Disney has been dubbed “The Happiest Place on Earth.” And rightfully so. Their mission, after all, is to “create happiness.” Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But think about the experience that Disney employees need to create for customers if their goal is to hold its position as the Happiest Place on Earth. This is where Disney’s motto, “Treat Employees Like Customers” comes in. But why treat employees like customers?
Employee Alignment and Engagement
Disney has realized something very important. Engaged employees will create exceptional experiences for customers and will advocate for the brand both internally and externally. But operationalizing that is easier said than done. We refer to this work as addressing “the heads and the hearts.” The “heads” refers to alignment, meaning, as an employee, I have a comprehensive understanding of the brand, its vision, mission, and values, and what my role is in delivering on that brand promise. The “hearts” speaks to engagement. The idea that I have a deep connection to the “why” (brand purpose) and a love for the brand so strong that I emulate the brand values through my behaviors and advocate on behalf of the brand. In order to create brand advocates within your own walls, employees must be both aligned and engaged.
Creating Brand Advocates
Most often brands approach advocacy as something they must focus on with customers, overlooking, arguably, their most important audience – their own employees. To become strong, authentic, and lasting brand advocates, employees must first be actively engaged in an organization’s culture and leadership. Simon Sinek said it best, “When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”
Brand Advocacy and Social Selling Stats
Content shared by employees receives 8x more engagement than content shared by brands.
– Social Media Today
79% of companies surveyed reported more online visibility after implementation of a formal advocacy program. 65% reported increased brand recognition.
– Hinge Research Institute
Leads developed through employee social marketing convert 7x more frequently than other leads.
– Marketing Advisory Network
73% of salespeople using social selling as part of their sales process outperformed their sales peers and exceeded quota 23% more often.
– Aberdeen Group
Sales reps using social media as part of their sales techniques outsell 78% of their peers.
79% of job applicants use social media in their job search.
47% of referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies.
Employee Referrals have the highest applicant to hire conversion rate
So, how do organizations align employees so they understand the brand, and engage employees so they act as advocates on behalf of the brand as well?
Start Helping Employees Promote the Brand
- Determine a baseline. Evaluate your company’s level of employee engagement and brand understanding. Note your baseline and measure often.
- Know your “Why.” What is your true brand purpose? What fires you up to get out of bed every morning to do what you do? If you don’t know, how will your employees? Do some digging to uncover your true brand purpose. And involve employees in the process and create buy-in early on. Show them they are a part of something bigger, something to be proud of.
- Be the Leader of the Brand. It is critical that top level leadership live and breathe the brand every single day. CEO’s need to be “Chief Reminding Officers,” constantly communicating about the brand and sharing examples of how they and other employees bring the brand to life.
- Take internal communication to the next level – In order for employees to be true brand advocates, they must understand the brand. According to People Driven Performance, “Companies that have highly effective internal communications had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years, compared to companies with the least effective internal communication.”
- Live the brand. This could include sharing how employees are living the brand values at staff/department meetings, volunteering on company time, or transforming the company’s physical space to reflect your brand personality and values.
- Leverage opportunities to share. 92% of consumers trust brand advocates over other forms of advertising (Nielsen). Make sure your message is easy to share. If employees feel compelled to be an advocate of your brand, you want to remove all barriers for them to do so. So make sure you are creating clear, simple messaging that is easy for them to share both socially and via word-of-mouth.
- Be authentic. While fostering opportunities for brand advocacy must be intentional, it can not be manufactured, forced or faked. You truly need to offer such a great experience (both internally and externally) that employees can’t help but tell friends, family, and their social and professional networks.
- Make it fun! Most employees want to be a part of something bigger. They want to share the passion of the brand and feel connected to their company’s mission. But sometimes, they just want to do something fun. As human beings we need to socialize, laugh, and connect. This can be as simple as a company/department lunch or social, to an offsite team activity like an escape room, bowling, or laser tag.
In industries where service, quality and price are the cost of doing business, companies need to find their unique differentiator now more than ever before. And the power of employees who are truly engaged as brand advocates is difficult for competitors to replicate. The bottom line, happy, motivated and engaged employees affect your bottom line, because what happens inside your organization will be reflected on the outside.