Great commercials, strong PR, a brilliant social media strategy all warrant effort when building your company’s brand. But there’s no better PR than an army of loyal employees living and breathing your brand. You know the type – folks with enthusiasm bursting from their veins–talking up your products and services with their friends at every bar, baptism and bat mitzvah they attend.
Or “I’m so sorry you had that experience, it’s not usually like that.”
Yes. Define your brand. Yes, yes, advertise it. But don’t overlook the power of your employees as brand ambassadors.
Get Your Employees Advocating For Your Brand
Your best employees want to be part of the inner circle. If you want them to act like owners of your brand, treat them as owners of your brand. Here’s how.
1. Acknowledge Reality
Don’t blow smoke. They know your brand better than anyone and how it’s been received. Don’t sugar coat the issues. Share your concerns and get them involved in fixing them.
2. Listen To What They Hear
Don’t discount their feedback as “noise” – really listen to what they’re hearing from customers. Nothing is more disconcerting that watching employees share relentless feedback in focus groups, and having execs finally pay attention when the consultant comes in and says the same thing.
3. Give Them Context
Share the bigger picture and dynamics of the parameters you’re up against. Creativity comes best when the constraints are clear.
4. Treat Them With Deep Respect
PR or HR or Staff or the VP ‘knows best’ never really plays well at the front line. Respect their perspective, and they’ll respect yours.
5. Encourage Them To Speak In Their Own Voice
Once this deeper understanding is established, I’m always amazed at the insights and eloquence of the frontline. Scripting may keep you out of trouble, but I’ve never seen a script create a best-in-class brand.
6. Allow Them To Be The Hero
There’s nothing more frustrating to a frontline employee than when an executive swoops in and does EXACTLY what they would have done, but their hands were tied. Execs chalk this up to common sense that apparently they think they have, but I’ve met many who question whether anyone they’ve hired to service their customers could possibly be that astute.
Give your employees a few opportunities (at least) to do what you would do in such circumstances. Can you imagine what would happen if you could replicate that level of prudence and critical thinking?
7. Encourage Swagger
This part may seem unnecessary. But I’m telling you, it matters. I remember when I first started working for Bell Atlantic (as a transition from my teaching assistance-ship at the University of MD). All I wanted for Christmas, was for my husband to get a hold of a Bell Atlantic sweatshirt. Here I was ready to be a spokesperson and to wear it proudly, but I couldn’t figure out how!
When 2 decades later I led the outsourced call center channel, it became obvious in about 37 seconds that these outsourced employees working for Verizon Wireless were wild about getting a hold of some VZW gear and would be honored to wear it. They felt passionate about being ambassadors of the brand.
Effective brands are built from the inside out. Clever brands build the external engagement. Lasting brands build internal and external excitement concurrently. What steps could you take to build an army of brand ambassadors?