It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of radical transparency, it was the age of corporate distrust… you get the idea. (Apologies to Dickens)
In other words, this is a very interesting time for corporate communications. We no longer have to wait for a suitable news peg, or quarterly financial results, to share our message: we can reach our audience through online channels at any time we choose and all without intermediation by the media. To make it even better, audiences are demanding transparency from our organisations, asking them to demonstrate that they are good corporate citizens. It sounds like communications heaven.
Unfortunately, unless you’re in the middle of a crisis, most of the audience don’t want to listen to what companies have to say. We’re all time poor, and frankly, who wouldn’t choose a two minute cat video over even the most entertaining corporate content (okay, maybe a few people). The people who are paying real attention are, of course, the critics and activist campaigners, who take every opportunity to further their goals.
At which point someone from the board asks why we’re wasting time with social media, when all it does is work up the activists and doesn’t add anything to the bottom line. It’s a vicious circle.
At such moments, we need the courage of our convictions. We need to rebuild trust in the corporate voice and there is no quick fix for that. Every corporate scandal adds fuel to the fire and creates another set-back to industry as a whole.
However, this does provide a very powerful argument for establishing employee advocacy schemes. Enabling and encouraging your employees to speak for you is powerful for several reasons:
- We trust people more than logos. While official spokespeople and company figureheads may carry with them similar levels of distrust to the company channels, we are all far more inclined to trust ‘normal people’
- We’re motivated by emotions. As individuals we’re most inclined to speak out for things we believe in strongly, especially if it’s a controversial position. The employees who do believe in their company will therefore be most motivated to speak out on your behalf. (And the trouble-makers are likely adding their views anyway)
- On our personal accounts we tend to speak naturally and not resort to jargon-filled short cuts and formal statements.
- Small accounts are more approachable. While there are those who want to attract attention to their comments, the majority of people want to stay away from the spotlight: hence, at its extreme, the huge number of passive content consumers. It’s a lot less intimidating for these people to converse with a small individual’s account than a corporate account with (hopefully) thousands of followers.
- You can’t control what your employees say / do on social media. But training them in the most important dos and don’ts can protect you (and them) from inadvertently creating problems.
If we then consider the many reasons why encouraging employee advocacy goes hand in hand with increasing employee engagement we can add yet another level in which this plan could improve our company reputation. It’s clearly time to advocate advocacy!
If you’re thinking about setting up an employee advocacy scheme of your own, or persuading your board to allow you to use social media in communications, give us a call on 0207 348 0545 and find out how we can help support you.