Get up to speed on some of the basics around Employee Advocacy, with expert commentary from my panelists Julio Viskovich (rFactr), James Nickerson (Dynamic Signal), and Aubrey Littleton (Altimeter Group.) You'll find highlights from our April 2016 discussion here. If you'd like to jump to the full discussion you'll find it here or at the end of the Slideshare.
One of the core concepts of Employee Advocacy is providing ongoing professional development, educating and nurturing employees into subject matter experts (SMEs) and thought leaders. The benefits are clear for both brand and employee but you'll find basic digital/social training must be a part of your short and longterm planning.
It's easy to assume digital natives know exactly what's expected on social channels or that digital immigrants lost touch along the way. While there may be some truth to those perceptions, the larger truth is that everyone involved in your program needs to be trained on your tools of choice, rules for remaining legally compliant, and even content creation.
Employee Advocacy isn't a "set it and forget it" strategy. Training and activation should be baked into your program - from the start - indicating a commitment to the team and their longterm success. A few stats to consider that we'll talk about on the next Employee Advocacy Blab:
Click here to subscribe and be reminded to join us on Tuesday, June 7th. We're keeping the 4th Blab seat open for YOU. As always, please feel free to contact me about consulting with you on your Employee Advocacy program.
Employee Advocacy & Engagement with Karyn Cooks, Julio Viskovich , Aubrey Littleton, James Nickerson
Employee Advocacy is increasing in popularity but don't lump it in with the "shiny object" category. In fact, it's likely to be your most steady defense against a shape-shifting social media landscape.
If you've already launched or are developing an Employee Advocacy program to amplify social reach where organic reach has fizzled, complement paid reach, or increase consumer trust through peer-to-peer sharing, that's smart thinking. You're ahead of the curve in an era where social is shape-shifting again and potentially challenging consumer confidence (see Facebook like-farming,Edelman Trust Barometer, and branded ads in Messenger). Your program, however, is leveraging your employees' authenticity and influence among their social followers and that's solid ground to build on.
Now enter the rise of messengers, one of the biggest shape-shifts. TechCrunch described messaging as the next frontier noting: "One important milestone occurred last year when messaging apps surpassed social networks based on number of monthly active users. As messaging apps grow in scale, they will continue to evolve as service providers with news being a key component of their offerings."
Adweek's advice to marketers is keep up with the trend. That's where young people are talking and shopping, they say, but to be fair I know plenty of people who no longer qualify as "young" who are far more comfortable sharing information through "old school" one-to-one PMs and DMs. Separately, not every brand should presume they have adequate content or permission to chat up customers in what is still typically perceived as personal space.
So what's Employee Advocacy's role? Up until now we've addressed advocates in social networks like Facebook, but increasing messenger adoption bodes well for advocacy/engagement programs since it respects both participants' time and their sharing preferences. Your advocacy platform is already a competitive newsroom hub, so you'll already have news that will effectively compete with unsolicited news sent as messages.
Employees don't want to appear spammy or bombard their one-to-many socials with a constant stream of corporate posts, so cue them with an option to share through a messenger. Some platforms, like Dynamic Signal, already integrate with WhatsApp but Tom Carr, Sr. Director Client Solutions, points out that it's only available through their mobile experience vs. web client ... which makes perfect sense! Social selling and recruiting teams might also benefit from the ability to share pre-approved, curated content directly to a prospect, and give it a personal touch.
If your advocacy platform hasn't already integrated messenger options into their menu I'm betting they will shortly. They'll want to support your program goals, particularly authentic, trusted, amplification of your message whether that's through one-to-many or one-to-one channels. Either way, Employee Advocacy remains a solid strategy in combatting shape-shifting social and sharing preferences.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to reach out if you'd like to talk about expanding your Social Media Strategy or building an Employee Advocacy program.
Cue. Routine. Reward.
Did you know that over 50% of all employees post on social media, but according to a widely cited Gallup poll, only one-third of employees worldwide are engaged at work. That's a pretty big deficit when you consider how often that same one-third is logging into Facebook, or LinkedIn, or WhatsApp during the course of their work day.
