winners on a consistent basis. Decide what works for you and your budget. Sometimes a smaller weekly or monthly prize and a larger quarterly prize is enough to keep the excitement going. Also consider what you are going to reward. Is it clicks, shares, audience size, or a combination of multiple metrics? Align the rewards with your program goals to help drive success.
Remember, prizes don’t necessarily need to be monetary. Often times, groups see success by rewarding employees with unique perks, like lunch with the CEO, an extra PTO day, or a designated parking spot. These are all things that have no hard cost, are truly appreciated, and are much more exciting than a gift card.
5. Communicate the results
Once you have your employee advocacy program up and running, make sure to communicate the results. In addition to contributing to the culture of the program, it will help your finance team, boss, and c-suite understand and appreciate the value your initiative brings to the company. Make sure to refer to the goals you originally set and be prepared to show your progress against them. Include employee quotes and success stories in your presentation to show the impact employee advocacy is having both internally and externally.
About the Author: Leigh Chesley is Director of Marketing for Atlanta-based Hodges-Mace, LLC, a leading provider of employee benefit delivery and management solutions, where she drives demand generation and thought leadership initiatives. Hodges-Mace was recently named One of the Best Companies to Work for in Georgia 2016. Leigh holds a masters in Internet marketing from Full Sail University. She enjoys spending time with her family, running, and reading. Connect with Leigh on LinkedIn.