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7 Ways to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

By: Guest | September 15, 2011 | 
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Today’s guest post is written by Amber Avines.

Want your company to attract more business, secure greater exposure, and reach new customers? Look no further than your employee base to give you that critical advantage!

Empowering your staff with the inside scoop on what’s happening, why it’s important, and how it benefits customers can be a powerful way to supplement traditional PR methods.

Here are some of my top tips to engage your employees and elevate them into brand ambassadors for your company.

  1. Break down the barriers. Employees are people. They work their hardest and care the most when the people in power remember that. Create a culture shift in your company to ensure upper management is accessible, visible, and approachable. People will go above and beyond for a company who considers them part of the team and treats them with respect. This point could be a book in itself.
  2. Communicate. Host town hall style meetings where employees hear from management about new initiatives, priorities, and the strategy behind them. Always allow employees to ask questions. Supplement in-person meetings with a robust intranet site that’s actively maintained and free of jargon. For added engagement, publish an internal blog where upper management can share insights with the rank and file in a candid fashion.
  3. Host a social media 101 class. Review your social media presence with employees, share your goals, and encourage participation. For the newbies, show them how to like your Facebook page, follow and share your tweets, subscribe to your YouTube channel. For the intermediate, tell them how to embed your company videos or use geo-location to raise awareness. For the advanced, work with them to showcase their professional contributions to the company through guest blogging, podcast interviews, or Twitter chats
  4. Treat employee bloggers like media. Have exciting company news? Why not give the story to the employees who have blogs before you pitch the traditional media! They’ll feel special scooping the trades, the info will reach a new audience, and you reinforce your staff’s investment in the company’s success!
  5. Transform employees into superstars. When you create content to share with your customers, include your employees in a meaningful way. Making a video about customer service? Use one of your reps in the piece! Discussing corporate culture on your blog? Profile how a new employee is exploring ways to improve your product! Use your staff in your promotional efforts—and be sure they know how to share those videos and blog posts on their own social media pages.
  6. Encourage community involvement. Help staff get the company name out there by caring about what they care about. Sponsor an employee team for a charity walk-a-thon, and give them company t-shirts to wear! One of your employees volunteering for a special event? Provide a branded freebie for the gift bag!
  7. Reward sharing. People are motivated by praise and prizes. Be sure to acknowledge the employees who actively, and sincerely, promote the company. Gift cards, a reserved parking spot, tchotchkes, or recognition in a blog post or newsletter are just a few ways to make your A-listers feel special.

Remember, employees who feel valued and appreciated will want to talk about the wonderful place where they work. Create a positive culture for your workers and they will become your most enthusiastic cheerleaders!

How do you engage your staff? As an employee, what makes you want to sing your employer’s praises?

Amber Avines has handled internal communications for nationally-known companies such as the Los Angeles Times and the American Youth Soccer Organization. She is currently a communications consultant specializing in engagement and change management. Amber’s blog Words Done Write tackles a wide range of business topics, with a healthy dose of candor and sarcasm.

59 comments
SocialMediaDDS
SocialMediaDDS

@WordsDoneWrite this is just excellent advice. And it is relevant to not only bigger companies but even small businesses as well. Like @JoelFortner my favorite tip was to look internally for media opportunities. None of my staff have blogs at this point but it is an excellent thing to keep in mind. I am all over #1, #2 and #7. I am completely intrigued by the possibilities that would ensue by #6. These ideas are not only brilliant but they are fun! These are not grueling chores that you are suggesting. These are fun interactive ways to get your name out there and your employees enrolled and more committed to your brand. So glad that @ginidietrich had you guest post here, Amber. She is a very wise woman!!

Claudia

JoelFortner
JoelFortner

Love the idea of treating employee bloggers like media. It's unfortunate how many organizations deprive the internal audience. Great post. Thanks!

EricaAllison
EricaAllison

HI Amber! Great list here - I love them all. Your #1 reminds me of Daniel Pink's approach in "Drive" and is a much, much better way to motivate employees. All of your items would really do wonders for motivation. When employees feel empowered and in the loop, they do their best work. When they feel chained to tasks and left out of thought processes, they do their work. There's a subtle distinction there.

I also love how you distinguish your Social Media 101 training: newbies, intermediate and advanced. That's critical to understand employee levels of knowledge and use and then play to their strengths.

socialhospitality
socialhospitality

Great post, Amber! All your points are great and it's so true that employees who feel valued will spread a positive word about the company. I've been in both really good and really poor work environments and they effect my mood, and subsequently, presentation of the company, to others in a major way. Hopefully businesses will take these tips and put them into action!

judygi
judygi

Fantastic Amber - my favourite line: "People will go above and beyond for a company who considers them part of the team and treats them with respect." It always amazes me when business owners complain that their staff never go that extra mile and then look at me askance when I ask "Why should they? What do you do for them?" The veterinary industry is full of people who are passionate about what they do & so they are the easiest employees in the world to turn into brand ambassadors IF the business makes the effort so value & appreciate them. *sigh* Guess we'll all just have to keep on pushing the message ;-)

T60Productions
T60Productions

Really good stuff Amber... especially #5! Turning employees into superstars and featuring them in company videos is one of my favorite topics with potential clients. Every company has great people working for them. Featuring those emplyees in videos is great for morale and a terrific way to show clients what kind of organization you run.

