Employees: Your First (and Most Important) Audience

Posted by SheaDavis on June 13, 2016


It’s bound to happen — you have that one employee who doesn’t necessarily jive with his job and doesn’t quite fit into your organization’s mindset. You may think that this one employee can’t do that much damage, but his negative attitude can reverberate further than you’d think.

As the face of the company, your employees and their behavior speak volumes about your company’s mission and values. Approximately 90 percent of leaders know the value of engaging employees in the business, yet a dismal 25 percent actually develop an employee engagement strategy.

The hospitality industry is especially reliant upon employees to help communicate a brand’s message to its guests. It could mean the difference between converting a lifelong guest and turning someone off at the door.

For proof, look no further than the success of Southwest Airlines. Most of us would agree that we’d rather not wait in line to get a good seat on the plane. Yet I find that it doesn’t seem to matter because every step of my engagement with Southwest’s employees is positive. Their pride in the company isn’t just palpable — it’s contagious. When faced with a decision, I choose Southwest every time.

The moment guests walk into your property or call to make reservations, their experience begins. The employee who answers the phone or greets them at the door must be aligned with your brand values to make the best first impression possible. And the simple act of communication might make the biggest difference between an employee who serves as a brand ambassador and one who’s just pulling a paycheck.

Here are a few ways you can pay it forward to your employees so they will do the same for their external counterparts:

  1. Give them ownership.With a sense of ownership comes a feeling of greater responsibility and, with that, better results. When Intel kicked off a new tagline in 2009, the company actually marketed it to its employees first, ensuring their buy-in before rolling it out to external customers. Company leaders’ thinking was simple: If they couldn’t get it right with employees, they weren’t going to get it right with customers, either.

If your employees see your campaign at the same time as your external audience members, expect mutiny. When you share it with your employees first, you not only give them a sense of ownership over the initiative, but you also ensure the messaging will resonate with consumers as you intend it to.


  1. Listen.Your employees are your organization’s collective voice. They are on the front lines every day — helping guests, serving customers, tending to clients. As a result, they know where the bottlenecks reside, so treat them as your best source for instant feedback.

There was a time when employee communication was viewed as feel-good fluff. Now we know that keeping employees informed and making them feel like a part of the team has a direct correlation to the bottom line. The feedback you receive from them can help you operate more efficiently and craft messaging that gets to your customers’ hearts.

At the end of the day, a company that doesn’t engage its No. 1 customers in its vision and mission is not one that will succeed. Start investing in your internal community members today, and they will reflect that goodwill to your external customers tomorrow.

Shea Davis is the senior vice president of Mitchell, an award-winning public relations firm that creates real conversations between people, businesses, and brands through strategic insights, customized conversations, and consumer engagement. The agency is headquartered in Fayetteville, Ark., with offices in Chicago and New York City. Mitchell is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network and has more than 300 offices in 145 countries. Shea’s focus is on brand reputation for the hospitality and travel industries.

Topics: Employee Engagement