Creating Brand Advocates with Employee Engagement

Creating Brand Advocates with Employee Engagement

May 19, 2014

As the economy rumbles back to life and talented employees become harder to find, it seems that organizations have awakened to the fact that employees make all the difference. They talk to your customers, their conversations in the lunch room color the mood in the office, and when they leave, they take their knowledge and experience with them

What does that mean for employers?  It’s not just a matter of keeping them happy, it is increasingly necessary to focus their efforts and provide them with reasons to do their best, every time.

So there’s quite a bit of creative thinking going on about how to meaningfully engage employees and how to identify the unique challenges of every workplace.

One of the most interesting approaches I’ve seen recently came from PR firm Weber Shandwick. Why would a PR company be interested in employee engagement? Because it’s not a big stretch from positioning a brand in the world-at-large to positioning a brand internally.

In their paper, Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, Weber Shandwick parses the community of employees in a new way and has some interesting advice when it comes to using social media to leverage employee-organization relationships.

They see employees as belonging to six groups:

ProActivists – Brand advocates, highest level of engagement, social media users
PreActivists – Potential ProActivists, average level of engagement, low social media use
HyperActives – Highly engaged, sometimes a loose cannon, some social media regrets
ReActivists – Average engagement, often critical of employer, social media users with regrets
InActives – Low engagement, low social media use
Detractors – Low engagement, distrustful of employer, low social media use

Weber Shandwick makes the case that in an environment of fast-moving social media, highly engaged ProActivists have a positive impact on the brand in the outside world and others less enthusiastic about their organization represent risks to the brand reputation.

Weber Shandwick offers some detailed recommendations for each type of employee in their paper from “providing socially sharable content” to “fixing negative leadership trust perceptions.” They also state, “This requires employers to ‘flip different switches’ on various aspects of leadership, internal communications, human resources and corporate social responsibility in order to effectively drive activism or reduce detraction. Here are four strategies for activating employees:

1. Accelerate the activism of ProActivists. Ignite the activism of PreActivists and HyperActives.

2. Negate the negatives for ReActivists and Detractors.

3. Communicate in ways that matter.

4. Customize strategies and tactics for each segment.”

Accelerate? Ignite? Communicate? Customize? That’s precisely what employee engagement programs do. We accelerate the work of the best of the best. Ignite interest and passion in the middle sixty. Communicate organizational goals and successes to all. Customize solutions based on the audience and the needs of the company.  Sounds like employee engagement to me.

What Weber Shandwick has accomplished here is to frame the discussion in terms of how engagement impacts the brand through social media. This is an increasingly critical consideration for many organizations.

To protect the reputation of the brand, you have to start with the employees, because if they don’t believe in the work that they do, no one else will either . . . Particularly, if that disconnect is broadcast on social media.