--Tony Gnau

wordsdonewrite
wordsdonewrite

@zheller Hey Zack! Thanks so much for sharing my brand ambassadors piece! Nice to make your acquaintance!

janetcallaway
janetcallaway

Amber, aloha. Though I have neither had a staff nor been an employee for a long, long time, your post still resonated with me. The reason for it is because I remember both as an employee and as a business owner, what a difference it made when everyone felt a part of the whole, were made to feel that their opinion counted.

Amber, to me the most important tip is to communicate. In my opinion, if there is clear and open communication, most anything can be accomplished and inspiration flourishes in such an environment.

With all of the avenues for your communication that are now available, I do hope companies are communicating more often and more effectively with their employees. What do you think?

Treating employee bloggers like media and transforming employees into superstars would go a long way in increasing retention.

Thanks so much reminding companies that their very best Brand Ambassadors are at the desks and on the docks of the company.

Best wishes for a terrific weekend, Amber. Until next time, aloha. Janet

wordsdonewrite
wordsdonewrite

@SmartyCassie Thanks for sharing, Cassie! That link looked dead on my profile page, so I deleted it. Could you click on it?

Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2
Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2

I love how Zappos.com addresses this topic of making sure they attract the right people in the first place instead of trying to convert virgins. Converting virgins to be devoted to service is tough work. But if you sort and sift and only bring people into your culture who are driven to serve, all of the advice you've given here is jet fuel for an already high performance rocket.

Getting Tony Hsieh's book is a great guide for knowing what to look for when hiring. But the best thing you could do to master the ability of hiring right is to go to their site and take one of their trainings. If I ever had to hire, that'd be the first place I'd go for training.

KenMueller
KenMueller

This is a big one for me, and one I preach every time I meet with a client or speak to a group of business owners. the past two days I have met with two prospective clients (who I have every reason to believe WILL become clients) and this has been a big part of both discussions. They both have staffs that are perfect for this.

A part of the proposals that I'm writing for them includes the creation of a strong internal social media policy that is not restrictive, but instead encourages the staff to become engaged online. I've always said that your two best marketing tools are your employees and your customers. Why not equip them to do their jobs better?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

I've always been a big believer in employee empowerment and letting everyone do things outside of their job roles, if they have the passion. I'm also a big believer in your employees being your content creators...they're the ones on the front lines. Let's give them Flip cams or microphones (Zoom) or a blog and let them go at it.

JudyHelfand
JudyHelfand

Hi Amber (and Gini),

As you know, I really wanted to be the first one to comment today, but I had a meeting. I came back, as promised.

Amber, your seven points are well crafted. Back in April Gini wrote a post called "Two Qualities Every CEO Needs." Do you remember it? I am pretty sure you commented. At the time, Gini asked for other suggestions and I said: "CEOs must be generous with their ideas, their vision, their time, compassion, knowledge and with the profits."

Today I think that each of your seven points requires generosity. Do you see what I mean? Business owners have to want to engage their employees. Stock options aren't enough, if every year it is suggested that you NOT show up at the stockholders' annual meeting! (Believe me I have seen this happen.)

Let's talk about #4. I love this idea. Imagine if employees were proud to put a company employee "badge" on their personal blogs. In May 2011, Jay Baer wrote a piece "Speak No Evil - Why Trust Isn't a 4 Letter Word in Social Media." I was so taken by it that I responded to him with my own post "Social Media Trust Is Like Wearing A Lapel Pin." http://judysoped.blogspot.com/2011/05/social-media-trust-lapel-pins.html In today's world so many people/employees/contractors telecommute, they could have a virtual lapel pin for their personal blogs.

Many years ago I worked for a wonderful CEO. His way of acknowledging employees was to present them with a pheasant feather. Sounds crazy, right? I can tell you now 20+ years later I still have those feathers and I am sure many of my previous co-workers do as well.

Thanks, Amber for your ideas and thanks to Gini for sharing them on Spin Sucks.

Judy

Color4Charlotte
Color4Charlotte

Empowering social media. Awesome job Amber! @wordsdonewrite

bdorman264
bdorman264

Great post Amber; if you take care of your employees first everything else typically will work out. Those are some great ideas to help promote a fun, innovative work environment and fosters a roll up your sleeves attitude when the going gets tough.

If you have engaged employees they truly are your best ambassadors.

Good to see you at Lisa and Gini's, hopefully they had some food left over since you came in after lunch. I've heard they make some pretty good stuff.........

allisonthenning
allisonthenning

@wordsdonewrite I agree, Amber. It's so important to utilize employees. It can be easy, but it's ALSO easy to not see our best resources.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@SocialMediaDDS Hey Claudia! You're just on your way to building a 21st century media empire, aren't you! If you have numbers one and two down, you're ahead of lots of companies--big and small. That's the foundation for success.

I'm glad you think these are fun. And that's the thing, all this can be enjoyable. For employees and employers! It doesn't have to be this big, ominous chore that companies have to avoid because they "don't have the time." It's just a small investment in resources, yet a LARGE investment in your people.

