Who is the most important brand ambassador at your company?
Is it you, the CEO, whose job it is to motivate, inspire, and exude confidence in your company, its products, and its services? How about your business development team, whose sole purpose is to funnel new client lifeblood into your veins and arteries? Or is it the marketers, who toil to define and develop your brand and make it ready for prime time?
What if I told you the answer is none of the above?
In fact, in today’s world of digital sharing, transparent authenticity, and empowered consumers, your front-line workforce may be the only credible brand authority that truly matters to a finicky and enlightened public.
Recent data from DSNM8 underscores this shocking reality: Audiences increase by a whopping 561 percent when a brand message is shared by employees versus shared via a corporate channel alone.
This means the elevator pitch has given way to the quality conversation – and if each of your employees isn’t indoctrinated into the stewardship of your messaging, your values, and your brand promise, you risk losing significant ground to competitors who are already doing this.
So, what has led to this change?
You need look no further than the device in your pocket to understand why the fundamentals of contemporary communication have shifted in this manner. Easy access to digital channels has flipped the concept of corporate dialogue on its head. Your brand – like it or not – is being defined, and refined, by the second, by consumers who are more than willing to share their experiences in graphic and unvarnished detail. They are skeptical, at best, of your polished prose and glossy ads, and pull no punches when your attempts to engage them “where they live” seem inauthentic.
But employees – considered several steps removed from the monolith and who enjoy a more human-like alter ego among friends and family – are best positioned to break through the digital static and deliver a clear message.
One recent study concluded that “the role of employees in the brand-building processes is increasingly crucial in the era of social media and digital conversations. Companies should focus on this relevant issue and foster these brand-building behaviors among employees.”
To many of you, this may be considered quite a departure from the days where speaking on behalf of the company was expressly limited to senior leadership and other designees. And, in some respects, opening up the complexities of your brand message to a broad and varied group does carry some risks.
But, when managed correctly, you can develop a messaging architecture that will play anywhere and allow for individuality and authenticity – creating a foundation upon which your employees can build stories and bring your messages to life.
Let’s start with the general structure of this messaging architecture. Again, we want to avoid imposing strict standards or creating letter-for-letter speeches that will seem inauthentic. Instead, favor a set of guidelines that follow these general rules:
With the fundamentals of your messaging architecture in place, now comes the real challenge – instilling this ethos in a way that will resonate with impact, with a group of people that represents the broadest variety of the business spectrum.
Here are some steps I’ve seen used to introduce this type of messaging to the general workplace population:
Whatever your approach, be sure to commit to this employee-forward posture as soon as possible. Like it or not, the dialogue has forever shifted -- and the conversations are ongoing. If I can be of assistance to you as you develop and roll out a messaging architecture, please reach out.