What impact employee advocacy can have on the high street

After a year of on-off openings and closures, businesses are feeling the pain. 

People have been living in crisis for months, with little clarity on the future. Business owners and employees have been asked to take up new roles and skills. Everyone has had a part to play in keeping the company they work for going, and keeping the country moving.  

But there’s still much more to do. While the Spring budget gave a small amount of relief to retailers, much more needs to be done to get customers back in through the door quickly over the summer period and beyond. 

How do you reach more customers?

With 12 April looming, retailers need to find innovative, cost effective ways to engage and reach new customers and build loyalty with existing fans of their brand.

Everyone’s experience this last year has been individual. How do you incorporate that into the way you communicate with your customers? How do you acknowledge that and give it space while getting your brand message across?

The role of employees

The solution a number of retailers, big and small, turned to in lockdown was to empower their employees to share content directly to their own followers and friends on social media. In April and May last year, there was a massive spike in employees taking to social media to talk about the work they were doing to support their colleagues, their communities, their employers.

Some were already part of a formal employee ambassador programme. Others wanted to join the conversation, lend their voice to the movement – to share how they were stepping up and taking on new responsibilities to support people in crisis.

The result was astonishing. People started talking about the brands they love. Sharing the stories of the work colleagues helping each other, of the impact they were having.  

This last year has seen a radical shift in the type of content people want to consume.

This desire for more authentic, raw, genuine content along with wanting the opportunity to engage with real people who share those experiences or understand what they are talking about, is on the rise.

At its heart social media is about connecting people to people by building a genuine story. In the last year, we’ve seen more and more employees become part of this. 

If you haven’t tried it already – think about creating moments you can bring to life through content. You want to find stories that resonate, that people want to talk about and share.  Generate content for your employees to share. Read more about the type of content employees can share.

There are many brilliant examples of this from the last year. I’ve put together a few here to help you learn from the best. Because whatever industry you work in, whatever size your business, you can learn from the heart and authenticity of these employee ambassador stories .

Here are some great examples of employee advocacy during the last year. 

COVID-19 case study | Post Office

The Post Office empowered their Postmasters to share content directly to their local communities – Together Stronger was about connecting postmasters to their community, sharing information to support people to access key services and when/where to buy produce in their local neighbourhood shops.

COVID-19 case study | John Lewis & Partners

During lockdown 1, partners at John Lewis signed up to lend a hand at Waitrose, stacking shelves, packing vans, delivering groceries to customers. Helping Hands was all about reaching out to the community and supporting those most in need. There was a huge amount of pride among partners who gave time away from their usual role to support local communities, colleagues and their employer. 

John Lewis & Partners also mobilised personal stylists to engage customers via video chat. During lockdown John Lewis started offering virtual appointments on Instagram using video calls to run styling appointments with personal stylists and customers. Following a trial they ran earlier in 2020, pre lockdown, as part of their #WeArePartners employee ambassador programme, they were able to respond to the Covid situation by scaling up the service across multiple teams with hundreds of customers signing up.

COVID-19 case study | Waitrose

Waitrose partners played a key role in keeping the shelves stacked, getting deliveries to customers but it was their work to the wider community that also caught my attention including delivering care packages to NHS workers at hospitals; food packages for the homeless; delivering essentials at nursing homes; keeping the fire service in fresh supplies.

Find out more

If you’re interested in finding out more about how we can support your business to launch an employee advocacy programme, drop us an email. We offer courses, bespoke coaching and our Togethr App, providing high performance advocacy  for those who want to use a tech solution. 

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