Picture it: You’re at a networking function with a co-worker and overhear a new acquaintance talking to her about a hotly debated issue in your industry that’s recently attracted significant media attention. Something like “Oh, so YOUR company is responsible for XYZ. I see.”
This could go one of a few ways. 1) She stares back blankly, then down at the floor, then the two part ways awkwardly never to make eye contact again. 2) She shrugs her shoulders and says “Well, I don’t know much about that. I just work there.” 3) She quickly formulates a response using the knowledge that’s ingrained in her about your company and your industry because she knows it and is comfortable sharing. I would bet scenarios one and two happen a lot more often than three. Only 13 percent of employees worldwide are engaged in their work. That’s a shame and a huge missed opportunity to promote your brand and industry.
We’ve all heard the saying “Stop worrying about what other people think of you.” Well, if you’re a brand, this might not be the best advice, because:
It’s no longer about what brands say about themselves. It’s about what others say about brands.
Smart brands already know this is good business. According to a Nielson study, 84% of consumers report taking action on personal recommendations, much higher than paid media. This is especially true among millennials who remain leery of advertising and could be incredibly beneficial if your business operates in a controversial industry such as fossil energy, chemical manufacturing or even education. If your employees not only have to answer questions about your industry but also have to defend themselves and your brand for operating in that space on a daily basis, you’d better be investing in an internal communication strategy that listens to your employees and empowers them to step up to these challenges.
- Make it employee-driven. Monitor social media to identify employees who are already talking about your brand, or work with HR to find out who they see as influencers in your company. Then, turn those influencers into brand ambassadors and equip them with the tools to spread the word among their co-workers and external stakeholders.
- Make it believable. This is where your ambassadors and their input come into play. Employees trust their peers.
- Brand it. Work with influencers and upper management to develop key messages and a brand for the program that’s driven by employees and has both top-down and bottom-up support.
- Make it multi-channel. Once your messaging, brand and ambassadors are in place, flood the workplace with messaging. Use your intranet, video message boards, printed collateral and other employee communications pieces to create multiple touch points for reinforcement.
- Don’t forget the boots on the ground. If you’re isolated in a corporate setting from employees in satellite offices or serving in the field, don’t only include them, make them a main focus of your communications efforts. They’re often the people living and working in the communities our brands impact most, so it only makes sense that they’re well-equipped to stand up and stand out for your brand.
Remember, it’s not your brand story to tell. It’s theirs. Think about that the next time you’re looking at how to spend your marketing dollars, and help equip your employees to spread the word about the incredible story you have to tell.