How to Create an Employee Brand Ambassador ProgramEmployees make your business work.

They drive the operation of your business and fuel your success. Leadership drives the car, but your team is the engine. 

Not only that, they might just be the best communications tool you have.

Employees are your best influencers. They carry both the power of customers with their knowledge around your product or service and the power of company leaders with their knowledge of your brand.

That is…if you put the work in to do two things:

  1. Create a culture that facilitates happy employees who feel part of the organization and are proud of their roles and the organization they work for; and 
  2. Build a system to help direct and amplify their voices. 

About half of all employees already post about the company on social media, so it probably makes sense for organizations to be aware of that process and enable it to create an effective employee brand ambassador program. 

There are three ways you can do exactly that.

Step One: Create a Culture That Motivates Employee Advocacy

Want to know the secret to a great employee brand ambassador program?

Be worthy of it. 

Create a culture that makes employees want to share things that support your brand.

Because step one of effective employee brand ambassadors is to not be a miserable place to work.

Mary Getz, founder of MESG Marketing, describes the elephant in the room:

Poor leadership/management can’t be overcome by tips or tricks for positive engagement.

We once had a client (who, admittedly didn’t last very long—see Gini Dietrich’s article about red flags) who wanted us to create an about page on their website that demonstrated fun.

When he told us that, Gini and I had to avoid looking at one another.

He wanted photos of Cubs rooftop events and beer pong and late nights singing karaoke.

The problem is, they did NONE of those things.

He thought it would attract better candidates to his business, but we had to explain they had to actually do those things if people were expecting them.

Corinna vanGerwen tells a story which illustrates this:

Years ago I worked for a company and clearly remember thinking, “F- you, you can pay me if you want me to share your stuff on my personal social accounts.” That was definitely a symptom of the fact that I knew they didn’t really care about me. It wasn’t a good culture.

Don’t be like Corinna’s company.

Don’t be like our former client and pretend you care, when you really don’t.

Show your employees you care. Do it consistently and authentically. This doesn’t just mean you give them days off to go bowling and company swag on Christmas. 

This means you treat them with respect, listen to their feedback, make them part of the success of the company…not just a commodity that drives it. 

How Do You Make Your Employees Feel?

At the start, I mentioned that the team is the engine that makes the (company) car drive.

If someone were to apply for a job with the idea that they would get to go to Cubs rooftop games, play beer pong, and build co-worker relationships over late night karaoke, what do you think happens when they realize the job entails none of that?

The engine stops working. It might even catch on fire. Or perhaps it slowly leaks oil until it dies.

These are not things you want from the engine of your organization.

Rachel Ford explains this well:

With employees and customers alike, it comes down to how the brand or business makes them feel. Begin by creating a culture in which employees feel valued and included. Everything your business does is an opportunity to tell employees and customers who the brand is, what the brand values, and why they should care. By creating something that both adds value and aligns with their values, employees and customers will serve as loyal ambassadors on social media and in real life.

Madhura Moulik agrees:

Treat them right, show empathy and build a transparent and nurturing environment as possible. 

Team Members or Employees?

We have one long-time client whose CEO is adamant that the employees are always referred to as “team members.” 

One time, after I had just started working with them, I accidentally slipped and called them employees. I honestly thought my life might be on the line. It’s a crucial part of their culture and they are committed to this word choice 100 percent. 

And here’s the thing: that one shift in word choice helps drive and consistently reinforce the culture. You talk to any of their team members, from leadership to the manufacturing line crews, and they all talk about how the company feels like “family”. 

That’s the type of company that motivates brand ambassadors from within. 

And even more important: the type of company worthy of them. 

The best and first question you should ask yourself when launching an employee brand ambassador program is: do we deserve it?

If the answer is no, fix that first. 

Step Two: Make it Inclusive

In last week’s article about customer brand ambassadors, I mentioned the IKEA effect and how powerful it is when you make people feel part of something vs. external to it.

This is even truer when it comes to employees. 

Ambreen Sharif explains:

One tip for getting your employees engaged is to garner ideas on how to boost your online brand. Your employees are the ones in the trenches—making sales calls, hosting webinars, manning trade show booths, writing blogs, and so much more. Get them to share their insights and brainstorm campaigns with them. When your employees feel empowered and heard, they are much more likely to engage with your brand outside of the office.

Tara Brzozowski adds:

Building a company culture of employee brand ambassadors involves giving them the opportunity to be involved in new experiences and projects they feel passionate about. When employees are authentically excited about something, whether that be a new project or client, they will naturally want to share those experiences with their audiences and circles.

Engaged employees don’t just act as brand ambassadors, they are better employees. Why wouldn’t you make this a priority?

It’s a win, win, win. 

Step Three: Educate 

The reach of company-branded messages increases 561% when shared by employees versus the organization’s own channels.

Which is awesome!

But it also means you probably want to do some work to guide them in how to share in a way that best supports the organization’s goals (while remaining authentic).

That’s why education plays a major role in an effective employee brand ambassador program.

Madhura Moulik has more to say on the topic:

Educate on how they can contribute to the company brand building and best practices while sharing any company-related information.

Jake Hay adds:

Education about the brand they represent is highly important. Being informed about the key messages that the marketing team has crafted helps employees convey those messages to others. Having a clear vision that is communicated to employees can provide them with the tools to promote the brand they represent.

Remember, just because the company messaging and brand voice is clear to you, doesn’t mean it’s clear to everyone else.

The best way to find out if you all are on the same page is to ask them. Ask them questions specific to who you are, what you do, and your brand values. 

If your employees don’t know, your customers probably don’t either. You need to take a step back and figure out why.

Not just to help them be better brand ambassadors, but to help your company be a better…well brand.

And one that actually practices what it preaches. Which can be easier said than done. 

Your Employee Brand Ambassador Program Tips

What tips would you add to these on how to create an effective employee brand ambassador program?

Add them here or join the discussion in the Spin Sucks Community. 

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Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

View all posts by Laura Petrolino