Why PR is the missing piece in your Brand Evangelism puzzle?

Authored by Sushmita Bandopadhyay, EVP – Operations, Weber Shandwick

The culture of brand evangelism is more than just a catchy marketing phrase or social media campaign. The current market ecosystem requires a strategic, coordinated effort that involves every aspect of an organization's operations. Leadership is about knowing that an organization’s success depends upon not just the vision or the product, but the people who fulfill the overall purpose of the organization.

As 2023 has started with many hopes, Weber Shandwick is working towards creating a culture that is built on the foundation of its values and puts people at the core of its business. They practice the same for their clients by integrating employee advocacy into their overall communication strategy.

Sushmita Bandopadhyay, Executive Vice President- Operations, Weber Shandwick speaks about how the PR industry is shaping the Brand Evangelism culture and how the practice of turning loyal employees into brand advocates, has emerged as a key strategy to achieve this goal for brands out there.

Importance of storytelling in building Brand Evangelism

In today's world, it is no longer advisable for brands to depend on just traditional marketing strategies to build and preserve their reputation. Effective and authentic storytelling is at the heart of successful brand evangelism. When employees are passionate about their work and feel connected to the company's mission, they bring their best to the organization and the team.

As PR professionals, we endeavour to help companies develop compelling narratives that capture the essence of their brand and communicate it to employees, inspiring them to become evangelists. To effectively engage employees, the communication should resonate deeply with their value systems and beliefs. One way to achieve this is by aligning the brand with a cause, a higher purpose that inspires passion and has the potential to bring in transformational momentum. Creating a captivating story around it can help the brand establish an emotional bond with its audience, resulting in enhanced loyalty and affinity for the brand. Most importantly, personal anecdotes and testimonials add to the arsenal of employer branding.

Values: An Integral part of Brand Evangelism culture

One of the primary ways that values help build brand evangelism is by providing a sense of purpose and meaning for employees. When employees feel that they are working for a company that shares their beliefs, they are more likely to be motivated to do their best work and be proud of what they do. This can lead to greater job satisfaction, and a stronger sense of loyalty and the shared identity can foster a sense of teamwork, and a sense of belonging which can be a powerful driver of inclusion and brand evangelism.

For example-

We believe in practicing our core values - Curiosity, Inclusion, Impact, Courage, and our ethos of in cultural communication - in everything we do. We work continuously to encourage our people to bring courageous ideas forward, to be curious and dig deeper, to create an impact through the work they do, and be inclusive, at an individual and professional level.

By embracing diversity in all aspects of the organization, a company can benefit from a rich pool of unique and distinct ideas. Diverse perspectives fuel fresh and evolved thinking, creative problem-solving, and innovative approaches to unique workplace challenges. From leadership to managers, we have a varied set of people who come from different backgrounds, and experiences, which allows everyone to bring diverse perspectives to the forefront. 

Employee advocacy’s impact on narratives and positioning of the company.

  1. Firstly, employee advocacy helps humanize the brand. Customers tend to respond better to companies that demonstrate the human side of the business and hearing real stories of impact from employees can create a deep sense of connection between customers and the brand. Values need to be practiced and reinstated through exemplary work. 
  1. Secondly, personal branding that aligns with a company's values is a mutually beneficial approach for both the employee and the organization. When employees take ownership of their own branding and align it with the company's values, it can have a far-reaching positive impact on the company's overall positioning. Employees who feel invested in the company's success are more likely to become brand ambassadors, will passionately advocate for the company, its products, and its values. This not only helps to build a positive image for the brand but also drives employee engagement, motivation, and productivity.
  1. Most importantly, by fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected, a company can attract a wider range of talent and build stronger relationships with people from diverse backgrounds. When employees are engaged and enthusiastic about the organization they work for, they are more likely to demonstrate positivity and optimism within their circle of influence and hope for growth opportunities within the company. This can have a resounding impact on potential employees in an age when young job seekers want to explore careers with companies with strong values and a positive culture. 

Major challenges

Building brand evangelism is a task for companies as it is something that happens over a period.  There is often a lack of awareness or understanding of the company's goals and values among employees which results in difficulty to make them rally the impact and purpose of the company in society. Additionally, identifying the right employees who are enthusiastic about the brand and willing to promote it is another significant challenge. It requires a careful selection of employees in this journey of creating ambassadors for the company.

 PR professionals can help the brand by overcoming these barriers-

  1. Crafting compelling narratives: PR leaders can collaborate with employees/leadership teams to identify stories that illustrate the brand's ethos, values, and purpose. Stories and testimonials should make employees curious about ways to serve and create an impact. 
  1. Providing training and support: It is important to communicate the values of a company to the public. However, it is equally important to reinforce those values internally, and that's where PR can expand the value training piece to a larger set of employees and not restrict it to the leadership teams. At the same time, it is necessary to understand the target audience and find effective ways to do this by regularly communicating the company's values through consistent internal communications. 
  1. Integrating employee advocacy into PR campaigns: PR can integrate employee advocacy into campaigns, using employee stories as brand stories. We must remember, employer branding is not an activity. It is a mindset. You need to offer the perfect fertile environment to sow the seeds of greatness and allow to create lifetime moments for employees.
  1. Developing focus groups within the organization, can be an effective way to overcome brand evangelism challenges. By analyzing a larger spectrum of people with different thoughts and experiences, companies can gain insights into their employees' perspectives and expectations. This information can be used to curate better strategies for building employee advocacy.

In conclusion, employee advocacy is the quintessential component of modern communications strategy. The timing of evangelism is independent of your product because the emphasis is mostly on the issue you are solving, creating a community of believers, and your philosophy around best practices. However, to be truly effective, they require the expertise of PR professionals who can develop compelling narratives, engage employees, and overcome the challenges of building advocacy programs. The power of technology, the power of language, and the power of expression combined with compassion, commitment and clarity can be the winning strategy in Brand Evangelism.


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