Joshua Nite

How Blackberry is Activating Employees as Brand Ambassadors with Content Marketing

mark-wilson-carla-johnson-cmworld

One of the most important audiences for content–the people who can make or break the success of your organization–is also the toughest audience to impress. They know your company inside and out. They have highly evolved B.S. detectors. They are the ones who decide whether what you say about your brand is true.

This crucial audience is your organization’s own employees. Enthusiastic and engaged employees can boost revenue, increase job creation, even increase the appreciation of your stock. Are your employees passionately bringing your story to life?

Type A Communications President Carla Johnson and BlackBerry’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Mark Wilson took the stage at Content Marketing World last week to discuss how we can bring the skills and strengths we have as marketers to address our internal audience. Mark used examples from BlackBerry’s internal marketing program to illustrate how to turn employees into brand ambassadors.

Why Focus on Employees?

Actively disengaged employees cost companies $400-500 billion every year. Even worse, 41% of employees don’t know what their employer stands for or what makes their company different from others. (Gallup 2013 State of the Workplace)

Disengaged employees cost business, pure and simple. 68% of customers leave because of poor employee attitude, and 70% of customer brand perception is determined by experiences with people.

That’s why companies that have cultures based on their purpose and values out-perform companies who don’t. Companies with good employee engagement enjoy:

  • 4X faster revenue growth.
  • 7X faster job creation
  • 12X faster stock appreciation.

(John Koer and James Jaskett, Corporate Culture and Performance)

As Mark puts it, we need to “Treat culture as a differentiator, not just table stakes.”

How to Build a Program

Once you get your C-suite’s attention by demonstrating how employee engagement affects the bottom line, you can start to build a program:

  • Create excitement and inspiration to participate.
  • Deliver a consistent message and an authentic story employees can understand
  • Develop your employees’ story expertise and the ability to discover stories
  • Deliver the right story at the right time and place

Throughout the process of building your program, it’s important to continually engage with crystal clear communication, evaluate your performance and improve.

The Program in Practice: BlackBerry

When Mark joined BlackBerry, the company was losing millions of dollars a quarter. In order to turn the company around, Mark had to start with employees who were full of doubt about BlackBerry’s vision and future. They had to believe in the company, so they could project confidence to BlackBerry’s customers and potentials. Here’s how Mark used the points outlined above:

Creating Excitement

Mark produced a video series with BlackBerry CEO John Chen to outline his vision for the company. Video is an efficient way to reach a global employee base. It’s more human than written communication.

The videos had a high level of engagement with 80+% of employees viewing and commenting. Mark made sure the videos were part of the overall brand story, not just an edict from on high.

Mark’s team also started BlackBerry Ideas, an internal web-site for employee-submitted and evaluated ideas. Employees submitted nearly 5,500 ideas, and were encouraged to upvote the best ideas for leadership to weigh in. The program gave employees a voice, stimulated buy-in, and encouraged everyone to keep it real.

Deliver a Consistent Message

BlackBerry used the LinkedIn Publishing Platform for the CEO to deliver messages external and internal. Employees appreciated the transparency of being addressed on an offsite platform. John’s posts reinforced the values, strategy, and mission statement of the company, and were amplified on every platform Mark could use.

Develop Story Expertise

For expert content creation, Mark went to the experts: He hired a brand journalism team that could tell the brand’s story, making BlackBerry’s intranet, BlackBerry Square, as compelling as the company’s external sites. The team focused on creating stories with hooks that encouraged a response to build community.

Deliver the Right Story at the Right Place and Time

Mark’s internal marketing efforts helped employees to know the brand story and be fully equipped to share it with the world. To empower employees to tell their own story, BlackBerry instituted the BlackBerry Ambassadors program. Employees can volunteer their own time to offer demos for new devices at retail stores. The program has been an astounding success, with employees willingly taking time outside of work to deliver an authentic brand experience.

Mark’s work at BlackBerry shows what incredible results you can achieve when you treat you employees as your most important, toughest audience. Your internal marketing efforts can build a healthy company culture that informs your external marketing as well, with your employees sharing the brand’s story with your audience, in their own words.

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