Priya Prakash Varrier, the viral ‘wink girl’ from the upcoming movie Oru Adaar Love, recently became social media eye candy because of her lively expressions and a pretty smile. But there was something else besides her acting forte and good looks, which led to the actress’ phenomenal rise in public profile even before her movie’s release: word-of-mouth publicity.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to explain how word-of-mouth promotion works. Most of us share feedback about the latest movie on social media, ask for dining out options in a particular locality, browse through product reviews by verified buyers on online marketplaces, and update uninformed workmates about a video that’s lately been trending on a day-to-day basis. We are an integral part of the word-of-mouth or peer-to-peer value chain.

But, can word-of-mouth publicity from employees be used to raise the profile of a business? It can be. In fact, even as you read this, it is actively being leveraged by businesses the world over.

Word of Mouth: The process of mending perceptions about workplaces

The principal reason behind the effectiveness of word-of-mouth publicity is that it comprises genuine, first-hand experiences of legitimate consumers, which is what makes it easier for us to relate to their feedback. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, customers are more likely to trust the opinion of others like themselves over that of experts, academicians, or business leaders. This makes your workforce a largely untapped brand building resource that can help in creating a more positive perception about your brand without making substantial marketing spends.

The process of empowering employees to publicise and promote the organisation’s brand is termed as ‘employee advocacy’. Employee advocacy benefits an organisation across multiple levels. Primarily, it develops brand recognition and increases the brand recall amongst your employees’ social circle. Secondly, it helps in creating a positive brand perception. Thirdly, and most importantly, it opens access to talented professionals amongst your employees’ social circles via employer branding and drives social recruiting, thus bringing down recruitment costs.

Today, a number of business organisations are introducing and implementing ‘employee advocacy’ programmes.

In today’s day and age, it has become imperative for organisations to devise company policies which foster positive work environments and promote employees’ personal and professional growth. Employee advocacy is the next logical step in this direction, as it enables more people outside the organisation to become aware of your encouraging and employee-centric approach.

Using your workforce innovatively through employee advocacy can help intensify brand awareness and spread information about job opportunities. This also simultaneously enhances your brand value, strengthens market position, and builds trust amongst consumers.

Implementing an employee advocacy-led approach also benefits the employees; such interactions can help your employees in establishing their personal brands and increase their visibility within their social circles. It also helps them learn the basics of engagement for self-promotion and for promoting projects that they are associated with.

The biggest underlying benefit, however, is in career progression. Social media is increasingly being used as a profiling and recruitment tool to evaluate whether prospective job applicants will be a fit for the company’s culture. Candidates who demonstrate a positive attitude towards their previous employers are bound to be preferred during the recruitment process. Brand advocacy, therefore, is becoming a vital tool in the employee handbook for unlocking better employment opportunities.

Given the impact that it can have, the next question that emerges is about the best ways to drive brand advocacy. To be honest, achieving this goal isn’t that complex a task. All you need to do is encourage participation, offer training, be creative, and devise strategic content. Above everything else, never forget to measure the results of your brand advocacy initiatives. Like any other key business decision, give your employees full rein to define how they would like to design and implement brand advocacy programmes. Let them take the lead, and the job shall be done.

The author is Managing Director, Barco Electronic Systems Pvt Ltd. Views are personal

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