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A group that owns several restaurants and pubs recently embarked on an initiative to train employees. But these employees weren’t going to be trained like everyone else. They were going to be trained to be brand ambassadors. Here's how.

Over the course of several days the servers, hosts and bartenders
• Built Twitter profiles,
• Discussed how to rep their employer (the brand!) online, and
• Learned about sharing info and engaging with a vast online community.

A primary goal, obviously, was to promote the various establishments and grow revenue by bringing in more customers. I followed a number of the employees and they did a great job of spreading the word about crawfish, gumbo, Abita Beer and all the other wonderful items we find on menus here in Louisiana.

They also looked like they were having a great time. At work. Imagine that?

These employees, while promoting the company brand to the hungry and thirsty public, were also serving as the voice of the employer brand. Although I’m not privy to actual data I’m willing to bet the company’s candidate pipeline increased, employee referrals went up, and turnover, quite possibly, went down.

So what is a Brand Ambassador?

Brand ambassador is a term that comes from marketing and refers to an individual employed by a company to promote products or services while personifying the corporate identify. Brand ambassadors, sometimes referred to as brand champions, are viewed as reliable sources of information and engage with customers or members of the public either in person or via social media channels.

On the HR side of the business we’ve realized, for some time now, that our employees are all, quite naturally, brand ambassadors. The members of our workforce identify with our company merely by being a part of the organization. We may have hundreds or thousands of employees who are sharing their stories, discussing their careers, and promoting the employment experience—amplified across numerous channels—with their unique and individual voices.

That’s powerful.

What do Brand Ambassadors do?

Employees who serve as brand ambassadors turn their passion and excitement into action. Champions of your employer brand will circulate stories about your company culture by sharing a realistic and honest glimpse into “what it’s really like to work here.”

Tweet: Brand ambassadors turn their passion and excitement into action. @HRCloud

Whether posting reviews on Glassdoor, snapping pictures via Instagram, or sharing jobs and updates on Twitter, employees can assist you in disseminating your message to a wide audience. According to the Pew Research Center, 52% of online adults use multiple social media sites and most adults have hundreds of contacts across various platforms. As just one example, think how you can tap into your employees’ networks to drive referrals when you allow them to share content about their work experience.

How to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors

In order to have employees who serve as advocates for your company you need to ensure they feel connected to the organization’s mission, vision and values. This begins with a strong onboarding experience and continues throughout their tenure as a member of your team.

In order to empower your brand ambassadors you must have a social media policy that’s positive and inclusive. Rather than focusing on what could go wrong, you want to think about the benefits to be gained when your employees are knowledgeable, comfortable, and encouraged to share online. Provide social media training on various channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and ensure your employees have content to share. Create specific hashtags for employees to use (#LifeatKohls is a great example) and encourage them to use it across all platforms.

Tweet: Empower brand ambassadors with a social media policy that’s inclusive @HRCloud

Honesty and authenticity are important so make sure your brand champions also understand their personal brands. Every employee has individual traits that make them unique and exceptional and, when allowed to speak with a ‘personal’ voice, can imbue the story of your company with realness and humanity. Allowing your employees to share what inspires them and makes their employment experience exceptional not only solidifies their own engagement but can also boost your talent attraction activities.

If you have employees who are connected, committed, and engaged then you already have brand ambassadors. When you provide support, care, and encouragement you can unleash their power.

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Robin Schooling

Robin Schooling, SPHR, has 20+ years of HR leadership experience and currently serves as managing director/strategist with Silver Zebras LLC, where she works with organizations to develop integrated HR and talent management strategies.