Internal Communication and Employee Advocacy: Better Together
What You’ll Learn
- Why internal communication is the foundation of an advocacy program
- An engaged workforce is more likely to share your brand story on social media
- Strong advocacy programs benefit both the company and the employees
When people really want to know something about an organization and its products, they go directly to the best source.
People on the front lines are in-the-know. They have the inside scoop and can dish the real story. They are trusted.
The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 54 percent of people rate employees as “very or extremely credible.” That’s well ahead of CEOs (47 percent) and Board of Directors (44 percent). It’s also why employees are the most authentic voices for telling your brand’s story.
But they won’t be effective advocates if they don’t have the best information that’s easily accessible for them to share with their social media networks. Even more importantly, they won’t want to be advocates if they don’t feel like they genuinely matter to the organization.
The foundation of an excellent advocacy program is a clear, transparent internal communication system that makes people feel part of something larger than themselves. One cannot occur without the other.
It’s a better together story.
Employees are more invested when they understand the organization’s mission and values, feel heard, and their efforts get recognized. Then, some portion of the workforce will be more likely to share their passion for the organization and the cool things happening in their workplace with the broader world.
The good news is that companies, in general, are finding success in creating better employee experiences. Gallup research showed in 2019 that 35 percent of U.S. workers are engaged on the job. That’s the highest ever since Gallup began tracking the metric in 2000. (The 13 percent of employees who are actively disengaged tied for the lowest level in the poll’s history.)
That kind of communication-driven engagement is crucial to creating a powerful advocacy engine. Employees don’t want to be seen as an untapped marketing channel. But if they understand what’s in it for them and how this helps them build their brands on social media, some will be eager to become advocates.
Michael Brito, the author of “Participation Marketing: Unleashing Employees to Participate and Become Brand Storytellers,” believes in the “1/9/90 rule” for mobilizing the workforce. His formula for success is when 1 percent of employees post content, 9 percent share it, and the other 90 percent passively follows the conversation.
“You don’t need everyone in the organization involved,” said Brito, Executive Vice President at the Zeno Group. “If you can get the one percent of storytellers and the nine percent engaged, then you’re going to win. That one percent is going to write the blog post, write the Glassdoor review, start a discussion. Then the nine percent is going to amplify it by sharing. That’s a huge opportunity for a company.”
On average, employees have 10 times more first-degree connections on LinkedIn than a company has followers.
It cuts through the noise in ways that traditional brand marketing cannot.
Here are three examples of how Dynamic Signal customers are using the strategy of communication-based employee advocacy to tell their brand stories.
“From a selfish standpoint as a marketer, the most credible way to get people interested in your brand is through your customers and your employees,” Scott said in a recent article. “So, it helps the business. But more importantly, it’s a gift for employees. You’re making it easy for them to share information that makes them look super-smart and ups their social profile.”
Scott said many employees might want to share information about the company, but don’t know how or have the time. They may be afraid of saying something wrong. But when the company provides approved copy as well as beautiful graphics and photos, they will quickly tap the “send” key.
“This is for them,” she added. “We’re going to help you build your own brand on social media. I know that if I were an employee who was presented with this, I would think that’s great that my employer is looking out for me. There’s absolutely no downside.”
Members of the communication team at Nestlé USA recently talked about how a handpicked group of employee ambassadors are the leaders for a companywide initiative to expand the brand’s reach through front-line workers.
They share a wide range of Nestlé-created content on social media about great things happening at the company, new products, and food trends in general.
“People only believe so much about what companies say about themselves, especially in our digital environment, the way Millennials and Gen Z view large companies,” said Liz Caselli-Mechael, Digital Corporate Communications Lead. “They’re coming at what a company says with a pretty high degree of skepticism. But it’s different when you see an incredibly sincere, personal voice from an employee. It radiates with excitement and enthusiasm. It’s like being excited to try a restaurant with a great review on Yelp. It’s more credible and more believable.”
U.K. telecommunication provider O2 has seen success over the past six years encouraging employees to share content on the O2 Amp, a Dynamic Signal-powered platform that amplifies the company mission of connecting customers with technology solutions.
Kristian Lorenzon, Head of Social Media & Culture, said there are benefits for both the brand and the workforce. For instance, O2 “has seen between 150,000 and 200,000 pounds of value, minimum, a year,” in Earned Media Value from employee content shares. Meanwhile, O2 workers have a tangible way to show their pride in the brand and improve their employee Net Promoter Scores – a key company evaluation metric.
“I think it’s really cool that our CEO and every single member of the board uses O2 Amp,” Lorenzon added. “That’s a testament to their support of the program and their belief how it works. They’re focused on seeing the value and tap into our people about sharing positive stories about our brand.”
It’s a win-win.
But it only happens because all three companies emphasize keeping their employees informed – and then cultivate their advocacy.
These real-life examples also support research from FleishmanHillard in the 2017 report, “The Authenticity Gap.” It found that consumers are three times more likely to trust a company employee rather than a CEO when it comes to sorting out fact from fiction about a company.
“Companies should consider giving employees more support and scope to act as brand ambassadors since they tend to be more credible than social media channels or corporate PR machines,” FleishmanHillard concluded.
But that won’t happen if employees don’t know, understand, or believe in the organization.
And that begins with great communication.
10 Benefits of Employee Advocacy
- Increasing Brand Visibility
- Attracting New Business
- Humanizing Brand
- Strengthening Employee Engagement
- Building Brand Loyalty
- Highlighting Positive Workplace Culture
- Amplifying Thought leadership and Insights
- Raising Profile of Employees
- Sharing Customer Success Stories
- Recruiting and Retaining Talent
Interested in learning more? Then join us for our upcoming webinar, “Why Employee Advocacy Is More Important than Ever in 2020” on Thursday, March 5 at 10 a.m. PT/1 p.m. ET.