In this two-part series, we outline why you should spend your energy turning the individuals within your organization into all-star brand ambassadors and what it will take to get them there. See Part II here.
Are you spending an incredible amount of time and money on influencer marketing? Have you dedicated your working hours to chasing down (allegedly) credible testimonials to boost your brand? Are Facebook and Google ads your primary marketing strategy?
You might want to reconsider these choices.
According to recent research, individuals no longer think that influencers are credible or trustworthy sources. They often fail to disclose sponsored content, and as a result, they are seen as lacking transparency and authenticity. Unfortunately, the same can be said about client testimonials. And while Facebook and Google certainly aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the never-ending changes to their algorithms often leave businesses and organizations with their hands tied.
Case in point, in January 2018, the online world witnessed an immense outcry from brands and publishers. Facebook had just announced that they were overhauling the network`s newsfeed in favor of meaningful conversations. In other words, Facebook stated that they are going to deprioritize content published by media outlets and other organizations in favor of content that is produced by an individual’s friends and family.
Because of all these changes, getting your corporate messaging across will mean either 1) dramatically increasing your marketing budgets and social media ad spending or 2) relying on influencers that have lost touch with the average individual. Neither option is particularly appealing.
As a result, if you want your business or organization to flourish in the world of tomorrow, you need to turn to your employees — to the members of your team who are willing to convey and authentically represent what the organization does, thinks, and supports. In other words, you need brand ambassadors.
Understanding brand ambassadors
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a brand ambassador is someone who promotes an organization to people in their personal and professional networks to boost brand awareness and realize specific organizational goals, like increasing revenue.
When you think of a brand ambassador, you probably think of someone with huge influence or a lot of name recognition, like a celebrity or a social media influencer. However, brand ambassadors can also be the faces within your organization. And in the age of oversaturated marketing and omnipresent influencers, members of your organization can provide a much more authentic and reliable touch point.
And herein lies the key: Even if your organization is thriving and growing at a rate you’re satisfied with, it makes sense to start focusing your strategy on authentic human connections now because human values and expectations are undergoing a rapid shift.
Social media fundamentally transformed how we communicate and interact with one another. It allowed us to enter into strangers’ homes and into their lives. In so doing, it made us expect and crave experiences that are more personal and authentic. As a result, organizations can no longer exist without faces. People are looking to interact with individuals that have a clear identity and that share their beliefs and values.
In this respect, personal networking for brands has become a crucial part of achieving success in the modern age because it stands as both a differentiator and a unifier. We are all unique. Unlike products, people are not substitutable. So brand ambassadors have the opportunity to make an organization stand out as being different — as having a special personality. Yet, ambassadors also have the ability to reach people through highly personalized, authentic conversations and interactions.
In short, there is no better way to fail in addressing modern demands than in offering an anonymous person or disembodied company as a primary point of contact.
As a result, your organization needs all-star brand ambassadors to successfully accomplish any lasting growth strategy. You need people who are willing to speak for you. But before you can begin launching a brand ambassador program in your organization, you need to really understand your organization.
First things first: Audit time
Now you know that you need to have people who are willing to speak on behalf of your company. But before you take any actions, the first and most important thing to do is a brand health check. Spend time interrogating your brand strategy. Make sure that it is clear, credible, and centered on organizational values that are deeply ingrained in the corporate culture, and make sure that you truly live up to these values across every sector of your organization.
Without this, every brand ambassador program and every all-star strategy is doomed to fail.
Reviewing and assessing the strength of your brand starts with questioning what your company or organization stands for. Once you think you know what your company stands for, spend time assessing what your employees think you stand for. How do they see your organizational values? How do they feel about their work? What do they think about the organization in general?
Does the picture they present align with your own assessment, or is there a significant gap? Do employees perceive their work as meaningful, motivating, and encouraging? Do the current leadership patterns allow for transparency and liberal communication, or is your overall leadership style or management team restrictive, controlling, authoritarian, and uncooperative?
Companies and organizations must understand exactly where they stand with employees in order to create all-star brand ambassadors. And an audit is the only way to do this.
Of course, the nature of the analysis will depend on the nature of your specific organization — how large you are, what sector you are in, etc. Yet, the results of this audit will be essential to building credible, effective programs internally and externally. So spend time tailoring your audit and get feedback from individuals at all levels of the organization. And of course, be sure to actually incorporate these suggestions into your final audit.
The bad news is that the digital era does not provide any room for fake or half spun out brand values. As such, you will need to spend a lot of time on this audit. The good news is that your organization will be stronger for it and so will your employees.
In the next part of this series, we’ll look at more specific things you need to know to convert your people into all-star brand ambassadors. See Part II here.
A version of this article was originally written and published by Boma Germany.