Becky Graebe vividly remembers two things about an Advanced Learning Institute conference in September of 2018 where she joined Danielle Guzman to deliver a presentation about mobilizing employees into authentic brand advocates.
- The room of 100 people was silent as Guzman described how Employee Advocacy helped make Mercer the talk of the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
- What happened after they left the stage.
“Danielle walked back to her table and was literally inundated with people wanting to know more,” said Graebe, Senior Director, Communication Expert, at Dynamic Signal. “I had never seen anything like it.”
Guzman held court for another 90 minutes before finally having to hurry to catch a flight.
“At the airport, I bumped into the event organizer and she told me: ‘I didn’t think they were ever going to let you go,’” recalled Guzman, Mercer’s Global Head of Social Media and Distributed Content. “I remember thinking that it would have kept going if I could have stayed. You could tell that there was a tremendous amount of interest.”
There’s a reason for that. Mercer had unleashed a juggernaut at the world’s best-known business conference.
The “Davos Squad” harnessed the voices of about 300 Mercer employees to amplify the company’s message at the forum. Mercer generated a social share of voice that was four times greater than its eight closest competitors – combined. The brand finished No. 10 among all organizations in social media conversations behind only media outlets such as Bloomberg and CNBC.
“This was a great opportunity to bring our employees together in a very connected way around something that they passionately believe in and allow them to be the voice of Mercer,” she said. “Employees are a tremendous competitive advantage, and Davos Squad is proof of that.”
It’s also why Guzman was honored at the 2018 Summit by Dynamic Signal conference as the Communicator of the Year. At the 2019 Summit, Guzman was back on stage talking on the importance of quality content to drive a successful employee communication and engagement program.
“From Day One, Danielle had a vision for what Mercer could accomplish if they worked together and stayed insanely focused on results,” Graebe said. “She recognized the potential. She created a strategy jam-packed with creative content, solid tools, and fun. It’s why they blew past initial goals to achieve something no one could have imagined. Danielle and her team showed people what was possible, and that’s exciting. Everyone wants to be part of that kind of energy.”
Mercer’s success stems from Guzman’s belief that there’s always a way to overcome obstacles.
“I just look at everything as an opportunity,” she said. “If three doors are closed, something else will open. If I’m going to spend a lot of time at work, I want to be excited about my projects and our team and feel satisfaction at accomplishing great things together. I’m not a person who just checks a box and says, ‘Thank god that day is over.’ That’s just not me.”
Guzman is an accidental expert in social media and Employee Advocacy. It definitely wasn’t her intended career path during her climb in the business world.
In 2016, she joined Mercer as the Solutions Marketing Leader for their investment business. But during a break before beginning her new job, Guzman took up a new hobby – social media. After plowing through the “For Dummies” series of books on the topic, she developed a serious social media presence by actively starting and guiding conversations on a range of business topics. (Guzman now has more than 44,000 Twitter followers alone.)
“I could see that digital was where the world was heading, so I decided it was time to learn more about this space,” she said. “And now I’m in a career I love.”
In 2017, Guzman was given the opportunity to take over Mercer’s social media efforts. She immediately looked for a way to galvanize employees behind the channels in a way that would elevate their voices across the globe – benefiting both them and the brand.
Her team found it: Davos.
It was certainly a project that could benefit Mercer through greater exposure at the world-renown conference. But internally, it also would drive closer collaboration throughout the organization – from social media to PR to communications to strategic marketers to leadership. It really would “take a village.” And Guzman’s team believed the real prize would be rallying Mercer employees around a common cause, making everyone feel part of something bigger themselves, while also giving them a chance to better establish their personal brands.
In just a few weeks, the team created the Davos Squad nickname, put the word out to employees using the Mercer Voices platform powered by Dynamic Signal, and then sent branded hats, gloves and scarves to those who wanted to participate. (The swag was the only expense to the program.) Oh, and there was a request: Put on your new gear, take a photo of yourself, and post it on social media.
Did they ever. It was the start of something big.
“We didn’t expect what happened,” Guzman said. “It just exploded. We were flying by the seat of our pants, but we just got click after click after click.”
What happened in Davos didn’t stay in Davos. Employees sharing the company story gave Mercer a massive visibility lift – and a 3,000-percent increase in reach from 2017.
It turned out that Guzman and the team were just warming up. At the 2019 conference, they far eclipsed their success of one year earlier. Mercer saw an 89 percent increase in reach, a 28 percent increase in social impressions, and was the fifth-most most engaged company globally at the conference – and the No. 1 non-media organization.
Mercer “blew 2018 out of the water on every level,” Guzman added.
Her team now is using their Davos experiences as a springboard for a year-round employee influencer program using the Dynamic Signal platform.
“We’ve really created a culture around this at Mercer, and it’s all very exciting,” she said. “It just shows what’s possible.”
It’s also why people are lining up to hear the story.
Position: Global Head of Social Media and Distributed Content at Mercer, where she oversees the Mercer Voices platform
Home: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Family: Husband Gary, daughter Cora (6)
Education: Bachelor’s degree in marketing and accounting from McMaster University, a master’s degree in international business and marketing from BI Norwegian Business School, an MBA from McMaster University.
Interests: Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, yoga, cooking, traveling.
Favorite Books: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. “As a marketer, I find it truly remarkable that you can just suspend disbelief, forget everything, and go into this creative world.”
Favorite TV Show: “Game of Thrones”
Favorite Movie: “Running Brave,” the story of Billy Mills, a Native American runner who won an Olympic gold medal
Best Advice She Ever Received: From Murli Buluswar, the former Chief Science Officer at AIG. “He once told me, ‘Look at your life like a New York Times bestseller. Every role you take is a chapter. So, ask yourself throughout the year, ‘Is the work that I’m doing something with meaning to put into that book of my life? If it’s not and your book is getting boring, it’s time to be thinking about what I should be doing next.’ I’ve never forgotten that.”
Fun Fact: A Mother’s Day gift from her daughter a few years ago was a scarf. “Now I wear them almost every single day. Everyone at Mercer knows me because of the scarves. If I’m ever not wearing one, people will always say, ‘Where’s your scarf?’”
Follow: @guzmand on Twitter
Five Questions with Danielle
How does Employee Advocacy help a brand?
“It motivates employees. It aligns the workforce. Whatever we do with our Dynamic Signal platform is focused on the pillars of our culture. It helps employees rally and around those. Employees don’t even see it as being served up content. They just see it as a way to share their voices. You don’t look like you have an agenda, and yet you’re accomplishing so much. They’re playing a role for Mercer, but they’re seeing it more as what’s in it for them.”
What do people underestimate about Employee Advocacy?
“Any employee can be an influencer. Everyone is influencing someone. We should never look to a program to be about a certain group of people. It should allow everyone in the organization to approach it with their unique voice and extend it to their communities because you don’t know where your audience truly is. The only way you’re going to grow and innovate is by being able to continually expand that voice.”
What advice would you give for getting started?
“Define what you’re looking to accomplish as an organization. Never have more than three objectives, like increase employee engagement, improve brand perception, increase share of voice. Those are behind the scenes. Employees don’t care about those. So, I come up with five things that they will value. It helps them understand the opportunity for them. Then connect those to how it’s going to help the organization because they want to see the business impact.”
What role does Dynamic Signal play?
“The ability to be able to bring our employee voices together with the brand messaging and harmonize it in a way that makes everyone feel like they own that conversation is exactly what Dynamic Signal allows us to do.”
What would life be like without Dynamic Signal?
“Chaos! Life without Dynamic Signal would be utter chaos.”