The Value of Ambassador Programs – Interview with Krishna De

Employee Advocacy as part of a Digital Marketing Strategy June 27, 2017 / Valène Jouany

Driving engagement on social media is a top priority for marketers: generating interactions with targeted audiences allows businesses to get higher visibility on search results, generate qualified leads, and build brand trust and loyalty.

We chatted with Krishna De, digital strategy and social media speaker, commentator, educator and mentor, who shares her tips and best practices for driving engagement on social media.

Krishna De
 

Krishna, could you tell us a bit about your background - how did you become an expert in marketing communications, personal branding and online reputation?

During my corporate career, while not in marketing, I was at a global FTSE 100 company whose strategy was brand and marketing led. This culture was embedded into all functions. My responsibilities included employee engagement and the employer brand, and through this experience I developed a great awareness and skills in the importance of marketing principles and communications.

When I established my own business over 12 years ago, I realised that those same principles could be applied to a small start-up. At the same time, I met William Arruda, one of the first authorities and authors on personal branding and through our personal connection, and I realised that to differentiate myself as a professional I could leverage my personal brand and reputation. I was one of the first Personal Branding Strategists in Europe certified in his organisation’s methodology.

I also understood the importance of being found online, so at the time of setting up my business, I invested in learning about blogging, podcasting and online video. This was before terms such as ‘content marketing’ and ‘inbound marketing’ were used. I instinctively knew that publishing relevant content online would be a way for me to increase my online visibility and attract clients, and that still holds true in 2017, though many of the technologies and platforms we use today are very different than when I got started.

Related: Four Common Employee Advocacy Challenges and How to Overcome Them

What are your tips for building a content marketing strategy that effectively drives engagement on social media?

When I deliver content marketing workshops, I advise attendees to link their organisation or department’s content calendar to their operational plan, which in turn, should support their strategic objectives.

The key is to identify stories that can be translated into visual content, from graphics, to gifs, video content and photographs, which can then be shared through social media channels. Having relevant visual content that can accompany your story is essential, whether it is on web pages, blog posts, online press releases or content directly posted on social media channels.

In addition, if you can also create a culture in your organisation that is ‘fleet of foot’, creating content and that can be approved quickly to take advantage of ‘real-time’ opportunities, this can assist you in increasing engagement through ‘newsjacking’. Learn more about this from my friend David Meerman-Scott.

What are the main challenges that digital marketers face today?

There is no question that the pace of change has increased in the world of digital marketing. Digital marketing has become increasingly more sophisticated and it is critical that professionals stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies that can help them be successful.

Because of these changes, we are also seeing far more specialisation in terms of skill sets, and many organisations are also bringing key roles ‘in-house’, whereas in the past, they may have outsourced these responsibilities to agencies.

In addition, as a judge for many digital marketing awards over the last 10 years, I also find that there is still a lot of work to be done to connect digital communication plans to business strategy; the return on investment for digital marketing spend still appears to be elusive for some organisations.

Challenges of digital marketers today 
Do you think that companies should invite employees more often to create content related to the brand and their expertise? If so, why?

The topic of employee ambassadors online has become increasingly topical over the last couple of years. But this is far from a new idea.

Organisations have recognised the value of their own company ‘thought leaders’ for many years in the offline world. Over the last decade, organisations have realised that their employees have not only developed trusted networks of contacts offline but also online. These online relationships can be a great source for ideas and feedback if nurtured.

In the area of recruitment, we have seen organisations introduce employee referral programmes to attract talent, recognising that employees could be connected personally to people with the skill sets that the organisation needs.

Some organisations have embraced the concept of employee ambassadors and actively train and encourage their people to create content related to their role and publish that content online. A good practice for employee ambassador programmes is to identify the content as being related to the employer in the form of a disclosure, with guidelines included, such as the organisation’s social media policy.

The shift in trust that we have also seen in most parts of the world over the recent years, as recorded through the Edelman Trust Barometer, highlights that the public at large is more likely to trust ‘someone like themselves’ than corporate leaders. This provides a further argument for the importance of investing in employees as ambassadors for your organisation. However, some organisations, due to their culture and infrastructure, are not yet ready to embrace the idea of employee ambassador programmes.

Content is king when it comes to marketing strategies. How do you define high-quality content?

There are many factors that determine what high-quality content is, and the exact formula will be different for each organisation.

Fundamentally, it is no different now than it was than in the past – your content must be relevant and solve a problem, answer questions, or even provide entertainment to your key stakeholders, whatever stage they are at in the marketing and sales funnel.

The content needs to be easy to find and understood – using animations, images, infographics and videos, not only text, will make it more engaging to your audience. It should also be optimised for search, as many people may discover your organisation through that route. It needs to work on all device types, and it needs to be able to be tracked in terms of understanding how your content is helping you deliver your organisation’s objectives.

Related: 5 Important Employee Advocacy Statistics

Employee Advocacy on social media has become one of the key business trends. What are the key advantages of encouraging employees to share company-related content?

Having a framework and an approach for encouraging employees to share content through their social networks can exponentially extend the reach of your digital marketing campaigns, helping you connect with audiences and networks you may not have been able to reach when implementing a traditional marketing approach.

Taking it to the next level and using tools to help you manage your ambassador programme can help – you can include ways to measure the effectiveness of your employee ambassador programme, incentivise employees in sharing the content including by gamification, and ensure governance is in place.

Failing to tap into the power of employees as brand ambassadors is effectively under-utilising the assets of your organisation. Executed well, an Employee Advocacy programme can inspire your people and create opportunities for them to be recognised and rewarded for their contribution, assisting in employee engagement and retention. Furthermore, if you don’t take action now, how will you be able to compete with those organisations in your sector who have already recognised the importance of this element?

You can join Krishna for her show on live streaming trends and best practice case studies here or listen to her social media tools and technologies podcast Talking Social Business.

The Definitive Guide to Employee Advocacy