6 Ways to Turn Your Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

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Today's Question: We know how important employer branding is to landing top talent, and we know that one of the best ways to advertise your employer brand is through your employees themselves.

The question is, how, exactly, do you turn employees into effective brand ambassadors?

1. Send a Team Out Into the Trenches

We created a group of brand ambassadors called the "Unicorn Crew" that represents iHeartRaves at music festivals across the United States. The mission is to inspire self-expression, creativity, and empower individuals. For each festival, we have an application process where we select people from all over the country, in addition to some of our own employees. The Unicorn Crew goes to the music festival together, and the members wear matching iHeartRaves outfits. They interact with attendees while promoting positive rave culture. They also provide coverage of the festival to the iHeartRaves social media networks. It's a great way to spread information about our brand, but also about the lifestyle.

— Brandon Chopp, iHeartRaves

2. Incentivize It

In recent years, we have tried several strategies, but the best results came from giving away an all-expense-paid small vacation for a full weekend to both the family of a referring employee and the family of the new hire we make based on the referral.

This incentive helped us get our last three hires, and the results were perfect – amazing, talented people and great culture fits.

— Cristian Rennella, elMejorTrato.com

3. Get Employees Invested in Your Organization First

Employees love being listened to, so the best way to turn them into ambassadors is to very honestly ask them what they're looking for at work. Do they want more leadership opportunities? Better continuing education? More flexible work options?

If you listen to your employees and allow them to give their input on the culture your company is forming, not only will you have a better place for them to work, but they'll also feel like they have a hand in the decisions your top brass makes every day. This feeling of investment is key to turning employees into ambassadors who grow your client base and your recruiting capabilities.

— Flynn Zaiger, Online Optimism

4. Keep Employees Informed

Last year, we established an in-house employee brand ambassador program. We started by identifying employees we felt would make great brand ambassadors, and then we trained them on representing our company.

We start with a few employees who have displayed true dedication to our company, and we empower them with high-level insight into to what our company is about. We encourage them to share their passion for our business with friends and others in their networks. We let these employees be the first to know about updates and changes, and we give them sneak peeks of new products. That way, they can easily share information about our company.

I have found the key is to keep employees in the loop. No one can expect employees to champion the business if they're not regularly informed of what's going on throughout the company.

— Ian McClarty, PhoenixNAP

5. Recognize Your Employees

Meaningful employee recognition is an incredible way to build brand loyalty. When employees feel valued, they'll speak fondly of their managers and companies for appreciating their hard work.

Taking recognition one step further, let's explore experiential rewards. Unlike cash or gift cards, sending employees on experiences builds positive memories that employees will keep with them even after leaving the company. Experiential rewards also create an element of social capital: Employees tend to share photos and videos of their experiences on social media, thanking their companies for the opportunity. Additionally, when the employee comes back to the office after their recognition adventure, they're building buzz internally with their colleagues over the espresso machine.

— Morgan Chaney, Blueboard

6. Get People Excited

If employees are excited about their work, their ability to make a difference, their company's culture, their managers, their benefits, and the office vibe, their enthusiasm will be contagious. The employees will be brand ambassadors without any prompting from the employer. Even their spouses will be saying, "You should check out XYZ Company. My husband (or wife) has been really happy there. The benefits are great, and my spouse comes home feeling energetic and inspired."

If you have a job posting to fill, send it to your employees and ask their input on candidates to consider. They will be happy to share the job description with their friends or write a company review on Glassdoor to help you.

Conversely, if employees are not excited about their work, your efforts to turn them into brand ambassadors will fall flat – or even backfire. Instead of asking employees to rah-rah your employer branding when they feel crummy about it, you need to dig into the root causes of dissatisfaction and find meaningful, lasting solutions. Hyping a broken employer brand will create cynicism among your workforce, and that cynicism will spread outside the company walls via word-of-mouth and negative reviews on employment sites and social media. Employees may even advise their friends to steer clear of your company.

— Leigh Steere, Managing People Better