Employee activism: A B2B marketers guide in reaching new audiences

The voices of employees are getting louder every day, Sophia Ong, vice president, marketing, electronics, ST Engineering, told the audience at Marketing’s virtual content 360 conference. "In today's context, there is no denial," she said, adding that brands cannot afford to be complacent and have to acknowledge this increasing power of their employees' share of voice.

Citing the Edelman Trust Barometer in 2019, Ong pointed out that 65% of the respondents rated company experts very or extremely credible as compared to a company’s CEO or even a journalist. She added that employees not only have credibility, but also help brands extend their reach and be at the top of mind of its consumers. Moreover, an employee's social media post about a company can reach newer customers and increases the awareness of the company even further.

Ong added that today employee activism must go social, given the increasing number of Millennials and digital natives entering the workforce. "By 2025, we will have about 75% of the Millennials coming on board. That will actually jack up the whole social media trend to almost above 90%," Ong said.

But getting employees to share on social isn't an easy task. Many are hesitant as they see the platform as a personal, keeping a lot of their posts at most, about company-led events. One way to maneuver around this would be by creating  user-generated content (UGC), said Ong. Brands have to create “wow” moments that employees will view as meaningful and will be willing to share. This can come in the form of a campaign, CSR initiative, or even a team-bonding event.

Brands also need to start co-curating authentic stories with employees, to spark conversations and get their employees and brand ambassadors sharing. ST Engineering, for example, wanted to build up its team of women ambassadors. To do so, the marketing team started co-curating content with its women ambassadors by reaching out to various colleagues internationally. The team collated a variety of content in forms such as Q&A or video, which they posted on its AGIL blog website and shared with its employees. This garnered a positive reaction from the rest of the employees and they started to share their own opinions, making the campaign a very vibrant one. 

Another area to take note of is also in collating all the content into an integrated platform so that audiences can easily be linked back to the brand. “A lot of times we would see brand ambassadors sharing content on their own LinkedIn page, but the content is stuck on their LinkedIn page,” Ong said. Ideally, brands should be able to consolidate all the content and bring audiences back to its own website. Additionally, brands should always build their hashtag equity across their digital platforms as it will not only help increase accessibility to related content, it may also help the brand increase its outreach overtime as the hashtags gain more followers.

Authenticity is key to a brand’s strategy to promote employee activism. “Do not fake it, because otherwise over time, it will be very apparent,” Ong said.

Brands also need to make sure that they come across as empathetic across all their content, and even through the voices of their content brand ambassadors. When liaising with its employees and brand ambassadors, accessibility and ownership are also equally important aspects. Ong said brands should increase the accessibility of content by creating a platform for their ambassadors to share content more easily.

There should also be a fine balance when it comes to ownership of the content. Brands need to communicate clearly to the brand ambassador that he/she is representing the company and is therefore accountable for the content posted, but at the same time also respect the employees’ point of view and let them have the reins to handle their account their way.

Apart from getting employees to share curated content on their own channels, brands can also look to amplify their employees’ voice through the content it shares. According to Ong, this can be done via subject experts, case studies, or even their winnings to get employees to share further their insights and thoughts. "You will have employees who are just not active at all, but you can encourage them to start off by liking or, commenting before starting to share posts, and highlight to them about accountability," she said.

Ong also recommends holding award ceremonies to spotlight its brand ambassadors, as it is a platform where brands can easily share testimonials and stories from a brand ambassador’s perspective. It can also be leveraged to inspire other employees and get them talking as well. 

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