Communicating From the Inside Out

Saskia Jones

"With billions of people on social media, leading marketers are quickly learning that they don't have the resources to engage in every brand conversation on every channel. While some brands have caught on and are empowering advocates to share stories on social channels, many brands are overlooking one of the most valuable types of advocates - their employees.(1)"

What is employee advocacy?

Simply put, employee advocates defend their organisation against criticism and champion their organisation, online and off. Employee advocacy programmes actively encourage employees to share brand content through their own networks. Social media is not the only way for them to do this, but it's a clear channel to promote and measure success. The potential benefits are huge, providing another channel to your market through thousands of personal networks.

With many companies fearing the risks of such lack of control, you'll need leadership on board to make this happen. You'll need to have great content to share and encourage use of technology and training. But most importantly, you'll need to empower employees from top to bottom to share their personal experiences both within and outside the organisation, with integrity and authenticity.

Isn't it risky?

Many brands try to restrict how employees use channels such as Twitter and Facebook to share company information. The reality is that the internet allows a potential for open dialogue which can't be stopped. Consumers are sharing their experience about brands and employees are able to share their ideas, whether we like it or not. Our job is to embrace and leverage this opportunity, not to be scared of it.

That's not to say the risk of damaging tweets, blogs or posts is over, but with the right training and guidelines this can be minimised.

The need for a plan

Weber Shandwick, a PR firm in partnership with KRC Research, conducted a global study of 2,300 employees at organizations with more than 500 employees. They found that 33 percent of employees post messages, pictures or videos in social media without any encouragement from their employer. Only 45 percent of employees have a clear understanding of what they should and should not do on social channels when it comes to company-related topics.

We can capitalise on this opportunity by having a plan and policy to guide employees, encouraging active use of social media. It requires commitment from leadership, involving employees and ensuring ongoing analysis, feedback and improvement.

Having a plan isn't just about making sure you have socially- interesting content to share with employees and tracking how they use it. It's about helping employees to see that it has real and practical benefits and the vital role they have to play.