How Your Employee Advocates Can Help in a Crisis

What You’ll Learn

  • Now is the wrong time to hit pause on your Employee Advocacy program
  • The public wants to know what companies are doing to help, and employees can share those stories
  • Examples of how companies are using advocacy during the pandemic

What a strange, uncertain time this is for everyone. We’re all trying to navigate this new world where everything is turned upside down, at least temporarily.

It’s no different for companies.

There’s no playbook to follow as they deal with the pandemic. When it comes to presenting themselves publicly during the crisis, businesses are trying to figure out how to strike the right, sensitive, and emphatic note.

One of the questions they’re facing is how to approach Employee Advocacy. These are structured programs where employees are empowered to become company ambassadors by sharing approved content on social media to extend the brand voice. Consumers tend to trust other people more than they do large organizations. Also, when employees’ networks are combined, they create a much larger reach than most traditional company channels. That’s why advocacy is so effective.

But is there a place for advocacy in the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?

My answer to that is an emphatic yes. Or let me put it another way. If not now, then when? It’s one thing to tweak your advocacy program, but now is not the time to hit pause.

I realize that there are different schools of thought on this. One is that Employee Advocacy doesn’t have a role right now unless you’re with the CDC or WHO and are sharing public safety messages. No company wants to appear promotional at a time when the world understandably is focused on broader issues. That’s why “business as usual” advocacy programs will look tone-deaf at best – and crass at worst. Nobody wants to be perceived as being unintentionally exploitive in a truly terrible situation.

Yet the reality is that there’s only one story that matters right now – the coronavirus. When done appropriately, I believe Employee Advocacy ­is more critical than ever for helping brands find a positive place in that story. The key is highlighting topics relevant to what people and organizations are experiencing right now.

Context matters.

FarmFeedI’m seeing companies mobilize their employee-ambassadors in ways that build their brand reputation by being part of the solution. They’re the helpers, to borrow from Mr. Rogers. They’re out there trying to be a force for good during this incredibly stressful time.

For instance, many Dynamic Signal customers are leaders in their industries. They have specific knowledge that can benefit the public. Employees are helping them get the word out to the people who need to hear it. Here are just a few examples demonstrating expertise.

  • Healthcare system employees are sharing accurate, trustworthy information to keep the public safe
  • Employees of a technology company have spread the word about coronavirus-related cyber scams
  • Employees at a pet product brand are sharing company-created tips for keeping furry friends healthy
  • Pharmaceutical company employees shined a spotlight on an article by its chief science officer about the need for researchers to work together
  • Cumberland Farms employees share information about new store hours and extra measures taken to sanitize their convenience stores

Employees are hungry for information not only for themselves but for the people in their social networks.

They want to be helpful.

Remarkable new research from Edelman about trust and the pandemic supports that idea. It found that 62 percent of respondents say their country will not make it through the crisis without brands playing a critical role. Also, 55 percent say brands are responding more quickly and effectively than government.

Edelman COVID-19 Stats“If you were ever in doubt that brands matter, this new data reveals the power and necessity of brand as well as their urgent need to act,” Edelman wrote. “Brands should find solutions instead of selling passion or image.”

So, let me connect some dots here.

Employees can share those stories of their companies’ actions in genuine voices that resonate with real pride. They bring attention to how their companies are giving back. Here are ways I’ve seen our customers share heartwarming stories of philanthropy and good deeds.

  • Employees of a well-known company amplified the story of a cash donation to Meals on Wheels America for delivering 40,000 meals to homebound seniors
  • Employees at another marquee brand shared how the company contributed $1 million to provide frontline healthcare workers with desperately needed safety equipment
  • Employees spread the word that their prominent bank is financially supporting online educational programs for homebound children

Overall, our customers are seeing a sharp uptick in engagement when employees share coronavirus-related content – an increase of two to three times. It’s also most successful when it’s focused on company efforts and helpful information around the pandemic.

If there’s some trepidation at your organization, I’ve seen a customer create a few pieces of sharable coronavirus content. That way, the company tested the waters to see if it (and their employees) could be part of the solution.

But we should have more of these positive voices, not fewer. We should be raising them up, not silencing them. That’s the kind of real-world impact Employee Advocacy can have to help brands play a role in the crisis that the public increasingly expects.

Companies are being thoughtful about what they’re sharing. They’re making sure that it’s relevant to the moment. They understand that it’s more important than ever not to be quiet.

And their employees are helping them.

 

Post Author

Becky Graebe

As Senior Director, Communication Expert at Dynamic Signal, I work with a great team of people to connect, align and engage employees in modern and meaningful ways, wherever they are and in the manner they choose.