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HR leaders should remember employee advocacy is important to a news brand

By Amit Das

Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (The Times Group)

Mumbai, India

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In my 30 years of experience as a chief people officer, I have always believed in the efficacy of employee advocacy. My mantra has also been to build advocacy and follow with influence, because employees are our biggest and most influential brand asset.

Over the past few years, “employee advocacy” has been a buzzword, and some people may feel it is overly hyped. However, I have personally witnessed its growing recent popularity. Various functions within organisations, including human resources, realise their potential, reach, and influence, especially in delivering desired outcomes.

Employees and readers are a media company's greatest brand ambassadors.
Employees and readers are a media company's greatest brand ambassadors.

As you zoom in and observe this from an HR lens, employee advocacy becomes strategically essential to attract, retain, and engage the right talent. According to a future of recruiting study by CareerArc, 55% of job seekers abandon job applications after reading a negative review, and new job applicants consider current employees to be most trustworthy when assessing a potential.

That said, the pace of employee advocacy has accelerated. Individuals are not only consuming information on-the-go, but, more importantly, they are engaging voraciously with new social media platforms. This is, in turn, shrinking the size of our operating landscape while revolutionising employee advocacy ecosystems and adding new possibilities.

Truth be told!

As one of the “honest voices” for hiring and retention, it is up to us to effectively utilise employee advocacy to communicate values and build a reputation. Engaged and active employees can assume the role of “brand ambassadors” and share narratives providing a glimpse of an organisation’s values, culture, and vision through a formulated and structured employee advocacy programme.

According to a Post Beyond survey:

  • 31% of employees share information about company achievements.
  • 30% share events organised by their company.
  • 26% share their personal achievements.
  • 24% share promotional messages.

An organisation can utilise the power of employee advocacy and navigate conversations that may result in an increase in the belief and trust among potential or prospective employees. We must also be mindful of the disengaged voices who are equally impactful for all the wrong reasons.

Never underestimate

Employee advocacy goes a long way in building brand awareness and creating stickiness for a brand. Employee advocates and their incremental reach can get you closer to your desired business outcomes.

Let me share a recent example: As COVID-19 spread and increased its influence, our newspaper circulation took a hit due to the fake news floating around social media that newspapers were unsafe. However, believing in the power of employee advocacy, we launched our “#ILoveMyPaper” campaign.

As a result, our employees took complete ownership and accountability of the campaign and interacted and engaged with readers in their ecosystem. They also ndorsed the fact that not only were the newspapers safe, but they are considered the most credible source of information. Today we are back on track with more than 90% circulation in many markets.

Authentic, honest, and organic conversations

Nothing beats original content, especially because the intent is evident since advocates are not paid to promote conversations. Think about the number of employee advocates, customers, or partners all organically talking about the company, and the impact that has on our brand. This can result in a movement.

Further, as individuals use their authentic voices to talk about the organisation and brand, it creates empathy, personality, and trust. This not only lends authenticity but also gives a “face” and “identity” to the organisation. People experience human emotions and sentiments, which leads to high-intensity conversations at times.

Research by McKinsey shows peer-to-peer marketing is the leading driver behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions. Additionally, Millennials are 115% more influenced by word-of-mouth than traditional advertising, according to Talk Triggers.

I am quite certain employee advocacy is emerging as the most trusted and humanised vehicle for marketing a brand, which is accentuated by the right technology. Let’s nurture and leverage it during every moment of truth in our business and employee lifecycle.

About Amit Das

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