Why Employees Are the Best Brand Ambassadors

There are 2 types of Brand Ambassadors: external influencers and internal employees.

Although the amount of social media buzz attributed to celebrity brand ambassadors has been rapidly growing, my comments will not focus on influencers like Kylie Jenner or Roger Federer – each at the top of the list who get paid handsomely to promote a brand.

I believe the more effective and authentic influencers are your internal employees; the people who are passionate about the brand they work for and often times, help create. They are also more interesting, believable, and trusted.

Makes sense – but why do I need an internal Brand Ambassador program?

A successful program will strengthen relationships with both customers and fellow employees.

Between the two audiences, it is often the customer who is prioritized – as attracting new and retaining existing customers is the most effective way to create sustainable business growth. Yet consider this – employees are the single most important contributor or detractor to a company’s reputation. With so much at stake, it’s clear that an informed, engaged and passionate employee can have a tremendous impact on developing a deeper relationship between the customer and the brand.

The best way to create deeply engaged team members is to treat them as the priority. For if they feel that extra care, they will pass that care on – not only to the customer but to the other team members. The result will be a healthy culture and an aligned and motivated team.

And the timing couldn’t be more important. The impact of COVID has created a significant physical and emotional disconnect between employees and the companies they work for. A record number of employees are quitting their jobs because they no longer feel connected and fulfilled. The challenge of retaining and recruiting new talent is a top initiative for corporate America and will not be going away any time soon. And considering that job seekers rank current employees as the #1 most trusted source of information about a company, it becomes even clearer to invest in this important audience.

Employee Brand Ambassadors serve an invaluable role as authentic spokespersons, communicating not just what the company does but more importantly why it does it and why it matters. It’s human nature to seek fulfillment in life. With as much time as we spend on the job, working with an organization who has an emotionally compelling purpose makes a profound difference.

How do I develop a Purpose Driven Organization?

A top-down & bottom-up approach works the best. Leadership is expected to create the strategic vision; clarify the business opportunity and the means to achieve it – but again, those only represent “what” the company does; the “why” is the critically missing element.

A corporate Purpose Statement clarifies the emotional connection to why the organization exists. Our experience tells us that the best purpose statements are clarified through a process of engaging key internal audiences throughout the organization. We find that qualitative workshops with creative exercises are more effective than quantitative surveys. Rarely will the exact answer come forward, but the core sentiment rises to the top which can then be translated into a short, emotionally impactful Purpose statement. Together with other guiding statements of Vision, Mission, Values and Brand Positioning – these statements create a compelling suite of reasons to believe.

How do I develop Purpose Driven Brand Ambassadors?

Often a company rebrand is the ideal time to implement this type of program as an evolved value proposition to the target market has recently been clarified, there is renewed energy and optimism – and the evolved guiding statements newly developed.

In any company there are people who naturally come from either an intellectual or emotional viewpoint. When it comes to the company’s brand or purpose they might “care but not know” or “know but not care.”  Neither are ideal. The goal is to create an internal culture where a more holistic perspective is achieved – a balance of connecting hearts and minds.

This process takes time and a disciplined approach. Ultimately you will want your entire team to be brand ambassadors but begin by identifying the most respected people in the organization. They don’t always have to be senior execs but rather people who are authentic, live the values, can be trusted and represent the best interests of the team and the organization.

Training these respected leaders is the starting point in developing an orchestrated process. The average person needs to hear something nine times for it to truly sink in. Therefore, taking the entire organization through a process of “hearing, understanding, believing and living” the brand promise requires many forms of communications and touchpoints. Please don’t think that a “launch” event will be enough – but rather only the start.

Internal team members make ideal Brand Ambassadors, the question is always what is the best way to approach the development of a successful program. It starts with the company’s leadership team who need to recognize it as a focused priority. There are 8 key steps to follow.

Eight steps to building a successful Internal Brand Ambassador program

  1. Utilize times of change and strategic need to create an increased level of importance throughout the organization – clearly endorsed at the highest level (top down)
  2. Combine the initiative with the development of an evolved brand promise and guiding statements such as corporate purpose, vision and mission
  3. Let the entire organization know that this initiative exists and that their input is valuable. Consider means to gather input through an internal survey or a series of workshops (bottom up)
  4. Develop the language (and visual support) to clarify and bring to life the new strategic message that needs to be shared throughout the organization (approved by leadership)
  5. Identify a core set of leaders who are respected, authentic, live the values and represent the best interests of the organization
  6. Train the Brand Ambassadors on a process of presenting the information to their teams but also engaging team members on how to best turn the entire organization into brand ambassadors
  7. Monitor the impact and effectiveness through ongoing internal and customer metrics such as NPS (Net Promoter Score)
  8. Continue to communicate, listen and evolve – this is not a “one and done” process, it requires continual learning and refinement for the entire organization to feel engaged and ultimately living the brand promise