The Importance of Employee Advocacy

Today’s blog post is written by Aaron Schwartzbord, Director of Marketing, PatronManager.

The non-profit arts industry is built on a framework of advocacy. Your organization has a board, donors, members, and subscribers who support your mission in various ways from donating their time, subscribing to your season, even soliciting people from within their own personal circles. It’s ingrained in how we do business; a non-profit organization simply could not function without the strong backing from its community. But there is a constituency we may be forgetting… 

While recently scanning through my usual array of marketing blogs, I came across this post on Marketing Profs about the idea of employee advocacy—having your employees promote, share, and market your organization and its events. According to the infographic in the article, organizational [brand] messages reach 561% more people when shared on social media by employees, and that content receives 8x more engagement from employees’ personal channels versus an organization’s channel. 

On social media, specifically, I’m sure your staff “likes” and sometimes shares your organization’s posts, but is employee-generated content and advocacy codified as a dedicated part of your marketing strategy? Are all of your staff members participating (even your executive leadership)? With minimal effort on their part, it can have a great impact. I mean, your employees are part of your community too, and each one has their own insight and take on the work you’re doing!

So how do you go about ingraining this kind of advocacy at your organization? First and foremost, you need to encourage all staff members (as well as artists and board members) to follow your organization’s social media channels. Taking this a small step further, ask them to invite friends and family from their own personal networks to follow as well! When I was the Marketing Director of an off-Broadway non-profit theatre in the early years of social media marketing, we got our Facebook following up from just 900 followers to over 2,000 in a single week just by asking our staff to invite their friends to follow our page. 

Encouraging your staff to follow and disseminate your organization’s channels is just the beginning though. Here are five simple ideas to encourage your employees to act as brand advocates, and give your marketing department a little boost:

  • Post weekly alerts on Chatter or Slack (or whatever tool you’re using to communicate internally) with links to recent social posts, news articles, or other content, and ask that they share them from their own social media accounts. 
  • Urge staff to do more than just re-share your organization’s social posts and content. Encourage them to create original posts, tagging your organization. For example, encourage them to share pictures from staff parties, meetings, and production meet-and-greets to rehearsals (when appropriate) and opening nights!
  • Create a hashtag for employees to use when posting on social media about your organization! Share that hashtag through your own social media channels, on your website, and in your email newsletters so patrons can follow along! 
  • Once a month, have a staff member do a Twitter or Instagram takeover of your organization’s account, sharing their “day in the life” at your organization! Make sure to create a set of firm takeover guidelines, so employees feel confident in what they can and cannot share. 
  • If you want to try something non-digital, I used to print small business cards offering a small “friends and family” discount on single tickets—we gave these to all staff members and artists to circulate. It was a great tool to have when chatting with people at a dinner party or when running into an old friend on the street. 

For whatever initiatives you decide to try, you should include detailed instructions in staff onboarding materials (like your employee handbook or board manual). This way, as new people join your team, they will understand how they can participate in advocating for your organization from the get-go.

Encouraging your colleagues to participate in marketing efforts by using their own social media accounts is low hanging fruit that can really have a big impact. Plus, the great thing about all of the above initiatives is that they’re trackable! I’d suggest sharing the metrics resulting from employee advocacy efforts with your colleagues on a monthly basis. Showing them how much social engagement and (even better) ticket revenue their efforts have brought in might just energize them to do even more! 

For additional ideas on implementing an employee advocacy campaign at your organization, check out this post from Hootsuite.

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