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February 27, 2016

Let Them Talk

Posted by Rajesh Ahuja (View Profile | View All Posts) at 4:03 AM

A well-known American home appliance brand faced much embarrassment when an employee posted a thoughtless comment about the President's grandmother to their corporate Twitter account. When a British entertainment retailing firm let go of a large number of employees, one, who still had access to the company's Twitter account tweeted her ire to the wide world. Research says that nearly 40 percent of employees getting the sack or the pink slip will bad mouth their former employer in social media and other forums.

With every staff member turning publisher, courtesy online-social-mobile, organizations have ceded significant control over corporate content and communication to their employees. While there will be the odd negative event every now and then, for the most part, companies can curate employee-generated content to their advantage. One of the most visible benefits of getting employees to contribute to the company's content is higher conversion rates. An employee narrating a positive story in his or her own words has far greater authenticity than carefully crafted HR or marketing messaging. Organizations should therefore invite members of other teams, like customer support for instance, to share their experiences firsthand. Another benefit is that the content automatically becomes richer, because it will reflect the diverse opinions, tones, personalities and knowledge of its creators. The organization needs to assess the individual content strengths - well-researched, articulate, humorous, pithy and so on - of their employees and channelize their efforts to create content that enhances both corporate and personal brands.

But above all, employee-generated content is a powerful means to building advocacy. An organization's people are its biggest - and sadly underutilized - marketing asset. With social media offering the perfect platform, organizations must seize the opportunity to create employee advocacy with both hands. This opportunity is not only about spreading positive stories to the company's audience, but also about extending reach to include the employees' personal circles of influence. While the corporate presence in social media might be restricted to the usual suspects like Facebook and Twitter, employees open the door to new channels, such as Glassdoor, Jobeehive, Tumblr, and so on.

And what is the role of the organization here? Clearly, the organization has to transition from content creator to curator, from pushing information to sharing it. But even as they encourage employees to go out there and speak up, organizations would need to find a way to 'contain' - regulate is too strong a word - employee content so that it is aligned with the organization's image and character. That calls for a delicate balancing act from the 'official' communications team. Or better still, a concerted effort to truly and fully align employee sentiments with the organization's ethos.

A long journey that may be, but one well worth the trudge.

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