Should Rank-and-File Employees Be Speaking on Behalf of Brands?

The question of whether front-line, everyday employees should be speaking on behalf of a company and its brand has been in the minds of business owners and executives for years. On the one hand, harnessing the full weight of a company’s workforce can put a lot of bodies into the marketing effort. At the same time, companies often fear the potential negative, counter-productive impact of “rogue” or un-coached employees. Think of the employee complaining about her job on her Facebook page, or the insider who gives friends and neighbors the “real story” about his company at a backyard BBQ.

Yet not only are such fears largely overblown, to the extent they exist, they typically represent a failure of management to cultivate the rank-and-file employees as brand ambassadors and to mold and control the message those employees project to the outside world.

As William Arruda writes for Forbes, “Regardless of which industry you’re in, building a strong brand requires that all employees feel connected to the corporate brand and understand their role in turning brand aspirations into reality. If you’re not inspiring your talent to be brand ambassadors, you’re missing out.”

Consider Nokia’s approach to utilizing employees as brand managers. In an interview for Link Humans, Nokia Social Media Manager and Global Marketing Talent Acquisition Manager Becky Gloyne says, “A key reason why Nokia is so visible and approachable across social media platforms comes down to an important business decision – every Nokia employee can speak freely online across social media networks. Of course we do have social guidelines and guidance in place, but every employee can make full use of their personal opinion online.”

Employees should absolutely be empowered to speak on behalf of their employers—not in a formal or approved way, but in a “grounded in realism” way. Employees are going to speak on behalf of their employers, whether sanctioned or not. What does that mean for employers—and their PR pros? It means an ongoing need to hire, train, coach, communicate and engage with employees in such a way that, when they share, they do so positively. There really is no other option.

Recommended Reading:

The Everything Guide to Customer Engagement

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