Empower employee brand ambassadors

Marketing -- not just communicating -- to your employees is the key to growing Brand Ambassadors.

Marketing -- not just communicating -- to your employees is the key to growing Brand Ambassadors.

Early in my career, we used to give lip service to "internal communications." Those were the days when employees were extraordinarily loyal and would default to trusting their leadership.

Those days are long gone.

There's an enormous lack of trust for traditionally trusted sources. 

In 2017, the Edelman Trust Barometer showed only 37 percent of employees globally trust their CEOs. That's 12 percentage points less than 2016, and the lowest ever.

In a world filled with cynicism, distrust for authority, and an ongoing race for talent, it’s not enough to simply communicate to your internal audiences. You must market to them.

It’s essential to show employees why your business is the best place for them to work. In doing so, you not only retain top talent, you empower and motivate your people to serve as brand ambassadors for your company.

Your people represent your brand.

The “people you pay” (employees, staff, associates, teammates – they go by many names) will always be your most important audience. They are, whether you like it or not, your personal brand ambassadors.

Whether they are at the grocery store, their kid's soccer game, or a business networking event, employees are ambassadors for your organization. It’s as if they have your logo tattooed on their forehead, 24 x 7.

When asked about your organization, what will they say? Have you properly prepared them to serve in this role?

We’ve found many companies can do an ever better job of informing, motivating and equipping their employees with the information needed to serve as great brand ambassadors.

For example, when you launch a new product, open a new office location, or acquire a new hire – these are all opportunities to market to your internal audiences. Educating your own teammates about the "new" story will net significant benefits.

They will feel special, since they are now "in-the-know," and will often want to share the news. By communicating openly with them, you’ve just set them up to tell your story in an accurate, positive and consistent manner. And they feel good about doing it!

The worst thing that can happen is to have a client or prospect ask an employee what they think about a new initiative, and all your employee can say is, "well, that's the first I've heard of it." 

The right mindset and information dissemination model will create a win-win-win situation.

It’s easy for organizations to make a list of their key target audiences, in order of importance. It almost always starts with clients or customers. However, this is the wrong way to disseminate your message.

Once ownership and leadership make decisions, your teammates become THE most important audience. That's where any information sharing or new announcements must begin.

I've often noticed how much an organization's culture or vibe can be closely associated with nature. Just like a ripple in a pond, all your communications should start in the center and roll outward to your audiences, being shared first with employees.

As you work out from the middle, the groups often expand from the center along this path:

  • Ownership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Customers
  • Influencers
  • Prospects
  • Industry
  • Community
  • Everyone else

By communicating first to your employees, you reinforce their value, and position them to better serve as your brand ambassadors.

Use internal marketing to develop trust and retain talent

How many employees have a long-term contract? Almost none. That means that everyone on the team essentially makes a purchase decision every day: “Am I going to work, or is today the day I quit?"

Every person's boss has a similar purchase decision to make: "Do I let this employee keep their job another day or is this the day I let them go?"

For both the employee and employer, it is paramount that the relationship maintains a strong win-win approach. This means a relationship that is good for both the individual and the company. Both are proud of each other, and employees are proud to serve as personal brand ambassadors.

The base of any win-win relationship is trust. Empowering and trusting each other starts with clear marketing and communications.

As you grow, and change inevitably happens, make sure to start each new initiative with clarity and buy-in from your team right at the beginning.

You’ll further establish trust by sharing news with employees first, empower them to serve as brand ambassadors, and show them daily why you are their best place to work.