How content can help make your employees your best brand ambassadors

The HR sections of company websites have long cited people as their most important resource. After all, it is the sum of your employees’ dedication, collaboration and hard work that yields organizational success. When employees love and believe in their work they ultimately perform better.

Sharing.jpgIn the age of social media, the impact of employee satisfaction, engagement and love for your organization is even greater, because they can share it. Employees are your best brand ambassadors. They are friends with your customers, prospects and investors, and what they say about your brand in their news feeds will have more impact than the content that comes out of your corporate pages or paid ads.

Why? Because customers trust your employees more than your organization as an entity.

This is why you should leverage the power of your employees as influencers. Content can help you do this because it gives them something to talk about.

Here’s how you do it:

Collect awesome stories. It’s not enough that employees know your company’s mission, vision and brand story. They need to know about the everyday happenings that make your brand so special. Tales of stellar customer service, community outreach, or employee excellence need to be found and told, whether it’s through an internal portal, newsletter, social media site or a combination. These stories may not always be packaged impeccably like the ones told by the marketing team, but they are real – and people gravitate towards that.

Find the best way to share stories with your employees. Discover which channels your employees prefer using and share your stories there. Do your homework. Make sure you are offering news that interests them, in a format that doesn’t make them feel like they are doing extra work. This means nixing the 5000-word PDF newsletter in favor of short snappy lists, videos, quick facts, tweet chats or photos with captions.

Empower them to use social media. Encourage your people to be active on social media and trust that they will use it for good. Provide them with social media guidelines that highlight appropriate usage. Giving your employees the freedom to take mini social media breaks during the day allows them to relax a little, keep up with the news and connect with their contacts. The latter can have a positive impact on your brand when your employees share and endorse organizational content.

Ask your employees for feedback. Ask employees to share their own work stories and provide incentives to do so. Your people are in the trenches every day and often have the best story ideas – you just have to find them. Get their input on the storytelling and sharing process as well. You can do this through formal surveys, feedback forms and focus groups or informal chats with various team members.

Involving your employees in content production and dissemination makes them feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. It allows them to share their organizational pride with their personal networks while boosting your brand’s visibility. Your organization will greatly benefit from this more organic way of spreading news.

Why your content team is in a creative funk and how to snap out of it

One of the things I love about working in PR is the creative energy. The new approaches, cool ideas and interesting stories that colleagues bring to meetings or to the water cooler are what make this business so exciting. Snap out

Sometimes though, you experience a bit of a drought. Everyone at the office is a little quieter and it seems like people are just going through the motions. The stories pitched appear tired and the proposed angles boring. Everything is just a little – blah.

Creative funks can happen for a number of reasons. Here are just a few, paired with some suggestions to snap out of them.

(1) Stuck in the routine. Sometimes the daily grind gets to us. Somewhere during the process of strategize, research, pitch, write, post, monitor, repeat, people get caught up and forget that they need to venture outside the content producing machine to find new ideas, and more importantly, to keep their sanity.

Snap out of it: organize outings or activities to get people out of the office. Whether it’s for a walk or to grab a coffee, sometimes we just need a little distraction to get the creative juices flowing.

(2) Old school PR environment. Not everyone in PR works at a Fortune 500 company or a forward-thinking agency. A lot of content teams work for non-profits, government departments and industries that have not yet caught up with best practices in content marketing. Your team members may find that they have new ideas, but the context, budget or resources won’t allow these to come to fruition.

Snap out of it: Though you can’t change your organizational culture overnight, you can try to find projects that will give your team a creative outlet. Challenge them to find alternative ways of covering usual topics or formatting their pieces. Give them opportunities to research and pitch new ideas to senior management.

(3) Lack of team work. Although we work in an extremely collaborative field, we all have those times where we isolate ourselves and forget to use one of our most valuable resources – our colleagues. We think we are being more productive, when in reality we are spinning our wheels.

