Employees are the doers, problem solvers, innovators, creators, communicators, and trailblazers of any organization. They’re the lifeblood of the company and by far its most important success factor. And if you’re engaging employees the right way, they’re building your brand from the inside out.
When employees are active participants in shaping the company, can recognize their direct contribution to its success, and resonate with its vision, they’ll be inspired to put their best foot forward.
They’ll want to stay with your company longer.
They’ll want to do their best to ensure customer satisfaction.
And they’ll actually want to advocate for your brand — organically — as brand ambassadors.
Why Employees Are the Best Brand Ambassadors
Engaging with your employees and activating them as brand ambassadors is more than just good HR. It’s great for marketing, too.
Tapping into your employees means tapping into your biggest and best asset for:
Building brand awareness;
Shaping public perception of your brand;
Recruiting stellar new talent; and
Driving company culture.
That’s because your employees are the living, breathing embodiment of your brand. They bring your brand to life.
Really, your employees are your brand.
If your employees are brand evangelists — distributing content on new channels, leaving glowing reviews of your company on job sites, referring top talent to join the team, and championing the brand to personal networks — you’re getting the best kind of marketing from the most trusted messengers (and for free).
6 Tips to Turn Employees into Brand Ambassadors
So you understand the value, but how do you nudge your employees to take action, and become conscious advocates of your brand? It starts with nurturing employee talent while giving them the right structure and support to learn, grow and succeed. These five strategies will help you develop better brand ambassadors on your team.
1. Engage your employees in the company vision
Simon Sinek popularized the notion that the most successful companies lead with why:
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it” - Simon Sinek
This isn’t just true of your customers — it’s also true of your employees. Make sure your company’s “why” is top of mind for your whole team.
(If you’re not sure of your company’s why, stop what you’re doing and watch Sinek’s TED Talk — it’s a must-see.)
Bring your staff together regularly to share the company vision. Workshop the company’s “why” with your team. Make it a collaborative exercise to align employees around a shared understanding of why your business does what it does, your brand positioning, and what makes your company remarkable.
This brings us to another best practice for empowering employees as brand ambassadors:
2. Solicit employees’ ideas, suggestions, and feedback
You’ll improve your company, increase employee retention and recruit new talent by fostering a work environment of collaboration, transparency, and a commitment to learning and growth.
Your employees bring different experiences, expertise, and perspectives to the table. Make collaboration a common practice in the workplace to introduce fresh ideas, insights, and innovations into your business strategy. Solve problems with the braintrust of the full team.
Don’t fear employee feedback — embrace it.
You’ll lose talented people if you’re imposing systems from the top-down. Instead, actively solicit input from your employees (with anonymous surveys, for example) for valuable insight on areas for improvement, as well as to create a work culture where your team feels heard, valued, and empowered.
This kind of active employee engagement is exactly what empowers your team and inspires brand ambassadors.
3. Activate your brand from the inside-out
Your brand should provide a complete experience, one that drives action, inspires engagement, and builds long-term customer relationships. That experience begins internally with the people closest to your brand — your employees.
Use branded swag and logo apparel to put your employees at the center of the brand experience and make them feel like part of a team. Staff loving their apparel and wearing it outside of the office is absolutely priceless brand awareness.
But keep in mind branded swag should go beyond just brand promotion. The most effective gifts will make your employees feel valued. Think hard about what inspires them, and recognize these traits. Personalization is key in making your team members feel like they’re a part of something bigger.
4. Make it easy for employees to be brand ambassadors
Like any behavior you want to encourage, incentivize and simplify.
Make it as easy as possible for your employees to be brand ambassadors. Curate content specifically for staff that is easy to share. Give meaningful corporate gifts that your team members will want to use or wear in their everyday life. Launch a staff referral program when recruiting for a new position so your team can build talent from talent. Recognize those employees going above and beyond.
The process of formalizing and incentivizing brand ambassadorship looks different for every business, but the underlying principle is the same throughout: engage your staff in building for the short- and long-term.
Here’s some inspiration: Learn how to celebrate your team members with these 31 work anniversary gift ideas.
5. Encourage Employees to Grow their Own Personal Brand
Brand ambassadors shouldn’t just be a reflection of your own brand. It’s important to encourage employees to grow their own personal brand, and then use it to strengthen your company image. Why? Because people trust people more than they trust businesses.
The goal should be to have your team members become respected thought leaders in their own spaces. By being visible to the community at large, or just seen as trustworthy experts in your industry, they’ll paint a positive image of your company at large. This type of trust is what strengthens brand authority, leads to new business, and strengthens customer relationships at large.
As an employer, how do you help strengthen your employees' personal brands? Isn’t this their job? Well yes, but there are some ways you can help as a leader for your organization:
- Ask employees to configure social media profiles with proper branding, descriptions, and links back to company pages.
- Give guidance on what can be shared online about your company. Team members are much more apt to engage with your brand on social media if they understand what the rules and guidelines are.
- Start spotlighting employees and their accomplishments online or on social media.
- Share employee-driven initiatives either internally or externally through company newsletters.
- Encourage employees to network with other professionals in and outside of your industry.
- Offer opportunities for growth both professionally and personally.
6. Lead by example
Finally, as a leader in your company, it’s important that you lead by example to help your team align around shared values and a common purpose. Pivot to your company’s “why” in all strategizing, planning, and decision-making. Create a brand experience you’re proud to tout. Build towards the future, shoulder-to-shoulder with your biggest asset: your team.
Help your employees grow, and in doing so, help your business grow.