To most people, this janitor was just cleaning the building. But in the more mythic, larger story unfolding around him, he was helping to make history.
That a janitor is so well-aligned with the mission and vision of NASA is the result of a great brand culture.
What is a brand culture?
The e-book Telling Your Brand Story from Zoho Academy states:
Your brand’s story is much more than your “company bio.” It’s everything from the colors on your website to your packaging materials to the way your employees answer the phone and banter with your customers on social media. It includes your origins, your goals, your inspiration, your challenges, your target audience and their experiences with your company. It’s even the stuff you don’t have control over, including how your prospects and customers perceive what you do and interpret what you say. In short, it’s the sum total of who you are, all you do, and everything people believe about you based on the signals you send.
When your brand story is consistent and has been owned by every stakeholder of your company, it creates a solid brand culture.
Zappos is a good example of a brand that is very proud of its culture. Even the interview and hiring process at Zappos are designed to learn about the candidate's compatibility to fit in Zappo's organizational culture (50% weightage).
If a candidate is hired by Zappos, they can expect to spend their first three to four weeks manning phones in their call center learning how to respond to customer needs. This, in a way, is an introduction to the soul of the business. Upon completion of their time in the call center, Zappos employees are offered $3,000 to leave the company. If you haven't become a Zappos insider, committed to the goals and the culture, the company really prefers that you leave. Take the money, though, and you can never come back.
What happens when your employees are aligned with your brand culture?
They tell your story to the world.
When your employees share your story widely, it gives your brand a word of mouth boost, which is better than any form of marketing. [A report from Pew Research Centre found that word of mouth was the top point of influence for buyers.]
Let's do some quick math. I'll try to calculate the organic reach of your social media post with some assumptions. Say your brand has 300K fans on facebook while you have 200 employees who are active on social media and can share positively about your brand from their profile.
When you post from your brand page, your organic reach is this:
When your employees post about you:
200 advocates X 338 friends each (avg. number of friends) X 33% of friends seeing the post = 22,308 impressions
Remember, the average organic reach of a Facebook post is declining every year, so the posts from your brand page are going to fetch you less and less views in coming years.
Employee advocacy will be your positive word-of-mouth marketing that helps create a favorable brand image with larger organic reach. It will also help you fetch the right talent when you have a job opening.
How to convert employees into brand advocates
Sending a memo asking employees to be your brand advocates is a bad idea. Asking someone to write positively about you in public will always prompt a "what's-in-it-for-me?" attitude from the employee. Instead, win over them and trust them to post naturally.
Some employees will already be posting more about your business than others or have a more engaged audience. Identify your top socially active employees and give them the opportunity to build their thought leadership further by including them in your social media strategy.
Here are few actionable tips:
- Brand culture: Like how the janitor at NASA, your employees—no matter their department—should own your brand's vision. Cultivate this by re-iterating the vision and goal in meetings, emails to employees, your own social media posts, posters around the office, and through your actions. For example, start office yoga classes if your vision is related to health or fitness. Don't let your folks forget what you're working to achieve.
- SWAG: Who doesn't like a cool swag? Give your employees a t-shirt, a coffee mug, or even a cool hat with your logo on it. If they love your swag, there are two advantages: one, they will advocate about it in their social media space, and two, when they wear the swag in public, it's free advertising for you. Plus, swag increases the bonding between companies and employees.
- Celebrations: Celebrate days like Employee Appreciation Day, which falls on the first Friday of every March. Make your team members feel important and appreciated.
- Indirect campaign: Start a social media campaign with a hashtag and send a mailer inviting employees to participate. For example, "Best Selfie with colleague wins a prize. Use hashtag #(YourBrandName)Fun." You could also have them host a Twitter chat around a topic in your industry or perhaps help them create a longer piece of content like a blog post or video that you can then promote on both the employee’s Twitter account and on your brand account.
- Surprises: Surprise and delight your employees by sending them gifts on their birthdays or anniversaries. They might spread the word. Worth a shot!
Once you organically convert your employees into brand advocates, they will begin posting positive things they experience in the workplace—whether morning yoga, team lunch, employee appreciation gifts, or an employee awards function. As they start sharing their experiences with the world, your brand will get the right kind of exposure—and hopefully increased traffic via genuine word-of-mouth marketing.