When we think of marketing, it’s usually in the framework of creative advocates that are outside our organization — building an audience of supporters that will take you message and share it with the masses. This, after all, is the goal of every marketing campaign, right?
Have you considered the improvement of having an internal advocacy group to spread messaging companywide? How could it improve awareness of campaigns for prospects or even corporate changes that impact the people within your organization?
We all tend to think that the things we do for an organization are the most important, but let’s face it, we’re all competing for attention. I can’t expect my marketing initiatives to have a higher priority than HR, Finance, Operations, or frontline sales goals. When this is the reality, as it is for many of us, messaging can be missed and adoption abysmal.
Having gone through enough of these cycles, I came up with the idea of creating an ICS Ambassador Program. I would work with each Regional Director to nominate a person from their office that would have the skills and available time to support their offices. They would become the liaisons to headquarters. Clunky at first, but what a difference it’s made to improving the level of local office support. Below is a highlight of the key elements for success based on what I learned, so hopefully, you can have an easier time setting this up in your organization.
Communication Tools are Essential
There are two technologies you need for this. You need a means of communication, and you may also need a tool to track project execution. When it comes to communication, many of us already have email, but don’t underestimate the power of a dedicated collaboration tool like Microsoft Teams or Slack. The nuance that makes these platforms so great is that the communication can stay visible in a thread that aligns with the channel. “Teams” and “channels” can be set up to organize the topics making conversations relevant by space and easily searchable.
Secondarily, I would encourage the use of a project management tool for when the group matures. You may not find it necessary in the beginning, but as you work on projects together and build more within the group, it will make managing projects and timelines a LOT easier. There are a lot of tools that exist in this space; however, my personal favorite is Asana. It’s got a very short learning curve and an awfully lot of functionality to support the new user and more sophisticated.
Be Thoughtful in Talent Selection
You’ll want to remember that this is meant to support communication and the demands of the local office. You’ll need someone that is organized, detail-oriented, vocal, and collaborative. If this person is also innovative and invested, even better! Work with your regional directors to make sure they understand how this person will interface with headquarters and how it will improve their office.
Just like hiring someone to your team, alignment at the selection stage will save a lot of time and effort. While you can move people on and off the team, that activity will be disruptive to your efforts and potentially cause you a loss of credibility to the group.
Recognize and Reward
Since this is an ancillary role, you’ll have to do more than add responsibility to people’s day. First, define the flow of communication. If they are to truly be the liaison for their office, make sure all communication flows through them. Their peers, managers, and regional directors should funnel any requests through this individual. Create an added level of responsibility and recognition among their people in their office.
At ICS, I’ve also created a gamification element to our intranet by adding badges to the employee directory. These badges are held for a variety of things, but there is a special badge for those ambassadors selected to represent our organization locally. Along with badges, we’ve also given them access to our social media platforms, where we share our culture. After reviewing the brand guide with each of them, they are then able to publish directly to our company pages to highlight their office pride.
Lastly, make sure that upper management is aware of their contribution. I will frequently call attention to members of the ambassador team that has done something remarkable for ICS in both regional and leadership meetings.
Be Willing to Make Changes
I know what you’re thinking, ‘Didn’t he just say that changes could be disruptive’? And you’re right, I did. Let’s be honest, sometimes changes are necessary. If you’ve trained and coached, and still feel like perhaps it’s not the best match, don’t delay. Work with the regional director of that office to rectify the situation. Since this is a voluntary role, you certainly don’t want someone feeling obligated to do a task they wouldn’t prefer. And you definitely don’t want discontent seeping back into the group. Give the ambassador the ability to get out and maneuver a better fit person.
This team has exclusively been used for marketing in 2019 and what a difference it’s made. We’ve massively improved the variety of voices to the content we share, we’ve gotten a much better blend of exposed culture (which helps talent acquisition), and campaign rollouts have never been smoother. What could be better?
As I move into 2020, we’re going to start holding monthly meetings of 30-minutes or less. These meetings will give the opportunity to improve our execution, ideate more regularly, and pull the organization together as a whole. I would also like to try opening the group to HR and Operations to assist in rolling out messaging to the local offices, but we’ll see. After all, I need to make sure marketing gets attention! 🤣 LoL!