Interested in creating your own employee advocacy program but not sure where to start? Discover what one looks like in action with our example study of a global manufacturer.
Employee advocacy is about creating valuable brand advocates from within your own teams. We know that 83% of consumers trust or completely trust recommendations and news from friends or family members (Nielsen). We also know that engagement with company content is 2X higher when shared by an employee rather than the company (LinkedIn). With everything considered, it’s likely that you have a wealth of untapped influence at your disposal, regardless of your company’s size or structure.
For this example study, we’ve opted to explore the workings or a more complex team structure with multiple layers in an effort to show how a well implemented advocacy can be achieved for anyone who is willing. ‘The Company’ is a juxtaposition of ideas and experiences we have gathered from working with some of the world’s leading brands. Many of the actions and ideas that we discuss are related to real life experiences.
In this article, we’ll look at the four phases of creating and growing a healthy advocacy programme; Design, launch, Engagement and Refinement. Let’s dive in now into how a global manufacturer will look to amplify their brand by creating and growing its own employee advocacy programme.
“If it wasn’t created by nature it’s been designed by man”
At the tech giant IBM, just 40% of projects meet the company's three key goals (schedule, budget, and quality). That’s a company that takes project planning and design seriously! There’s good reason for that too, as failed projects can be costly and close the door on incentives being explore in the future.
Just like any other project, creating your own advocacy programme requires planning. It all starts with figuring what you want your aims are.
The Company: “We want to amplify the value of our content across multiple regions across the globe. The directive from our main driver, the Marketing Director, is to engage employees in these regions to share specifically approved content. This will hopefully create a stronger brand presence online and therefore support an increase in sales.”
That’s a great start, we’ve already established what the aims are and how The Company imagines they’ll be achieved. Now we can break those elements down to come up with a suitable structure. For this situation, I can think of five questions I’d like to ask the marketing director;
How many regions would be included in your programme?
What different departments do you want to include in each (eg, Marketing, Sales, Enterprise…)?
How many employees do you want to enrol as advocates in the first 12 months? It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure just yet, a good a rough estimate for an aim is for 50% of employees from the departments listed above to be engaged.
Will everybody be sharing the same content, or will each team be given specific content to share? Also, will there be multiple sources for approved content?
How ‘social-savvy’ do you consider your employees to be?
The Company: “We manufacture and sell in seven regions across the world. Each has its own marketing and sales departments who we would like to enrol. From a rough run through the numbers, we would aim to enrol a total of 1,000 advocates but there is potential to enrol up to 2,000. Everyone will share the same content from our global blog but each region also has its own Twitter and Facebook pages that we would like to use too. We have never given our employees any formal social media training, but we conducted an internal survey and 70% of the employees we asked already use Twitter and Facebook regularly. 45% also said they use LinkedIn.”
From this explanation to my questions, I can recommend that The Company needs;
An advocacy programme that is segmented into seven teams (one for each region), with the marketing director running the programme overall.
Due to its scale and the need to curate approved content from different sources (potentially in different languages), I would say that it is imperative for them to implement a designated platform.
From experience, I can also advise that a staggered roll-out will be far more effective than trying to enrol everybody at once, especially as some of their employees may require some extra training with social media.
That last point is important, because all of your employees will need to be informed what advocacy is and what the benefits are, not just to your company but to them as individuals too. Creating comfort before enrolment makes high-engagement more likely in the long run.
The launch phase can be the most exciting phase in the process of creating and growing an advocacy programme. With The Company’s employees up to speed on advocacy, they’re ready to be introduced to the programme.
Launches can be handled in a number of ways and a lot of the time this will be affected by the company culture. Some prefer to host town-hall events with a presentation to a room full of people, and others may prefer more intimate events like a lunch-and-learn or a simple meeting. How your company does it is up to you.
Let’s assume that in this example The Company’s seven teams are all roughly split to around 140 members per team. In this instance, I would recommend launching one team at a time with a town-hall event for each team.
It may be important for the marketing director (now the programme leader) to present to everyone, but sometimes a video or even a manager from that region will suffice. Assuming that they are using specific software like DSMN8 for their programme, then a short tutorial to get up and running on the app would also be helpful.
Setting up a one of incentive for employees to enrol and share their first piece of content is a great way of achieving a higher percentage of advocates from the beginning. First impressions can count for a lot, so creating that understanding, comfort and incentive is important in the Launch phase.
Once The Company has its first couple of launches completed, they’ll have a pretty system for onboarding the rest of their teams, which I’d recommend them staggering at 2-3 week intervals.
As their advocacy builds momentum, engagement the focus can shift towards maintain and improving engagement. In other words, them making sure that advocates continue to share company content.
This is where The Company’s design and structure will really come into its own. Thanks to their planning, they’ll ensure that the right people are seeing the approved content that is most relevant for them to share. More advanced software platforms will even allow you to target more specifically by the role of the advocate or the content topic. For example, product managers will probably only want to see content that is about their line.
Making the job of finding great content and sharing it regularly is one sure-fire way to keep engagement moving upwards. This is what we like to call ‘empowering advocates’. The second piece of the puzzle for the Engagement phase is to also reward them too.
There are definitely personal benefits to advocacy, like building your own personal brand for one. In fact, 87% of employees have increased their own networks from their roles as advocates (Hinge). But there’s no denying that nothing talks louder than points, perks or prizes!
Rewards will also be affected by company culture and some companies already have established rewards programmes that they can easily include advocacy into. Don’t worry if not though, The Company could start with simple incentives like a ‘lunch on the company’ or even an additional afternoon off. Other prizes like gift vouchers, team outings and charity donations will certainly drive up the element of competition. The Company could also create a team leader-board and a monthly report too.
Like any other programme or activity at work, advocacy needs an element of fun and reward to keep people motivated!
In order for their now established programme to grow, The Company’s leaders can focus on finding ways to refine its programme.
Checking in on month is a good habit for them to get into. Metrics are important for this, to help them understand how much and what sort of activity is occurring, and also whether they’re meeting their KPIs. Clicks and shares are generally important to measure for the goal of message amplification. This routine will be really useful to them if they are launching new products or campaigns regularly, as these will usually occur in line with their content calendar.
Once The Company knows what is happening, they can work on refinements and iterations. Maybe they’ll discover that specific days are more ideal for sharing, or that they should be producing more video content to share because that’s what gets the most clicks.
This is also where refresher training and even adding new teams can come into play too. While the design and structure plan has served its needs well, it is important to go back and reconsider it at least once every 12 months. With that said, if The Company has signed up to DSMN8, we’ll take the initiative of staying on top of this stuff for them.
Hopefully that overview of how another company can implement and grow its advocacy programme has given you enough inspiration and insight for considering your own. While they should all be treated with the same level of care, I would advise that the Design phase is often overlooked but is the most important. Contact us today if you have any questions at all about employee advocacy and creating your own programme for your brand.