It's not uncommon these days to have a marketing team huddled around a conference table applying their best creative thinking to figure out the next big brand message that will cast a wide net over a sea of potential customers.

Part of that meeting might include a discussion of how this campaign must generate the biggest impact, providing the best "ROI" possible, because "we're on a limited budget and there is not a dollar to spare."

And yet, unknowingly, looming in the background of every company is a marketing force and voice just waiting to be tapped and unleashed. This force and voice are absolutely free and can truly be effective, delivering surprising results.

Down the hall, another meeting has convened to discuss the current state of human resources. Challenges such as engagement, retention, recruiting, and culture are probably on the agenda... again. At least that’s what’s suggested in the latest Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study that reveals the #1 issues in Talent & HR.

"What can we do differently?” is asked. "We need something innovative. We're just not seeing the improvements we'd like and really need."

The answer for both meetings? Employee Advocacy. This emerging and innovative approach stands at the intersection of the needs of sales, marketing, and human resources, offering an exciting partnership that can energize both departments and can provide an inspiring ripple effect throughout the entire organization. 

  • Experiencing challenges with employee engagement, retention, recruiting, culture, or connecting with Millennials? Employee advocacy can help. 
  • If your brand has a truly limited sales and marketing budget, employee advocacy can facilitate your next marketing campaign with limited to no financial outlay.
  • Confused about how to implement social media into your next brilliant marketing or sales plan? Employee advocacy can serve as a great test or pilot format when seeking fresh approaches to connecting to new customers, staying connected to current customers, and perhaps resurrecting some previous clients as well.

Employee advocacy is a viable ingredient to all of these challenges and more. 

What is Employee Advocacy? Here's a simple definition:

Employee advocacy is the promotion of an organization, its product and/or services by its employees to those outside the organization, usually through social media.

Does It Really Make a Difference?

Consider the following:

Nowadays, 92% of the B2B buying cycle begins online. Of all the places to look for information, 83% of consumers trust recommendations of friends and family above all other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen (2015). Consider the team at your company – surely they have social networks filled with family and friends who trust their recommendations, especially about the company they work for.

Collectively, employees have 10 times larger a digital footprint than a company itself and they are going to be in places on social media you may not ever want to be, but where your customers may be. I call this collective exposure.

For that reason, whether leaders want to acknowledge it or not, your company already has broad social media exposure because most friends and family know where their loved one works. In certain cases, sentiments posted about their work experience are a direct reflection of your company's leadership and management. I call this hyper exposure.

With these considerations in mind, why not leverage what's already there and strategically channel it for free! Here’s are some suggestions for a simple start up plan:

  •        Consider a test pilot - work with Marketing and other key stakeholders to determine what messages, themes they’d like to see.
  •        Ask for volunteers from the general work population.
  •        Ask volunteers what messages they’d like to share.
  •        Create a “messaging” partnership with marketing.
  •        Ensure that volunteers know that their messages need to be authentic.
  •        Determine how / what is most valuable to measure.
  •        Co-create guidelines, boundaries.
  •        Consider special tools to use.
  •        Review entire experience, determine what to tweak and how to expand.

A great example and overview of this concept is demonstrated by the overall initiative AT&T’s Social Circle. In 2009, AT&T piloted a program called “The AT&T’s Social Circle” which provided employees a social hub where they could share and reshare AT&T news and information quickly. As of 2014, the program had over 1,500 employees sharing information on their own channels. AT&T created wonderful videos promoting their social sharing guidelines and really worked at creating an inclusive culture within their company to empower their employees to be the ‘face’ of AT&T.

There are several other companies utilizing employee advocacy to address sales, marketing, and HR challenges. If this is your initial introduction to this concept, you may be shaking in your boots. I implore you, don't let fear stop you from exploring the possibilities and how it might work for your company. It's worth your time and attention to research its application and the resulting sales and marketing success of companies who have harnessed this resource - one that is innovative and engaging the force and voice of your human resource.

JoAnn Corley is a passionate champion of human potential with a focus on leadership and organizational success. She has the crazy belief that we can create our best leaders and businesses from the best of our human selves. Her overall mission is to help companies put the human back in human resource though holistic talent management. She leverages her knowledge of human behavior in marketing her boutique consulting firm across a variety of channels. She has been consistently recognized as one of the top 100 most social HR & management experts to follow on social media @joanncorley.