If one of the basic intentions of an Employee Advocacy program is to leverage the natural enthusiasm of your workforce, it makes sense to launch your program with those who are most active on social. Still, even when your content is "ah-mazing" you may find your participants aren't sharing on a consistent or even semi-regular basis.
That's the time to unpack the Cue. Routine. Reward. approach. Essentially this means building on an already deeply embedded set of behaviors, like checking Facebook multiple times each day, and creating a new routine on top of it.
If you remember P&G's Febreze rollout several years ago, the cue approach may sound familiar. From the New York Times: "The process within our brains that creates habits is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future."
Considerations for creating the desired new sharing behavior:
How engaged leaders foster a culture primed for the benefits of employee advocacy.
No doubt you remember George Bush's famous "1,000 Points of Light" speech, praising community organizations spread like stars across the nation doing good work. In each of those organizations there was surely a respected leader who inspired their team to greatness through clarity of vision, credibility, confidence building, and a connectedness to the team.
There's a lot of valuable thinking on leadership's impact on employee engagement, including this post on employee engagement from Dynamic Signal's CEO Russ Fradin; and this advice on leadership traits that inspire employee engagement from Andre Lavoi, CEO ClearCompany. What I find most fascinating about these engagement-centric leaders is they become a beacon of light for their teams, whether a startup SMB or a multi-national enterprise. The Beacon (with a capital B) continuously lights the path forward.
It's this aspect that I think is such a powerful metaphor when communicating the value of employee advocacy to an organization's leadership. Stats and data aside, each time a trusted CEO interacts with the community - on or offline - that light shines brighter sparking new lights along the way.
My "lightbulb" moment (pardon the pun) around this type of leader came while presenting the benefits of an advocacy program to this type of CEO. By her own admission, the feedback she's received about her visibility, clarity, and connectedness has further fortified and "shaped her as a CEO." I told her:
"You've become a beacon they follow and emulate. An employee advocacy program would intentionally create hundreds of those beacons out in the community by empowering them to share valuable company news, industry trends, job openings, programs and services, and more. Their authentic peer-to-peer reach into the community through social channels doesn't just amplify your brand message, but amplifies their confidence and roles as experts."
How could that not translate to greater perceived brand value in the community and greater potential market share, as well as greater employee satisfaction, improved quality hires and increased retention?
Do you know leaders who qualify as beacons? I'd love to hear your thoughts on engaged leaders fostering a culture that's ready to deploy an employee advocacy program.
What do Barbie™ and legalized canna-business have in common? First, both have been making headlines, popping up in my social feeds for the last several weeks, with news about revolutionizing existing products or launching revolutionary services. Second, I believe both are experiencing flashpoint moments in their histories that make them ideal candidates for peer-to-peer Employee Advocacy programs.
Cultural icon Barbie™ has a whole new diverse squad of pals whose squad goals and attitudes reflect a shifting society. On the opposite end of the culture spectrum is the brand new legalized canna-business industry, racing to shift beliefs and capture early market share.
Looking first at Mattel, Inc. Potential benefits include: improved brand perception, increased employee satisfaction, high quality recruitment and increased retention, increased revenue.
Mattel's Barbie™ brand has taken its fair share of lumps over the years in the press and the court of public opinion, with loss of market share reflected year-over-year on Wall Street. A simple search for "Barbie body image" tells what could be the whole story, but Mattel's strategic move to develop a contemporary collection of dolls makes room for a different story than the one the "internets" want to keep telling.
Newly energized with new product and new management, this is an ideal time to empower Mattel's most loyal employee ambassadors with brand approved content and tools, helping them share Barbie's evolving success story right now. Positive things are happening across the organization and keeping teams up to date through a transparent employee communications strategy has potential to:
Switching gears to the legalized cannabis industry's Pineapple Express. Potential benefits: Regulated business showing transparency and increased consumer confidence, undiluted brand value through carefully controlled content, developing franchisees into local experts and thought leaders.