Snap out of it: Plan for structured brainstorming sessions where people bring forth what they are working on. Share ideas on content, angles, formats, photos etc. and encourage discussion. Make sure all team members have the opportunity to participate and that these creative sessions don’t turn into administrative discussions.

(4) Bad content. There is nothing content marketers hate more than producing puff pieces that we know no one will look at and that will yield poor results. Often though, internal politics force us to produce this type of content. Writing boring corporate-speak articles will make any creative feel like they are losing their edge.

Snap out of it: Find the hidden story. It may be difficult, but many times you can uncover something interesting about the corporate retreat, CSR report, or pancake breakfast. Encourage your employees to talk to different people involved and find an angle that will add some substance to a corporate announcement.

(5) Results fall short. When we put a lot of effort into a story or project and it doesn’t yield the expected results, our motivation can take a hit. We begin to doubt to ourselves and this has a negative impact our creativity.

Snap out of it: The essential takeaway here is that everyone goes through this. Sometimes it hits us a little harder and affects our creative mojo. Help your team members get to the other side by productively using their ‘doubt’. Look at what did not work and why. Map out an alternative plan.

(6) Too much or not enough competition. We’ve all heard it before: moderate competition in the workplace is healthy. However, it’s not always easy to achieve a balance. Some of us work on teams where there is a great deal of ‘die-hard’ competition. This type of environment can be toxic. On the other end of the spectrum is a lack of friendly competition, which can cause complacency.

Snap out of it: Fostering friendly competition by encouraging people to aim high will yield better results and keep people motivated. Make sure your employees know that their individual work is vital to your organization’s success by helping them set goals. Nurture a collaborative culture by showing how each individual’s contribution and their combined efforts will lead to the best results. Make sure to celebrate the victories along the way!

Creativity is such a crucial part of what we do. Let’s make sure we take the time to nurture it! What does your team do to foster creativity?

Here we go! Return to writing post-baby

Here I am again – behind my computer, staring at a blank document, a million thoughts flowing through my mind. It seems like I was in the same spot just yesterday, and yet, more than a year has passed since I pressed pause on my work in communications to take on a great new challenge – motherhood.

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My blank canvas…

The past 12 months have been a whirlwind. The laughs, the cries, the joys and the frustrations – it has been the most fulfilling and surprising time of my life.

Honestly, I never thought it would take me this long to get back here. As the passionate workaholic, schedule-obsessed person that I am, I had pictured myself on maternity leave enjoying time with baby while blogging frequently, keeping up with the latest trends in marketing and PR. I would finally have the time to enjoy some of the books and magazines that I had downloaded on my iPad but never got to reading. I would return to my early morning running routine within the first few months and start racing shortly thereafter…

Boy was I delusional!

My friends with kids used to tell me that things would change when I had a baby, but I never quite understood how much. Plus, I always thought that somehow I was the exception to the rule and that with my super juggling skills, I would be different. As I type out these thoughts, I realize how incredibly overconfident they were. The first months of motherhood were insane, and I had zero time to focus on anything but my baby girl.

And though things got easier and I definitely could have sat here before now, I chose not to. For the first time in my life, I chose to put the work and schedules on the back burner and let myself ‘unplug’ and get carried away by the amazing tiny person my husband and I had created. Days have been filled with feedings, diaper changes, play dates, Monkey Rock, picnics, walks, story time, swimming, etc. Down time consists of reading baby blogs, making homemade purées, assembling photo albums, consignment shopping and painting – things I never thought I would take such pleasure in.

This doesn’t mean I’m a changed person. Quite the opposite – I still think about work, writing and running, and I’m still a planning junkie. I do miss my career and I make plans for what’s next, but I have learnt to not let it consume me. I start every day with a million to-dos and I end it satisfied with the ones I have accomplished – something that was a foreign concept to me pre-baby.

So today I begin a new chapter: one where I slowly immerse myself back into writing, while continuing to live my awesome new #momlife.

I’ll still be blogging primarily about trends in communications, but I’m also going to include some reflections on finding a balance between motherhood and career – a topic that increasingly fascinates me as I begin my journey juggling both.

Here we go!