It’s not an uncommon practice for companies to hire celebrities to endorse their brands. We all know James Earl Jones as the voice for Verizon, Bill Cosby as the face of Jell-O, and Jennifer Hudson as the model for Weight Watchers. Celebrities are powerful spokespeople because they have a wide and trusted following.
Today’s Era of Social Media has made it possible for any person to become a social celebrity with this same extensive network of trusted followers. Whether or not companies are aware of it, their employees are broadcasting their brand sentiment to an impressive fan base. The result is that employees have become the new brand spokespeople.
Just as celebrity endorsements can turn into real PR disasters (think Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and Lance Armstrong), employees with negative brand sentiment can become a real “management headache”, as The Wall Street Journal recently pointed out. One infamous example is the YouTube video featuring a Domino’s Pizza employee picking his nose and rubbing it into the pizza dough.
But that’s not the end of the story. The reverse side of the coin can actually be quite shiny. If employees feel positive brand sentiment, they are bound to broadcast this attitude. In a world where online recommendations are the most trusted form of advertising, these branded employees can become powerful business tools.
The question, then, is how can businesses transform employees into the ultimate brand ambassadors?
1. Get employees in on your Brand Story.
Even if your employees have been with your company for several years, you can’t assume they understand the ins and outs of your brand story. If you don’t teach employees what your brand stands for, they won’t fully appreciate or care about it as much as they should. If you promote positive brand buzz internally, you encourage employees to bring that buzz online.
2. Create a Corporate Culture worth broadcasting.
If you take the time to invest in your corporate culture, your employees will take the time to invest in you. Zappos is a great example of a company that has prioritized internal brand building and benefited greatly from it. Their corporate environment is fun and rewarding and Zappos employees are constantly advertising their love and loyalty towards the brand.
3. Encourage Social Media – the way you want it.
There’s no need to look at employees’ social media engagement as an activity to be controlled and monitored. Instead, use it as an opportunity. Become a fan or follower of your employees or consider linking the company blog to theirs.
Nokia is known to be one of the most sociable online brands. A central reason behind Nokia’s social media success is the company’s employee social media policy. Every Nokia employee is encouraged to speak freely across any social media network. (They are even the global sponsors for Social Media Week.) The result is that employees are constantly promoting exciting new Nokia products and have become genuine brand ambassadors.
Your employees’ prominence as the face of your brand comes with certain risks. In the world of social media especially, bad news can travel fast and your new spokesperson can become a PR disaster. But if you invest in your employees as walking, talking brand ambassadors, the results can be extremely rewarding, as with Google, Zappos, and Nokia. Take the time to clarify your brand story, get them excited about working for you and encourage them to spread the word. Your employees can then become the ultimate brand advocates.
How do you encourage employee brand advocacy? Let us know by commenting below!