5 Key Pillars of Employee Advocacy Part 3 of 5: Content and Storytelling
This is the third article in our series on the key pillars of employee advocacy and in this article, I’m going to look at the third key pillar: Content and Storytelling.
In this series of blogs, I’ve broken down a way to approach employee advocacy into 5 key pillars, which when put together will enable you to build the most successful employee advocacy programme. Follow these and you have the backbone to a successful advocacy programme, whatever the size of your business and team.
The 5 pillars are:
- Content and Storytelling
In the last article, I looked at ways to successfully recruit advocates into your programme, with practical tips on who should be in the programme, mapping what they might talk about, and how to create your offer and pitch to invite them in, taking lessons from B2B sales models.
What does good content look like?
There’s a lot of debate right now about how much employee generated content brands should aim for employees to be sharing.
When we start discussing content and employees sharing content on behalf of the brand with clients, it always raises lots of questions.
- You’re wondering what content you should ask employees to share
- They’re wondering what they should be sharing. They don’t want to get it wrong
- You’re worried they might share content that is off brand
- Your boss is wondering how it will help the business and if it’s worth the risk and if you’ll give too much away to competitors
What type of brand stories do you want employees to share and why?
First of all, ask yourself what kind of brand stories you are wanting to amplify? What type of sales or marketing activity are you asking your employees to get involved with?
This is a bigger question than it might seem. Because when you move from a brand sharing content to an employee sharing content on its behalf there’s quite a change in how it feels both to the sharer and the reader.
Marketing can roughly divide into short team sales activation activity and long term brand building activity..
One of the reasons people share content in social media is to look good in front of their followers. Which of these will make employees look better? Often brands imagine that enabling their employees to share product deals and special offer vouchers all the time will do just that. And on occasion it can. But mostly it does the opposite. It actually puts employees off sharing. Unless they’re in the sales team this can make them feel really uncomfortable.
So if we’re looking at brand building – are employees in a position to help here? The thing to consider is what is the best way to grow your brand? Where will your brand growth come from? Simply sharing curated corporate content isn’t going to cut it.
Bryon Sharp in his book ‘How Brands grow’ said “Brands growth comes when you gain more buyers – most of whom only buy the brand very occasionally.”
Now this is really interesting when you look at it in terms of social media. Many brands still focus on building followers on their social media profiles, sharing content and encouraging them to engage. According to Callum McCahon in his white paper “Brand Building on Social Media” if you are using social media as a way to communicate with your ‘current audience’ – the people who follow your page – you are not building your brand.
Essentially it’s your heavier customers who are more likely to follow you and engage on your social posts. This is great – but it won’t build your brand. If you’re brand building you should focus on your efforts on reaching all the potential buyers in your category, continuously, in the most efficient way.
There are a number of ways of doing this including advertising. But this is also where your employees can really come into their own. They are in a strong position to present the brand as unique and help build brand fame. But more importantly they can help you grow your reach into completely new areas.
According to Linkedin Employee shared content can achieve 10x reach compared to brand content. This is a game changer when it comes to brand penetration.
How can employees fit into a brand building strategy on social media?
In Callum McCahon white paper Brand Building on Social Media his focus is mainly on social media advertising but it’s valuable as a tool to see how employee sharing can become part of this strategy. McCahon created a loose framework for brand building on social. It has 3 sections:
Fame builders. Fame builders are campaigns you can tell a story around. He describes this as the hero piece of content. It’s the big idea that you want everyone to see.
Short stories. Short stories are monthly touchpoints between brand and customers, to get them talking, engaging and referencing your brand. The content tells a segment of the story in the Fame builder.
Distinctive cues. Cues are content that communicates a single message relating to the fame builder campaign. See it as the drum beat – small reminders that the brand exists, reinforcing how people feel about the brand, regular reminders that reflect customers’ lives and circumstances.
A good place to start using this is to write a list of the core products and services you plan to promote over the next 6 months.
Where do employees fit into this?
Do you want employees to simply reshare the brand content that you’re creating in a framework like we’ve just shown? Resharing the adverts and brand social media posts?
Where many advocacy programmes go wrong is when marketing teams try to get employees to amplify the brand story by simply sharing advertising style content or brand heavy messages.
The issue with employees sharing is that when they just re-share brand marketing – unless that brand marketing is something really special – it just jars – people feel uncomfortable sharing it – they feel the company is forcing them to do something that they don’t want to do and their friends/followers will not like it.
This is where you have to look at it differently – employees are not in the business of telling the brand’s story on their own social media. They should only ever tell THEIR own story.
But that doesn’t stop them helping grow the brand. In their story – their job is part of that story, their expertise is part of that story, what the company does is part of that story – but it’s only part of the story from the point of view of the employee.
So when we’re looking at the brand building framework created by Callum McCahon and you’re looking at how employees can become involved in a social media campaign you need to change how you look at the role the employees will play in the messaging.
They won’t be simply resharing brand stories they will need to reframe the brand message as part of their story. It is only that way that they can legitimately talk about the business or its products or even its advertising campaigns. It’s the only way they will ever be trusted by their followers.
How do you activate your employees to start storytelling?
Employees first need to start believing they have a story to tell.
People often think they don’t have anything of interest to say. Particularly around their job or work on social media. They think their followers aren’t interested in them talking about this.
But everyone has a story to tell that is of interest. It’s just a matter of them understanding that they need to tell their story and how their job and their expertise is part of that rather than simply resharing brand or company messages.
This is where you can help them understand how their role, their experience, their expertise and their background can all support the company’s brand building.
Using the approach we have talked about here you need to show them examples of what this could look like. We recommend creating a simple guide or running a workshop with the different groups where you can help them look at how they contribute to the brand, product or service.
Help them to consider what they know that others don’t – what do they know that the customer would love to hear about. For example: What do they talk about with customers when they meet them in person, eg in store? Remind them to use popular hashtags. Once employees have an idea of what is possible the next step is to make this as easy to do as possible for them and remind them to share by regularly prompting them. Remember behaviour design from the first module.
Use prompts which you can send via email or add to a shared document and remind them to look at them by email.
Start by building up their confidence to tell it on social media.
Set achievable goals for people.
Let them start by sharing safe content, then move on simple brand building content and then nudge them to comment and engage, and then help them start posting their own content which supports brand building.
- Safe posts
- Curated posts
- Follow other experts
- Follow relevant hashtags
- Add comments/opinion
- Write own posts (using hashtags, usernames)
In summary, these are the 5 key steps you need to take when mapping content to employees
- Consider the different groups of people working in your business.
- Put down what their jobs are, what their expertise is.
- Look at what stories might these employees tell on social media, related to their work or your brand.
- Imagine what would be of interest to customers for each of these employee groups.
- From this you will be able to mock up these stories based on your research
In the next article, I’ll look at Key Pillar #4: Motivation. What works, what doesn’t and how to keep employees on board with your programme after the initial buzz subsides.
We are producing a more detailed guide to Storytelling in employee advocacy shortly. If you’d like to receive this, please register your interest below.