We asked our content marketing hero, Robert Rose, how he would approach the theme of this month’s issue – employee engagement – and he shares three steps to get everyone singing the same song.

Internal activation and participation is probably the most important thing that most marketing departments don’t do.

We spend so much time telling our story externally that it’s easy for us to forget about the most important audience we have—our fellow employees. If our primary goal is to own niches, both online and off, we have to teach employees how to help tell our story. Put simply – if no one inside the tent believes the story, then it is destined to fail on the outside. 

The internal culture of a company determines so much when it comes to the destiny and position of marketing: we are increasingly the stewards of story and culture. I’m reminded of the story of the CFO asking the CEO “what if we spend all this money on training and our employees leave?” The CEO replies “what if we don’t, and they stay?” 

There is a corollary to the training conundrum in marketing and customer experience. In today’s social, mobile, and media-rich world, there is no longer an ability to “hide” internal audiences from voicing their pleasure and displeasure to external audiences. So, the ROI question should not be about why we are spending time and money engaging internal audiences on our stories and differentiation of what we do. The ROI question should be what will they say about us if we don’t?

These challenges don’t just affect disengaged or disgruntled employees. A Gallup research project found that 41% of U.S. employees don’t know what their employer stands for or what makes their company different from others. While people are less scared about actually keeping their jobs these days, they aren’t confident about what work, exactly, they’re supposed to be doing.

So, we have to start by getting everyone to sing the same song. Doing so in harmony can come later.  

Start with the leaders

These are the senior people who can help drive the story from the top down, and they know how to get people involved with a program. Regular communication from the company’s leaders will begin to breed a culture of engagement. If it’s a big company, communication has to come from both the enterprise and local levels. Executives set the direction of the company based on the story, but transformation and bringing that story alive happens at the local level.

Second, look for your connectors

These are the people who really know the ins and outs of an organization. They are the ones who can make or break a project, not because they are in positions of hierarchical power, but because they have influence. It’s what Malcolm Gladwell talks about in his book, The Tipping Point. Among the different types of personalities he describes are the “connectors.” They are the people who know everyone. They bring people together. And if they believe in the brand story, they can help others do the same.

Third, focus on the people who will be most affected by the story

These are the people who really have to “live” the story because they’re the ones bringing it to life for customers. Think customer experience service professionals and the people in accounting. Think people who customers talk to but who we don’t traditionally think of as being the ones who make experiences come alive for customers.

David Packard, one of the founders of Hewlett-Packard understood the importance. His famous quote that “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department” is often misinterpreted as meaning he didn’t think highly of marketing people. Rather, what he was saying was that it is of paramount importance to ensure that everyone understands marketing.

We know that customers have relationships with people, not brands. So marketers need to take a leadership role in helping employees understand what makes a company special, especially the employees who interact directly with customers. As we look to create seamless, meaningful experiences for customers, employees turn into more than brand ambassadors. They become promise-keepers. They’re the ones who bring to life the promises made by marketing and sales.  We better help them understand what they’re getting into. 

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