Your Brand Ambassadors
By Deb Walker
It used to be that a company message was conveyed to the “outside” world through marketing and public relations initiatives and campaigns. Now – each one of your staff plays the role of Brand Ambassador and this can be a challenge and an opportunity.
In the past, the company we worked with, and for, was a bit like the Las Vegas marketing line that we are all familiar with “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. What happened inside the walls of an organization, stayed there. The business was internally focused – management set policies and procedures and employees focused on getting the job done, accepted the structure and culture as is. In many ways this produced an environment that allowed for all kinds of things to happen “behind the curtain” which impacted both the culture and tone of the organization.
Today, the voice of the employee outside of the organization is becoming heard and is resonating. Employees are moving from the traditional and formal leadership models for support and turning to their peer networks instead. In addition to discussions with individuals, employees also have the opportunity to use online mediums to post opinions about an organization or the challenges that they may be facing. This could be on a number of forums including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram – as well as a number of sites which specifically solicit feedback from employees or ex-employees. (These can be a useful reference for candidates that are considering your business as their next employment opportunity – so it is important to monitor these.)
With the increased availability and access to knowledge, employees are also more likely to solicit support and discuss issues with an external party such as the Employment Standards Branch, Privacy Commission or the Human Rights Commission. If your business practices are not properly aligned, this may initiate an audit of your operation and could cause unwanted attention.
Movements such as MeToo, Pink Shirt and class action lawsuits are bringing public awareness to behaviours, both inside and outside of the organization, that are detrimental to the individual and organizational reputation. Social media and an enhanced emphasis on transparency, good business practices and whistleblowers mean that organizations have to look more closely at their own operation to ensure that there are solid business practices.
The best way to ensure that your brand ambassadors are representing and presenting your company in the right light – is to treat them professionally. Ensure that you have good organizational policies and standards that define how people are to be treated. This should include a social media policy which outlines how an organization and its employees should conduct themselves via the web and also helps to protect your company’s online reputation. In addition, it encourages employees to also get involved in sharing about the company in their online networks.
As a leader, you have a big role in supporting your brand ambassador. Be fair, be transparent and show respect for individuals and the contributions that they are making. Provide feedback on what they are doing well and support them with any challenges that they may have. Involve them in what is going on in the organization and solicit their feedback and ideas.
Having multiple brand ambassadors does have many benefits, including extending the brand reach, increasing the number and quality of leads, as well as improving social recruiting efforts. And if you can trust in the employee experience, then you should be able to trust in their message!