The modern concept of branding and word-of-mouth-marketing focuses primarily on getting customers to become raving fans and talk positively about a company to their friends and colleagues. In the past few years, this focus has come to also include the value of getting employees to be raving fans of their own company, to speak openly and honestly about their company’s virtues, and to share their pride for their own and the company’s work. The thinking goes that if a company employs happy and satisfied employees, then that adds to an overall positive reflection of the company brand.

Yeah, but what does this have to do with non-profits…or maybe more importantly, how does this help you achieve your organizational mission? I’d like to argue that your own staff is the critical, yet underdeveloped, edge you need to meeting your fundraising, advocacy, and other goals. You have powerful resources that extend far outside of your own marketing department. Here are five steps in figuring out how to use them.

1. Know your internal broadcasters.
Your staff can be roughly divided into two groups: consumers and broadcasters. Consumers take in content through various channels like newspapers, blogs, and websites. Broadcasters do all of this and also create the content. They’re your bloggers, Twitterers, Facebookers, Plurkers, etc. They’re the ones who are connecting with others far outside your particular marketing focus. They’re the ones you want to build your employee brand ambassador program around.

2. Reward your broadcasters.
Broadcasters live for information. They want to know all the cool and worthy initiatives that are going on in your organization and be able to share that information with others. Don’t be shy about opening access and sharing this valuable information. And ask for their input and insight into how to penetrate your organization’s messages deeper into your target communities and wider into new areas.

3. Allow for creativity.
The social media space and branding world evolve at a rapid pace, which means that your dedicated and passionate broadcasters tend to live at the cutting edge. Don’t make the mistake of binding them or restricting their platforms. Innovative social media broadcasters are always finding new ways to use current tools. And for every one of today’s Twitters and Facebooks, there are several undeveloped tools waiting to be created and used.

4. Show them how to recruit other staff.
Broadcasters shouldn’t be an exclusive clique within your organization. Help them create more broadcasters and new brand ambassadors. Ask them to do “lunch and learns” about social media. Create knowledge sharing orientations to help them discuss their brand ambassador work when asked by others in your organization. The objective isn’t necessarily to get 100% of your staff involved in social media and branding…instead, show that every individual has an opportunity to contribute.

5. Keep an eye on the relationship.
I can imagine one objection or question that may be sitting at the tip of your tongue: how do we make sure that our broadcasters don’t put the organization or our formal branding work in jeopardy? The simple answer is that you can’t and the brutal truth is that you no longer have total control over the message. Sorry…those days are long gone, which is why #5 is so important.

It may seem obvious, but in order for your staff to speak openly, authentically, and enthusiastically about your organization, they need to be in a positive relationship with your organization. That means being focused on your staff’s level of engagement with their work and tapping into the pride your staff has working for your organization and it’s mission.

If your organization has had great results from cultivating organization-wide brand ambassadors, what’s your story? Share the wealth in the comments below.

*Update: You can also find this post on The Leadership Development Carnival #2  which is up and running at Great Leadership, hosted by Dan McCarthy. This month’s Carnival is another great collection of the best leadership and leadership development advice and commentary from over 40 leadership bloggers. Anyone interested in reading more about leadership issues, tips and advice should check out this new resource.


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