As yes, I'm very pleased that @ginidietrich invited me over to her online abode. It's been fun squatting here :-)

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@JoelFortner That's my favorite idea, too! It's a unique approach that can really yield some great results if companies just start to harness the power and enthusiasm of their employees!

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@EricaAllison Great distinction, Erica! Doing your work and doing your best work. Unhappy employees do the former. Engaged employees do the latter.

As for the social media stuff, yeah, I think it's critical to conduct a social media assessment. If you're too basic, you'll alienate the experienced. And if you're too involved, you'll scare away the newbies! Just like any successful communication effort, you have to know your audience.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@socialhospitality Great input, Debbie! The mood that's established within a company due to its culture is powerful stuff! It can make or break a person--and a company!

I've seen some C-level exec who think engagement is coddling. A "just do your job" kind of mentality. That's a sure fire way to burn through employees fast and turn them into zombies. But, get them engaged, involve them, make them part of the solution, and most staffers are all over it.

In this day and age of social media, it's a waste to squander such a powerful resource. A motivated employee base can rival any high-priced traditional PR firm!

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@judygi Great points, Judy! So many companies need to make a shift from thinking of themselves as bosses and, instead, start to become leaders!

And, yes, when you talk about an industry that people are in because they are likely to have a calling of some sort (like animals, children, the environment, seniors, etc.), it's a slam dunk! But, as you say, the respect and support has to be there. You can have a great company with an unhappy employee base and go nowhere fast.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@T60Productions Very true, Tony! More than ever, customers like to know WHO they're doing business with. That includes the employees behind the scenes!

Employees feel great about being acknowledged and included. Customers get to meet the people who execute and service. It's all good!

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@janetcallaway Hello Janet! Yes, love that! They ARE at the desks and on the docks of the company!

You're so right. Communication is critical. More than that, though, open, honest, spin-free communication. By giving your internal communications a marketing spin, you lose the respect of employees. I've seen it time and again. Employees don't appreciate being marketed to; they want to have candid communication from their top tier executives. Tell it like it is, no holds barred. They'll appreciate the candor and the trust will grow from there.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@Lewis LaLanne aka Nerd #2 Hi Lewis! Yep, Zappos is always such a great example of so many things. They just get it.

I think there's probably two camps. New companies that can do as you say and hire the right people from the get-go. And the older companies who have a lot of long term employees who may be more resistant to change. Of course, there's always the folks in the middle.

Creating a culture is so important. It allows people and employers to really know if they're a match before the interview process even starts. When you actively promote your culture, potential employees know what to expect and can therefore weed themselves out of the running. In your Zappos example, they do such a stellar job of promoting their culture, you'd be crazy to be an anti-social introvert and still apply there!

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@KenMueller Love it! Yes, you're so right. Employees and customers! Doesn't get any simpler than that. Yet, ironically, so many companies miss the mark on both.

That's exciting that you have someone who is open to chartering a new course for their business. PR and marketing efforts are no longer restricted to the handful of people on the "official" staff. Everyone can play a role. And, everyone benefits!

Have fun working with your new clients and kudos to you for getting them on the bandwagon!

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@ginidietrich Great attitude, Gini! You're so right. If people have an interest and enthusiasm, it's a win-win.

Companies who get over their fear and start including employees in their PR and marketing efforts will be ahead of the curve. One doesn't need to be on the PR staff to have a real impact these days. Employees have voices, friends, fans, subscribers, followers, connections, etc. It's a waste not to tap into those networks.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@JudyHelfand Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful comment, Judy!

Number four is an idea that came to me one night during dinner and something I pitch to potential clients. Few see the value, which makes me sad. Business leaders can be slow to embrace change and seeing employees as media is a real shift in perception.

I love the idea of badges and pins. Things that instill pride are so important! As for the feathers, I'm sure you're right and that most folks held onto theirs. Acknowledgement withstands the test of time.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@bdorman264 Thanks, Bill! Brand ambassadors can play such a crucial role in today's tech savvy world. To not include employees in your PR goals is short-sighted. Plus it has great HR benefits (e.g. happy, motivated employees!).

Leftovers? No one told me about leftovers. I think they must be holding out on me...

wordsdonewrite
wordsdonewrite

@SmartyCassie D'oh! Sorry about that. What a pain. I deleted that tweet pretty fast, but you're quick! Thx for the extra effort. U R a doll!

KenMueller
KenMueller

@WordsDoneWrite well, both of these potential clients sought me out because of what they know of me. They aren't looking at any one else. It's just a matter of me coming up with a proposal they can afford and they like. But I love clients that "get it". it makes my job that much easier, and I don't have to start from square one. And for both of them, the employees will be a key part of their entire blogging and social media strategy.

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@JoelFortner It's an Amber original! :-) (At least as far as I know. I've never heard of it anywhere else before!)

WordsDoneWrite
WordsDoneWrite

@ginidietrich Did I see somewhere that you're in LA today? If so, so am I. Just leave your doggie bag at the reservation desk and I'll swing by to get it ;-)

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