How to: turn my employees into brand advocates

"How can I turn my employees into brand advocates?"

They ask the question leaning forward, pen in hand, ready to jot down the 5 steps for success as if there is a way to snap your fingers and intrinsically motivate your employees to shoulder content sharing.

Turns out, like most things in org building, it takes time and effort.

What is employer branding? 

You know what branding is: what people think and say about your product/service. As an employer, your product is your work culture. So, bring that same product mindset to your employer branding. Your goal with employer branding should be to create helpful content that anyone would find interesting to create positive associations with your company.

Employer branding - is it marketing? is it recruiting? 

In the conversations I have with early-stage founders and hiring managers, they often share their view of employer branding as a tool for: 

  1. Attracting new customers
  2. Attracting new talent
  3. Internal comms and alignment

And, when you think about employer branding this way, it then often gets placed within marketing at your organization. I understand that train of thought - marketers are used to the muscle of really understanding their audience, understanding their unique value proposition, and then telling those stories. 

But! I think for employer branding to really be effective and achieve this outcome- turning employees into brand advocates - you have to flip the order around and think of employer branding first as a tool for: 

  1. Internal comms and alignment
  2. Attracting new talent
  3. Attracting new customers

And this means employer branding should probably live with People Ops/HR/Talent. Or, if you’re a really early-stage team - the founders. When you start your employee branding content as internal comms it is going to be more authentic, specific to your organization, and detailed. And those three qualities set employer branding apart. 

Give me an example.

So, if you think of a blog post on how your organization hires, if you’re writing first for your employees it is going to be more in depth because they need to understand their role in the hiring process. They can also provide feedback on this documentation, let you know what is unclear, etc. Then, when it is in a good place, all you have to do is publish. 


How do I create content that ties back my company values?

This is often the follow up question to the title of this blog post.

Again, when employer branding starts as a tool for internal comms, the question really becomes ‘Is our organization making decisions that prioritize our company values?’. And when employer branding is held by People Ops or HR, that’s a question someone in that role should naturally be asking. It’s a fundamental piece of their role and knowing the answer to it allows for better content and stories almost more as a side effect. 

An example, I worked at Buffer a number of years ago. Buffer is a fully remote team, somewhat known for transparently sharing employees salaries. This has definitely brought a lot of traffic and press to the Buffer team. I am confident this specific content has helped them attract both new talent and new customers.

But! The content and spreadsheet started as internal comms. The blog post about Buffer’s compensation formula and model is incredibly in depth and specific because it is really important that Buffer employees understand their compensation and why they make what they make.

The team spent months clearly documenting and communicating compensation as a team because of the company value to default to transparency. Then before sharing with the world, it was a really a matter of making sure everyone was comfortable and hitting publish. But, the content was there. And that story was there to tell because Buffer was making these decisions to prioritize their company values.  

Act like a journalist

So, that’s not exactly a quick fix or something you can go do today. I’m also not suggesting that people go publish their employees salaries. But, I often encourage people working on employer branding to think about themselves as a culture journalist. And, journalists ask questions.

So, go talk to your team. Ask them questions about:

Recap

Just like building an inclusive organization is a means for attracting diverse talent, building an engaged organization is a means for attracting top talent.

You unite employees with your brand story by bringing them along at the early stages of telling those stories. You do this by approaching the content as Internal communications, first. The more invested your employees are upfront, the more likely they are to then share the final version and tell others about it. 

For more on employer branding, here's a Workable webinar I recently joined:

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