The end of the new Intel ads feature employees singing the well known “Intel bong” – the four note chime at the end of their ads. Best Buy uses their employees in their ads wearing their trademark blue polo shirts. The entire Domino’s pizza new campaign about their revamped pizza is using real employees. IBM and GE also feature employees prominently in their advertising, with IBM’s Smarter Planet campaign using the tagline “I’m an IBM’er.”* If you combine this trend with the use of consumer generated advertising that we have seen in recent Super Bowls and even reality television, it’s clear something is happening to the world of advertising.
Why all this sudden fascination with real people, and employees in particular? It turns out that companies are finally starting to realise the truth about their employees… that they are not just workers hired to diligently perform a task. In the best cases, those employees can be the best spokespeople for your brand. I have frequently called them “accidental spokespeople” and finding ways to engage them more in your marketing can help you build credibility for your business, increase your employee loyalty and even generate more sales.
Many times you can find the most vocal of your employees already online talking about what they do and what your company does. This could be on an online review site, or as part of an online community. Apart from looking online, you can also find them through more traditional means. Their names may show up over and over on customer surveys or close more business than other employees. Often your most vocal enthusiasts will also be your best employees.
In order to generate the maximum effect for your business online, you need to find a good way to aggregate these voices together. If some of your employees are on Twitter, consider asking them to use the same naming convention for their accounts (such as @bobatyourcompany). Then you can create a list of all of them together. If they aren't actively online, you might consider creating a video series of interviews with them or just filming what they do and bringing it together into a YouTube channel. However you do it, creating a hub for these voices is important.
Once you start to demonstrate that you are supporting these activities from your employees, you'll need to set some core guidelines for what is acceptable and what isn't online. This should start with some basic guidance on transparency (always be up front about your affiliation), off-limit topics (talking about other employees, sharing trade secrets or company financial data), and voice (share a real person's authentic voice online). For your industry, you may want to add other principles, and this can be a work in progress - the important thing is that your employees know what their boundaries are, and what is considered crossing the line.
Having passionate employees who want to share online is great, but to sustain it you need to try and make sure that they are not overloaded with other facets of their 'real job.' This means somehow making their social and sharing activities a part of their job that they are measured on and incentivized for as any other part of their jobs. This could include financial reward, or some type of recognition within the company. You could also use privileges such as getting to attend conferences or be part of special teams as well.
The last point in getting value from internal employee spokespeople is trying to use them to ignite a spark within your company to get other employees to be more vocal about where they work and what they do. This could be started through some sort of internal training or mentoring program and usually involves a dedicated process on a revolving basis to find employees who are good candidates to become spokespeople. In the best case scenario, what starts with one or two vocal employees will become a company-wide trend that turns all your employees into some of your best spokespeople.
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