Pineapple Express is a "publicly traded company that invests in, expands, and brands existing and newly established canna-businesses through expert consulting and cutting-edge technology." Talk about a revolution! Operating in a highly regulated industry could foster fears around social sharing, but when approaching this challenge through an employee or brand advocacy framework, those fears begin to melt.
Why? Because an advocacy approach sets up clear guidelines with pre-planned content that insures those who are sharing stay within legal (or brand defined) guardrails. This applies to employees or franchisees.
Like all franchised businesses, I'm assuming Pineapple Express will be responsible for providing franchisees with quality marketing and promotional material. Likewise, they may need to keep those "franchisees" up to date with any legal requirements at the national and municipal levels.
Their business will be under more scrutiny than the average start-up, and I believe a branded advocacy program can deliver:
Giving home viewers something exclusive of their own.For the first time ever in my client's 22-year history of gala fundraising, Periscope is making it possible to extend an invitation to home viewers, providing access that until now has been locked behind cost-prohibitive doors. Surprise and delight are our watchwords, staying open to unplanned magic that will no doubt present itself throughout the event. We want to give home viewers something EXCLUSIVE of their own.
It's no secret that 2015 was the year realtime social video realized its immense promise. After years of experimenting with platforms that weren't reliable, or platforms that were sound but lacked sufficient user-adoption, technology and user demand both matured sufficiently to finally justify time and resources to get live messages out to an audience. Blab, Meerkat, and Periscope burst onto the playing field, not to mention Facebook and Twitter options, were gaining traction but were limited in either their time restrictions or accessibility. Not everyone got a golden ticket to play with Facebook video.
That cleared the way for Meerkat and Periscope to deliver tools that users really wanted. From Periscope's about: "...there is no better way to experience a place right now than through live video. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around."
The world's pretty big so the possibilities are endless. It makes perfect sense that Periscope would partner with GoPro, and for those who prefer more staid adventures of the behind the scenes variety, it's perfect for unfiltered, authentic versions of celebrity and brand stories.
Which brings me to how my non-profit client is using Periscope for their annual black-tie fundraiser.
Black-ties fundraisers are exclusive by definition. Not everyone who supports the mission of an NPO can show support with their wallet. Add a layer of fancy clothes, U.S. Senators, and major celebrities and exclusive feels more like anintimidating party with some stuffy people where you wouldn't be welcome.
Fortunately this client has been evolving over the last few years and making a great effort to attract a younger, more diverse community of donors, volunteers, and partners; and this year's gala theme was designed to shine a spotlight on them as well as the honorees.
So now, for the first time ever in the gala's 22-year history, Periscope is making it possible to extend an invitation to home viewers, providing access that until now has been locked behind cost-prohibitive doors. Surprise and delight are our watchwords, staying open to unplanned magic that will no doubt present itself throughout the event. We want to give home viewers something EXCLUSIVE of their own. Attendees can "katch" it later.
Here's our game plan:
Would four blindfolded judges turn their chairs hearing your authenticity, intention, and unique perspective? Who's doing the talking for your brand? That is, the social talking across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Your CEO, CMO, or Communications Director will likely represent you in press materials and conferences but who will we hear when we engage with your brand through social?
No doubt about it, this is a tricky one - and yet - we immediately recognize the distinct tone of an irreverent street sounding Thug Kitchen or the dearly departed Daily Candy that spawned hundreds of imitators. In both examples we believe in the person behind the screen because they're not talking AT us ... they're talking TO us in the exact same way they'd be talking to us if we were in a room with them. Thug Kitchen would still be throwing F-bombs while demo-ing soba noodle recipes, and Daily Candy would still be the smart slightly snarky girl at your gym who really does know what all the latest and greatest trends are before anyone else.
They make it look easy but it can be done! I worked with a non-profit client whose mission was to encourage routine voluntary HIV testing in a hard-hit region of the country. While the virus impacted every CDC category identified, we still needed a unified voice from which to move forward.
