Empowering Employees to Be Your Biggest Advocates

November 23, 2021 • 9 min read

Empowering Employees to Be Your Biggest Advocates

Employee Brandwagon Contributors

Employer Brandwagon Contributors

Crafting great employer brand content starts with great employees. Flashy videos and all the bells and whistles in the world don’t build emotional connections that effective employer branding thrives on. It’s your employees’ experiences – their highs and lows and the careers they’ve shaped with you – that people want to hear about. That’s what inspires candidates to come on board. 

So, the art of EB lies in drawing the right stories out of the right employees, at the right time. Whether it’s knowing how to identify those who truly bring your values to life, or understanding what motivates people to put their heart into your business, empowering employees to be your biggest and best brand advocates is key. 

We asked six employer branding leaders from a range of industries about their approach – read their tips below.

David Oliva, Regional Employer Branding Manager, Americas, Luxoft

What makes an employee a great advocate for your brand?

There are three key elements here:

  1. They are engaged. They are part of the company, the culture, and the initiatives. Moreover, they are not only participating, they are raising their hand to create new experiences, because they really care. 
  2. They understand your EVP. You might think that everything is amazing when your employees are talking about the company… but wait a minute… are they saying what you want/need them to say? You want to communicate specific elements of your culture, your Employee Value Proposition. The best advocates are sharing that message and not only the things that he/she believes. 
  3. They are willing to invite more colleagues into the effort. Your audience might get tired of the same face. Your advocates must be ready to build a group of advocates of their own to boost your brand.

What incentives make employees want to become brand advocates?

We all want fame and fortune, don’t we? It’s great to offer support for peoples’ personal brands, which means matching their efforts and helping them to engage in things and promote things that boost their professional and personal brand. Give them the opportunity to interact within communities and different audiences. 

It’s also good to provide recognition. Everyone likes that. Showing off their expertise motivates them to want to take part in advocating for you. You can also give employees branded items to wear outside, which inspires great opportunities to talk about your company.

How do you ensure that your advocates and their stories are authentic and engaging?

We can’t control all the messages; that’s not possible, so to me, it comes down to expanding the culture, and then letting them be. Take care of aligning the culture, then you don’t have to worry – you will be certain that what your advocates are sharing is what you need to be shared.   

Additionally, you need to work with your colleagues and leaders in open forums and understand what triggers them. This is not about meetings or social media training. This is about taking the time to sit with your team, your leaders, and your employees, and talk about their experiences and their feelings. 

Above all, communication is key; you need your people to know what’s happening in the company. You want them to understand what’s happening and build, with their own approach, their own pieces of communication that reflect that.

Stuart Hazell, Global Employer Branding & Recruitment Marketing Leader, IBM

What makes an employee a great advocate for your brand?

What traits make an employee an ideal brand advocate?  To begin with, find people who are doing it organically already: they have a good personal brand, they’re active on social media and have a following. They may already be speaking at events on podcasts etc. 

Also, make sure they are someone candidates would want to work with. Maybe because they’re an SME who knows their stuff (and can inspire folk). Maybe they’ve got an incredible story to tell. Ensuring they are relatable is important. Would the people we are trying to attract like to work with this person after hearing from them? 

Finally,  make sure you find the medium and platforms each individual is comfortable with.

When it comes to people you want to get on video, ensure they can talk the talk and are comfortable in front of a camera. 

Rachel Guiles, Manager, Employment Branding, DISH

What makes an employee a great advocate for your brand?

The best brand advocates are those who are aligned with the company’s core values and guiding principles, and are naturally advocating for the company and team – that is, their roles are aligned in their skill sets and passions.

My company’s best brand advocates are team members who align with our core values, have taken advantage of opportunities, and have found a sense of belonging.  Look around at your company (and online) to see who is happy and already shouting it from the rooftops. 

Strong brand advocates are also the most involved team members at the company. ERGs, clubs, and award recipients are a great place to start.

What incentives make employees want to become brand advocates?

It’s all about the ‘WIIFM’ (What’s in it for me?) and pulling out why a recruiter, hiring manager, or executive would want to be a brand advocate. My company is growing across all lines of business and all functions, so we emphasize the internal WIIFM for attracting and retaining top talent. 

A company can certainly give swag or monetary incentives, but the most authentic brand advocates are those who see the personal gain and want to be a brand advocate. If a candidate sees how a manager is supporting and empowering their team, they’ll be more excited to apply to the role. If a current team member sees all the cool things their company is doing  – events, news, another person’s story, etc. – they’ll be more likely to want to stay at the company. 

WIIFM is going to be the best driver for creating a legion of advocates. It brings it home to team members and makes it more tangible (and rewarding).

How do you ensure that your advocates and their stories are authentic and engaging?

Authenticity is key with employer branding and creating brand advocates. It’s our guiding light in everything we do and essential for telling our story. 

