Leveraging internal audiences to control your narrative
How many times have you seen your brand receiving a bashing on social media or even outside of it and you wished you had an army of supporters to defend it? If you’re a public-facing brand, it’s most likely you’ll answer in the affirmative. You’re not alone, many brands see this happen but very few are prepared to respond effectively.
To do this may be easier than we ever thought. Beyond employing the services of a public relations company or a battery of social media influencers to control the narrative, in fact, all you may need to do is leverage your internal audience – your employees – team members who come to work every day, committed to the development of your brand and its ethos.
You see, beyond your company financial assets, networks, and all what not, your employees (People, as we call it in RED) are your most important resource. They utilize their time, energy, talent, and more to ensure your brand achieves its targets and maintains its reputation in the marketplace. As a CEO, your task of brand reputation management will be a lot easier when you realise every member of your team, from the security man, to the dispatch rider, right to the line managers, are brand ambassadors. So, to get them enlisted as members of your brand army, it is absolutely important to ensure they operate in an atmosphere that not only engages their talents but also upholds their dignity as human beings. You must build a system that encourages feedback and engenders team bonding. Team members are more motivated to defend the brand when they feel they are an integral part of the team and are important to its overall success. They must see the company (the brand, and what it represents) as an extension of themselves.
To effectively play their roles as ambassadors, your internal audience must first get acquainted with your brand ethos – the vision, mission, and strategic imperatives of the company. Most companies have this on their walls so employees can be familiar with them but it is better when they get reminded of this periodically so the main essence of the brand is not lost on them. This way, the team knows, understands, and are capable of articulating the ideals of the company without the CEO necessarily being at the vanguard of any online or offline engagement.
Now that you have a semblance of an army of supporters in your camp, it is essential to develop a crisis management policy document – this is a living and breathing document that guides your team members (especially the communication team) to providing a response to a major reputation crisis. It outlines the mode of engagement of employees in the event of a crisis. All team members are expected to be familiar with the policies and procedures outlined in this document because the response to any external ‘attack’ to the brand will always be conducted within the framework of this policy.
With an easy to understand guideline, all team members will know what, when, and how (mode of engagement) to respond when the brand is taking a bashing. Typically, your communication team will lead the charge for engagement by crafting a narrative on the true situation of things. Team members will now act as amplifiers to get the word out, using the most effective platforms possible. Their response to external enquiries must be consistent and measured. It must maintain the voice and reflect the character of the brand without any form of deviation or ambiguity. And most importantly it must be true. Under no circumstance should any member of the team go beyond the dictates of the crisis management policy as this may not only derail an effective response but may add to the challenges on ground.
Still not sure about the latent power of your internal audience? Let’s do some basic math here. Imagine you have fifty (50) employees, alumni, and social media fans with a circle of (online and offline) influence reaching a thousand (1,000) people each. That gives an immediate impression of 50,000 – not considering the reach this will amount to on social media. When you further extrapolate these numbers to cover the numbers of followers that can be reached by your immediate followers, it gives you an idea of the potentials of utilizing what you have within to engage the issue and effectively control the narrative.
For a brand which has invested in cultivating an army of admirers outside its employ, amplifying the message is even easier. All you need to do is craft your message, push the word out there using your internal audiences, then watch your admirers defend the narrative with no prompting or input from you. So, if you’re looking for avenues to effectively tell your brand story and defend its reputation during a crisis, your internal audience is as important, if not more important than a press conference, media release or any other traditional forms of engagement, to counter a negative narrative. A tweet, post, story, or even an Instagram video from an inspired team member, amplified by her army of followers who love your brand, may be all you need to control a damaging narrative. With an internal audience this effective, who needs influencers to push a narrative?