Ever since we opened the doors to That Little Agency, some five years ago, we’ve used the strapline ‘Every employer has a story to tell’. This article explains how you go about telling your story through the people who will tell it best, your employees.
Not only do they have unique insight into what it’s like to work for you and experience your employer brand, they are also the people your potential candidates will trust most of all. That’s why it’s really worth investing in a strategy to develop your very own employer brand champions. And the best bit? If they are engaged in their work and love working for you – it’s something they’ll do willingly.
The importance of advocates
There’s nothing better than having people saying great things directly to the audience you want to reach. Think of them as your very own influencers, perhaps not with the reach of a Kardashion but, almost certainly with networks it would be hugely beneficial to connect with.
That’s because, for every vacancy or opportunity that you have, there’s a very good chance someone in your organisation will already be connected to someone who’d be a great fit. They either know them personally or are connected with them through a professional or social network. According to employee advocacy platform Smarp, employee shared messages reach 561% further than posts through corporate social media profiles.
Developing your strategy
While it’s great if your people are already saying good things about working for you, it can be even more effective – and help them do it even better – if you have a strategy in place. You’ll need to consider the audiences you want to reach, channels you’ll use, types of content, selecting champions, building followers and the possibility of offering incentives.
There’s quite a lot to consider, which is why you may find it easier to bring in some external support to run a workshop that will help get a strategy up and running. We’ve run workshops like this, helping our clients establish their objectives, outline the tasks involved and identify the measures of success. These might be to see an increase in likes and shares for your content, or something more tangible in terms of an increase in referrals and speculative applications.
Who makes a good champion?
Hopefully you already have employees who are saying good things about working for you. There’s often no formality to this, they’ll be doing it purely because they want to. They could come from anywhere in the organisation but they’ll probably be quite social media savvy, like writing or making videos and are great content creators. When we are running employer branding projects we often meet people like this – their enthusiasm can shine though.
Larger organisations may have an employer branding specialist, specifically to promote the culture, roles and and benefits to outside candidates. This is a formal role, there to do a specific job. They might set up some of the channels and establish some clarity in defining the audience you’d want to reach and perhaps what you’d need to cover. They’ll often look for those internal stories, encouraging them to be told, often working with an agency like us to create a wider employer brand.
And then there are your leaders who, with good social media coverage, can be powerful advocates for your employer brand too. Anyone following Sir Richard Branson on LinkedIn will see the huge engagement his posts get. So, from your enthusiastic people right up to the CEO, you already have potential employer brand champions within your business.
Selecting your champions
While informal advocacy may already be happening, you might want to select and brief a team of social media champions to put a bit of structure around the process. You may even want to invite applications to the role, giving a little status to the activity and identifying what they’ll be doing. Certainly, as an employer branding specialist, you’d want to find those people who can help you collect stories, share content and encourage colleagues to do so as well.
You could add ‘Social Media Champion’ to their job title, perhaps offering a bonus to their salary and arming them with the tools that they need to carry out the role. This may be as simple as offering them an iPad to write and upload content or some training in creating videos on their phones.
Developing a content plan
Your content should be developed to promote and reinforce your employer proposition – something we covered in this blog Understanding your employer proposition. A practical approach. But you could also generate content purely designed to attract more followers or engage your existing ones.
Employer branding content comes in many shapes and forms – from short social posts to videos and blog articles such as ‘A day in the life’ stories which help to bring roles to life through the experience of those doing them. For more on what you could cover in content creation, you’ll find some inspiration from our recent blog What makes compelling content for your careers website?
You’ll also need to think about the mix and frequency of how you share your content. There will typically be scheduled social media updates, augmented by content that is generated and posted in real-time. These are activities that any social media champions would be involved with.
Building your content sharing channels
You have your employer brand champions, you have some great content. How are you going to get the thoughts of your advocates out there? Through a mix of sharing channels.
There are the channels you can own – such as your careers website which will be the flagship ‘home’ of your employer brand, and then there’s social media channels you participate in, but ultimately don’t control. You need to use a combination of both. Your careers website is where you host content ideally owned, managed and moderated by the resourcing team. Here is where you tell your stories in more depth – but, you also need to make sure people know about them, which is where participation in external social channels comes in.
With all your stories being held on your careers website, your social media platforms will then act as a way of broadcasting the publishing of new content. You could also use ‘paid promotion’ on LinkedIn for example, to ensure that your content is getting in front of your target audiences. It’s now very easy to identify the kind of audience you want to reach and ensure they see a link to a blog or download that’s been written specifically for them.
There are also social sharing platforms that make it easy for advocates to share your content. We mentioned Smarp earlier, it’s an App that flags all social media posts to the user and invites them to share the update on their own social media platforms. It is a highly-effective way of quickly sharing and increasing the reach of your content.
Incentivising your brand champions
While engaged advocates always provide the most momentum when promoting an employer brand, incentives can help attract additional colleagues to take part in your sharing strategy. Apps like Smarp offer points for various actions. Actions such as liking, commenting or sharing updates. Additional points are then earned through the number of visitors that a post delivers to your careers website and any further engagement with their social media updates. As Brucie used to say, ‘points make prizes’ which may, in this case, be specific perks or gifts.
Nurturing your new followers
With active employer brand champions, great content and a mix of channels that reach your target audience, you should start attracting new followers to your brand. The more you nurture these new followers and build a relationship with them, the more loyal they’ll become. They could turn into your brand champions without even working for you – although joining you would certainly be a positive outcome. So, how do you nurture these relationships?
The golden rule is to respond to their comments, open a dialogue. These are the people interested enough to be talking about you. You could invite them to any career related webinars you might be running, send them links to videos or to sign-up to your vacancy alerts. You could encourage followers to your LinkedIn or Facebook pages as well as your careers website. In time you’ll create a loyal community and one that will promote your brand because they want to. The more your employer brand develops advocates like this, the stronger it will be.
A little word about happy employees
We’ve covered the importance of advocates and champions, who they might be, how to help them develop content and share it – but there’s one simple thing that risks derailing it all. Are your employees happy, especially at the moment, after an undoubtedly difficult year? Employees can make great champions who will boost your brand without you even asking – but they won’t do it unless they are feeling supported and engaged. It’s the essential ingredient behind them wanting to tell their story – and yours as an employer.
For further information
If you feel that you’d like some help, support or even a little chat around your employer brand, just drop me a line. After all, much of our best work has started with a cup of tea, a biscuit and a Zoom call.