In a world where peer influence is paramount, a company’s employees are the gateway to connecting authentically with consumers and earning the trust of the broader population. At the same time, the number of communication channels has skyrocketed in recent years, creating an environment where the traditional ways of reaching employees and leveraging their voices are rapidly shifting.

This poses a new challenge for communicators looking to bolster their company’s reputation, as employees are the most trusted source of information about a company – even more so than the CEO on key business topics like engagement, integrity and operations, according to data in the 2016 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Leading brands across the globe are reinventing their internal communications strategies to include employee advocacy programs that unleash their influencer voices while reaching employees where they are. As a result, these companies are experiencing increased employee engagement, productivity and retention.

For any organization considering an employee advocacy program, these six best practices will help get the program off the ground and into the hands of employees:

  • Take a phased, targeted approach to implementation. Start with a small group of the most influential employees. Equip them with powerful content and empower them to share it in their own voices. Find employees who are natural storytellers, love what they do, aren’t afraid to say it and are already active on social media.
  • Advocacy = Authenticity. Advocacy cannot be forced or bought – it must be authentic, because that’s what makes it credible. You can provide employees with the platform and tools necessary to unleash influencer voices while still allowing these voices to come from employees themselves. Advocacy programs are most successful when participation is optional and driven by a genuine desire to engage.
  • Set them up for success. True to human nature, employees love to share what makes them proud and what they’re passionate about. It’s smart to provide some basic, non-prescriptive guidelines and training so they feel confident about their role in advocacy and can channel their passion in a productive way. By setting up employees for success, you’re positioning the company for success as well.
  • Take an employee-centric approach. Many companies think about how their brand benefits from employee storytelling. Try focusing the conversation around how employees can benefit by engaging with and advocating for your brand. For some, it allows them to build their own networks and personal brands; for others, it’s a channel to support a greater cause they’re passionate about, or simply to show pride for the work they do. Whatever the case may be, when it comes to employee advocacy, put the employees first.
  • Make it easy to engage. If sharing content requires ten clicks and a password, forget it. Employees are busy enough with their day jobs, so advocacy should require little time or effort, fit into their existing routines and have a clear, effortless call to action.
  • Track and measure it! Tracking and measuring engagement enables you to understand what content matters most to employees and identify your most influential and engaged employees. Program administrators should have access to data and analytics that look at delivery, adoption, reach, sharing and engagement. Some companies are even quantifying success by looking at the cost of ad buys saved by empowering their employees as brand advocates. Demonstrating the business impact of your efforts will help you build a case for sustained investment.

Read our November issue of Connections for a downloadable version of the full article.

Julia Leitman, assistant account executive, Employee Engagement.