When facilitating our ambassador training, we have an entire section dedicated to content themes. We ask the audience what would resonate with them and to share examples of favorite content they’ve seen from other team members. When the story is real, the authenticity is automatic. If the post is not appealing to you the author, then why would it resonate with someone else?

If you’re stuck, it’s always good to ask your HR business partners or recruiters. They know their teams best and can give tangible examples and recommendations of people whose stories may be different, compelling or show unique sides and benefits of your organisation.

Kieran Layton, Director, Employer Brand, McDonald’s

What incentives make employees want to become brand advocates?

Leveraging your people to be your most loyal brand advocates starts with ensuring their needs and wants are met by what you offer them in your Employee Value Proposition (EVP). 

This spans from the obvious stuff like competitive pay, health insurance and a 401k, to the arguably equally important intangibles like flexibility and a diverse and inclusive culture.

Nicole Parish, Global Talent Brand Attraction Lead, Qualtrics

What makes an employee a great advocate for your brand?

What makes a person a good brand advocate is a belief in what they’re sharing and who they’re sharing it with. Most of our strongest brand advocates for our employee experience have volunteered to take part – they saw we had a brand ambassador program and opted to join the training we share around it.

Find people who have unique voices and experiences, because that will be most engaging for an audience. It’s also important to ensure their advocacy is backed by authenticity. It’s this combination of a unique viewpoint, authenticity in their storytelling, and a desire to share, that results in great brand advocacy.

What incentives make employees want to become brand advocates?

We have been sharing data about how a person being active with their network has benefits for the person sharing. There’s great information about social selling for people in sales, and similar data for those recruiting or hiring, and so forth. 

We’ve also shared information about building trust and the Edelman Trust Barometer, to help our advocates understand why their voices are important and why we want them to be heard. 

Beyond that, we haven’t set up any additional form of incentivisation. We’ve focused on making it easy for our brand advocates to take part in advocacy, and to see the benefits of an engaged team in the rather significant volume of employee-generated content that is shared.

How do you ensure that your advocates and their stories are authentic and engaging?

For us, we believe that authenticity is ensured by our approach to building our brand advocates community and through how we share information with them. 

We had to build trust with our brand advocates – that we wouldn’t ask them to share a story that wasn’t theirs, or that was overly positive. We also had to make sure that they understood that we trust them to share honestly and fairly, wherever they are sharing. 

We are lucky to have very few regulatory concerns, meaning our advocates don’t have to go through a vetting process to share their stories. We believe that this minimal formal oversight results in our advocates feeling empowered to share their stories in the moment. We also provide support for people who may not consider themselves exceptional writers: we do copy editing and such, so that everyone who wants to share a story feels that it’s accessible to them. 

Everyone’s voice and experience appeals to someone. While there are some stories I personally may find less engaging than others, I know that there is someone who is looking for just that kind of expression. So we publish all the content that comes in, knowing that the audience exists.

Kylie Denk, Recruitment Marketing Manager, Relativity

What makes an employee a great advocate for your brand?

All employees are already brand advocates whether they know it or not. The daily embodiment of company values can seep into conversations with friends, family, and colleagues about their work life, into their networking conversations at an event, their social media posts and wearing company merchandise. 

All of these things influence the reputation of your workplace, which is why Relativity includes brand advocacy in our onboarding training program.

What incentives make employees want to become brand advocates?

We are a talent-first organization, and it is expected that all of our employees engage with our culture of recruitment. This means that attracting and retaining great talent is up to all of us, not just the recruiting team. 

With that said, most employees just want to know that their time and effort makes a difference. If we can share results that show the impact employees have made, they are much more likely to get invested in the work. 

A little merchandise or gifted funds for our philanthropic giving platform don’t hurt as extra pieces as well, but brand advocacy is largely baked into our culture and values, and the employees that we hire are reflective of that.

How do you ensure that your advocates and their stories are authentic and engaging?

Authenticity is of the utmost importance, and everyone has a unique story to share that often can’t be defined by those that do not have the same lived experiences. 

We use our employees’ personal experiences as a base, and then allow them to build their own story that is loosely guided by the message we are trying to convey with that particular piece of content.

For us, we believe that authenticity is ensured by our approach to building our brand advocates community and through how we share information with them. 

We had to build trust with our brand advocates – that we wouldn’t ask them to share a story that wasn’t theirs, or that was overly positive. We also had to make sure that they understood that we trust them to share honestly and fairly, wherever they are sharing. 

We are lucky to have very few regulatory concerns, meaning our advocates don’t have to go through a vetting process to share their stories. We believe that this minimal formal oversight results in our advocates feeling empowered to share their stories in the moment. We also provide support for people who may not consider themselves exceptional writers: we do copy editing and such, so that everyone who wants to share a story feels that it’s accessible to them. 

Everyone’s voice and experience appeals to someone. While there are some stories I personally may find less engaging than others, I know that there is someone who is looking for just that kind of expression. So we publish all the content that comes in, knowing that the audience exists.

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