I struggled with who was doing the talking for them but I was very clear that it wasn't the voice of the Project Director. The PD fulfilled certain requirements like professionalism, respect, knowledge of the medical issues involved, passion for the conversation but on balance was too dry to capture attention in a social space, especially when the audience could be young teenagers or mothers with questions for their families. That voice left no wiggle room for creative discussion or a crucial guidepost for engaging in conversation.
Then during a presentation by the campaign's Public Health Liaisons, a team of respected multicultural HIV educators doing outreach across the entire community, it hit me! The PHLs came into contact with every conceivable demographic on a daily basis, and from the public's point of view they were the TRUE VOICE of the campaign. They created a no-stigma zone sharing expertise, smiling, holding someone's hand, and never passing judgment.
The difference between their approach and that of the Project Director was their perceived humanity.
You could literally see people lean in to the conversation because they felt safe and perhaps understood, and this is what happened each time they connected with the public. It was like a VOICE four-chair turnaround because it was the real unmanufactured deal and it couldn't be ignored or denied. Our job was to replicate that energy and intention on social, and that realization changed everything about the campaign's social strategy.
What brands do you think would garner a four-chair turnaround for their clear unmistakeable voice? Leave your thoughts here or on the original LinkedIn post.
Let's talk about your logo and your brand life. Since the start of the new year I've had four separate conversations about what brand identity means and how to incorporate that brand promise across social touchpoints.
Every business is unique but each of these conversations were nearly identical. They went like this:
KC: Tell me about your brand.
Colleague: Oh! We have our logo - it's great!
KC: Fantastic. That's not your brand, though. Can you tell me a little something about who Biz ABC is?
Colleague: We provide ___ service to ___ customer.
KC: That's what you DO but I'd like to hear you are ARE?
It's always at this exact moment where the crickets start chirping.
Before I go on, let me say that all four of these colleagues are super smart, accomplished in their chosen fields, and super nice people as an added bonus but all are still operating on an old paradigm that said "We are our logo."
Scott Stratton of UnMarketing has been talking about this for years. You might remember the Ritz Carlton customer experience story he shares to illustrate how a global presence, even like the venerable Ritz Carlton, isn't in business today because they have a nice logo. It's about the expectation they've established that your stay with them won't just be a great (lower case) experience but a BOLD ALL CAPS EXPERIENCE.
The first conversation centered around a tech platform that facilitates creative critiquing by ones' peers. It's a fantastic idea and still in beta. Now's the time for them to decide WHO they are by outlining their core brand values. It's the right time to determine what those creative souls -- brave enough to float their ideas out to the universe for praise or commentary -- will gain emotionally from participating.
Another conversation started with, "We always ask ourselves 'what would Prada do'?" I get that. It sounds like they want their customers to have a perception of luxury, of quality down to the last detail. They want to sell aspiration, a piece of a perceived lifestyle. But I still don't know WHO they are or what they stand for. What's the experience I'm going to have if I buy your product that will make me tell all my friends? That's the content I'd like to see them develop -- and of course with impeccable attention to what that content looks like.
What would Prada do? I think they'd start with these three things:
Your brand is a living breathing thing. Your logo is not. That's where we begin in our work together.
Inspired by Professor Gary Schirr's blog post about Content Shock, discovered on Twitter; and followed by an exchange about the perceived or real value of time spent creating, disseminating, and nurturing content across the social web.
Gary says he still appreciates the people he's met along the way through Twitter and presumably content created and consumed. I'd have to agree, especially those who I met in the early days of tweeting and, oddly enough, those I've met in the last year or two after a long pesky middle stretch of snooze.
So what's the one single thing keeping my Twitter attention?: the webinar + hashtag combo. Talk about the perfect blend of passion, realtime, learning, and tribe all convening around a single discussion ... and all through a single hashtag like my current favorite #employeeadvocacy. No, this tactic isn't new but what IS new for me is that it's now the biggest reason for me to actively vs. passively engage there.
