Employees have the power to be a company’s best supporters or its worst detractors. You’ve likely read positive posts from employees on LinkedIn celebrating their company’s values, commitment to diversity and inclusion. However, you’ve surely also noticed when employees share negative reviews and experiences on sites like Glassdoor and their social media profiles.
Employees are surely essential actors of any marketing and communication strategy. Corporate leaders have the opportunity to engage their talents in a variety of ways, from creating formal employee advocacy programmes to providing broad external communication guidelines.
These programmes share a common goal: equipping talents to act as an extension of communication efforts and leveraging their unique perspective within the organisation to engage target audiences more effectively. With this article, I’ll walk you through the ways leaders can turn their employees into brand or culture ambassadors.
Brand ambassadors: engaging external audiences
One of the most common engagements of employees as communicators is through the role of brand or social media ambassador. The brand ambassadors are carefully identified and called upon to act as communicators to external audiences. They might, for instance, post company news or announcements on LinkedIn, inform their network about recruitment opportunities, etc.
With these engagement programmes, marketing leaders need to provide employees with autonomy to use their authentic voice. Many in the C-suite are rightfully afraid of rogue employees using their platform to go off-script and potentially harm their organisation’s well-crafted reputation.
Culture ambassadors: engaging internal audiences
Another growing trend in employee ambassador programmes is positioning employees to act as an extension of an organisation’s internal communications efforts. These programmes may take the form of “change champions” or “culture ambassadors” to help organisational initiatives come alive for their fellow employees.
For instance, workers who are part of employee resource groups can initiate important discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion. Whatever form these internal employee ambassador formats might take, marketing and communication leaders should be investigating ways to equip employees to activate their power of peer-to-peer communication.
Reverse employee ambassadors: gathering valuable feedback
A third way leaders can engage employees as ambassadors is by providing them with the space to connect and gather meaningful feedback from stakeholders. These so-called “reverse employee ambassadors” may take the form of a panel of employees who provide regular feedback during focus groups. In this way, they become an invaluable source of qualitative data.
Keeping ambassadors engaged
After the initial launch of an ambassador programme, clients often tell us that they struggle to keep employees interested and engaged. Employees have a day job, after all, and they will likely prioritise their regular responsibilities over any activities related to their secondary role as communications ambassadors.
To avoid this fate, leaders should clarify both the expectations of employees and the benefits they will receive by participating. Employees will be more likely to stay engaged if they are aware of the potential benefits of participation, such as access to senior leadership, monetary compensation or leadership development opportunities.
The bottom line
Nowadays corporate leaders have an opportunity to leverage employees as trusted ambassadors to engage internal and external stakeholders. While the size and shape of these programmes might vary, your company’s employee base might be the missing ingredient to a successful marketing and communication strategy.