5 steps to building brand ambassadors

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“I have seen it work myself. I have experienced it from the inside.” We all know that statements like these, coming straight from the horse’s mouth, fizzle the best of PR or great commercials. A brand is the identity of a company in the eyes of its customers. Organisations should look after their employees, who in turn will automatically look after the customers and maintain the brand value. Hence, the HR managers’ role is critical and key to establishing a brand image. Being at the forefront of an organisation’s culture, HR professionals should mould them by instilling the right values in existing and new employees by bringing them in sync with the organisation’s core values and beliefs. In this manner, they tend to act as brand ambassadors of the company, and ensure that each employee becomes a brand ambassador of the organisation.

Organisations require employees alias brand ambassadors who are thoroughly engaged, connected and committed. Employee engagement is not about happy or satisfied employees; it is about employees’ emotional commitment and passion towards their work and organisation that exceeds beyond paycheques. Engagement is critical and to build importance, employees are motivated by basic-yet-essential factors like personal growth, working as a part of a larger process; rather than focusing on extrinsic factors such as salary and benefits.

Here’s how brands can transform their employees into brand ambassadors.

1.    Personal Development / Employee Empowerment
Be transparent with your employees and share the bigger picture (vision) of your organisation and its objective. Listen to what they have to say, pay attention, encourage them to share feedback and speak in their own voice, leading to having an organic brand ambassadors. Research shows that when employees can be their ‘authentic best selves’ in the workplace, productivity and retention increases.

Hence, a company should aim to attract and maximise employee satisfaction which would persuade them to unearth their greatest strength. This would help in draw the new brand ambassadors authentically and integrate them into everything to make it vital for the team and company’s success.

2.    Train employees and celebrate socially
Companies need to also focus on teaching their employees the basic positioning and guidelines about their company. Research done by Gallup revealed that only 41 percent of employees strongly agreed with the statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand different from our competitors.” This indicates that more than half of those surveyed were not fully aware of their company’s brand positioning and differentiation.

Organisations should educate their employees on the brand promise and its positioning. They need to be trained on social branding so that relevant data can go out. If employees are not familiar with social media platforms and its best practices, there can be different levels of training organised within the company to coach employees on how to share company-related information on their personal social accounts with guidelines. Once the employees are aware of the basic social sharing rules and are confident, eventually they may turn out as the company’s ‘brand ambassadors’.

Blogging helps in sharing opinions inside the organisation. Employees could share a behind-the-scenes view that could include peer to peer interviews, employee blog posts, pictures, videos, and live tweets. Companies need to devise different strategies for employees to make them brand ambassadors and this can be achieved by encouraging them to publish posts or write reviews on social media sites.

3.    Create a place where people love coming to work
When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are likely to spread a positive word about the company and how much they enjoy being at work. This helps give them opportunities for growth and development both at a professional and personal level.

There are quite a few initiatives (yet critical) that companies can introduce to breed brand ambassadors:

–    Sending them to paid conferences or pay for their education programmes relevant to their work
–    Foster a fun working environment by organising activities where people celebrate togetherness and enjoy coming to work

4.    Allow employees to help strengthen customer relationship
Create a sense of shared ownership in line with the goals of the company, and focus on using employee experience and feedback to improve products/services and customer service.

5.    Create channels of communication
Whether the company is small or large, internal and external brand advocacy programmes are vital as they prove to be profitable as they invest in improving the services through spreading the word about the brand. Companies should make it easy for both external (customers) and internal (employees) advocates to offer suggestions that are always acknowledged and considered.

One of the biggest global technology companies introduced a new brand strategy that allows employees to speak freely across social media platforms, by obliging company’s social media guidelines. Their employees could share their stories across social media networks, so that people can see the initiatives taken by the company for their employees. They could also use online media to promote new and exciting initiatives that will empower employees to go out on social networks and be the real brand ambassadors.

Companies should never underestimate the power of employee support, as there is no better referral that brand ambassadors will communicate than the message of employee engagement in and outside organisations. Companies should get started by setting them up with social training and provide various tools that would make them influential brand ambassadors.

A version of this post was originally published on Forbes India.

By zubin zack
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