Separately, the TwitterChat doesn't pack the same punch for me personally, but I've used it to great success helping clients meet specific goals.
Okay ... there are two more reasons: easy curation of media into lists and realtime video. More soon on the latter and how I'm using it for a non-profit client's annual black-tie fundraiser. Hint: inclusive and transparent!
What Twitter benefits are keeping you hooked these days? Leave a comment here or on the original LinkedIn post.
LinkedIn is taking value add to a new level with its new service they're calling ProFinder, already active in San Francisco and a beta launch gaining momentum in Los Angeles. Essentially they're curating opportunities and marrying them with appropriate professionals who then submit proposals. I'm delighted to be included at the start, with LinkedIn acting as my Biz Dev or Networker in Chief.
It's a far better solution than some Q&A type communities that are intended to foster confidence through relevant discussion, but in the end suffer from registered users whose answers look like full strategies. Maybe ProFinder's challenge will be in ferreting out legitimate queries from looky-loos, and if so, I'm happy to have them on the case!
So back to the idea of value add, my question to you is:
How can I help you today? Let's start a conversation.
25 years after this Bowie performance, I was looking for investors in the first LA production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. It was my chance to earn my producer wings. David Bowie's publicist Tresa Redburn graciously shared an investor packet with Bowie's longtime business partner but there was no way to follow up. Ugh, I thought, that's like spitting in the wind but Tresa assured me if they were interested they would follow up.
Cut to several weeks later, the Monday morning post-Labor Day weekend, in a dingy attic office over the former Canon Theater. One of my team intercepted a call and said, "Karyn, there's a Bill Z for you." My jaw dropped and for a moment I really couldn't speak. It was Bowie's business partner. I did the whole stereotypical deep breath, clearing of throat, and pulled out my paperwork to fall back on so I'd be able to answer anything and everything he might want to know.
First he asked how it happened that we had any rights at all (apparently they inquired early on with the NY team but were too late), and when satisfied with my answer put in their offer to pick up the balance of the full capitalization needed. After I stopped choking on my own tongue, I ran down to the shiny conference room and interrupted Joan Stein & Co. to announce: David. Bowie. Wants. In.
Later that day when I looked out my attic office window (don't let anyone tell you The Arts aren't glamorous) I heard a little voice whisper, "All things are possible."
Thank you David Bowie for the lesson, the magic, and for helping me earn those producer wings. The man who fell to Earth, now our eternal Star Man.
HIV testing campaign Get Tested Coachella Valley to recognize top-performing influencers from its digital advocacy program, powered by Dynamic Signal, in first-of-its-kind online awards ceremony, hosted on Twitter on June 1st at 6 p.m. PST
“The H in HIV stands for Human, so it makes sense for us to empower passionate people to use their own voices in carrying our message across the social web,” says Karyn Cooks, Social Media Strategist for Get Tested Coachella Valley. “Their personal connections to the HIV story vary – but each brings an authenticity to the program that’s irreplaceable. We’re excited to shine a spotlight on this dedicated group of Social Ambassadors.”
Get Tested Coachella Valley Launches Strategic Social Ambassador Program to Encourage HIV Testing; Regional campaign embraces digital advocacy to help end the epidemic
Get Tested Coachella Valley, a regional public health campaign aimed at ending the spread of HIV through routine testing, is spearheading a new approach to effectively connect and engage with the community by launching a Social Ambassador platform that empowers highly engaged advocates to have authentic HIV-related conversations in a digital peer-to-peer environment.
“We’re dealing with an extremely challenging topic that has historically been difficult for people to talk about with their closest friends and family, let alone in a public social media forum,” says Karyn Cooks, Director of Social Strategy at Get Tested Coachella Valley. “Additionally, ever-changing algorithms and a pay-to-play social environment makes all of this a bit of a non-starter for a non-profit, HIV-focused campaign. Our solution is to empower our internal stakeholders and external influencers to carry our message beyond the restrictive walls created by some social channels and the inherent challenges that come with sensitive topics.”