“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first” says author and organizational consultant, Simon Sinek.
Fortunately, your corporate communications team can kindle that love. By including internal employee communications as a significant component of marketing and branding efforts, and putting a dedicated team behind it, companies transform employees into brand advocates — employees who truly believe in the organization and can speak accurately on behalf of the brand.
By connecting employees to the company’s core message — and inspiring a belief in the organization’s mission — internal communicators will help create purpose-driven employees. And this makes a significant impact.
A report published by LinkedIn and Imperative writes, “…companies are seeing that purpose-oriented employees are more productive and successful.” The study shows this ultimately impacts the bottom line. So, how do you incorporate internal communications into your brand marketing strategy?
Rethinking your onboarding process
First things first, you need to consider your onboarding process. When your company hires a new employee, one of two things can happen: Your organization routinely adds another employee to the company directory, or it can creatively and thoughtfully onboard a new hire who is primed to become a brand advocate. Your communications teams have significant influence over which path your organization takes.
In fact, research shows that by developing a strong employer brand, companies can attract and retain a talented workforce, and also develop employees who promote the company on their own social media channels.
Unfortunately, a Gallup report published in 2018 says that “…only 12 percent of employees strongly agree their organization does a great job of onboarding new employees.” Since employees form opinions about their organization right from day one, the onboarding process, along with the internal communications messages new employees receive, will positively (or negatively) affect employee perceptions of the company.
As Gallup writes, “Employees are consumers of the workplace. They are drawn to brands they can connect with.” Use internal communications to support and enhance your HR and management processes to forge valuable connections with employees.
When it’s time to move on, it’s ideal to have an off-boarding process as well. Today, current and former employees have options like Glassdoor to actually post reviews on their employers, so loving them on the way out can work to improve those scores.
Whether they’re grateful, satisfied or disgruntled, employees talk openly about their employers. And since candid discussion often happens on social channels, these opinionated messages tend to be visible, shareable and, for better or worse, have the potential to impact future hires.
“To really energize their employer brand, [organizations] must inspire workers to become brand ambassadors,” writes Gallup. Which means, regardless of an employee’s role, they should receive internal communications that prepare them to represent your brand in the best way possible.
Expanding beyond internal memos
When communications teams think about creating a new marketing campaign to attract customers, the creative wheels start turning. Why not take this approach with your internal communications efforts? In many organizations, internal communications take the “just the facts” approach to sharing information — a regurgitated press release, a long, dry policy memo or a monthly newsletter of no-longer-news stories.
When you release new products and services, your initial campaign should be to employees first, or at least at the same time as other top stakeholders. By expanding your internal communications mindset beyond information-sharing, you’ll be well-positioned to cultivate brand ambassadors. Internal employees should feel the same passion and energy as external customers.
Here are three ways to cultivate brand advocates:
• Educate your employee base: If you want to inspire brand advocates to speak on behalf of your organization, they need to know what to say. Ensure that your internal communications campaigns educate employees on the company’s mission, values, and current priorities. Provide them with “talking points” and competitive positioning statements.
• Encourage employees to share information about the company: Within you company newsletters and campaigns, give employee creative content pieces which are shareable, and encourage them to copy and post. Try introducing a friendly referral competition, encourage employees to speak at a local networking event, initiate a program to get more employees conference speaking engagements or nominate leaders to share industry knowledge at a nearby college. Provide easy ways for employees to advocate for you and encourage them to participate!
• Ask employees to share their own stories: Solicit authentic stories from your employees. Employee testimonials not only serve as a great recruitment tools, they can also be used to inspire fellow employees and illustrate your company values. For example, share an employee’s work as a community volunteer or an outstanding effort to achieve a customer objective. Even ordinary efforts, when done right, can be made into a compelling story. Creating a routine internal campaign to share these employees’ stories of why they do the work they do is proven to increase overall employee engagement.
When employees truly believe in their employer, good things can happen. Start with onboarding, communicate with every employee (regardless of role), expand your internal communications mindset, and cultivate brand advocates with internal marketing campaigns and messages.
When you treat internal communications as an integral piece of your marketing efforts, you can transform employees into powerful brand advocates.