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A new wave of brand ambassadors: The power of employee advocacy in the travel industry

Internal Communications - 28th January 2024
A new wave of brand ambassadors: The power of employee advocacy in the travel industry

In the fast-paced and ever-evolving travel industry, brands are always looking for more innovative ways to increase brand awareness, better engage with customers and prospects, and boost their own company culture.

However, in a world where consumers are bombarded by advertising and marketing messages from seemingly every angle, people can quickly become jaded, even towards brands they regularly buy from or travel with.

Benefits of an employee advocacy programme

To address content saturation and foster a stronger sense of community, both inside and outside of the company, many travel brands look to their own employees as a source of advocacy to build better customer-employee relationships and even drive business growth.

After all, people buy from people, and employees help humanise your brand. Content shared or created by employees feels infinitely more authentic, more genuine, more human, and less self-serving.

Employee advocates are often more cost-effective than influencers or other marketing methods too, representing an economical source of authentic and credible content that builds trust among your customer base.

A good advocacy programme also enhances the employee experience and contributes to a more positive team-oriented company culture, increasing satisfaction and retention, as well as attracting top talent.

However, there are pitfalls to navigate. If poorly executed, advocacy programmes can result in unhappy employees that will either refuse to participate, or even worse, may paint the company in a bad light.

To succeed, we’ve put together four key steps to consider before launching an employee advocacy programme in your company.

4 steps for launching a successful employee advocacy programme

  1. Create a strategy before launch

Before launching an employee advocacy programme, brands need to establish a robust strategy that answers all the important question, from what you’re trying to achieve, to who you’re targeting (both from a customer and employee perspective), and how you’re going to measure success.

Are you purely looking to raise brand reach and awareness, or do you want the programme to drive sales and increase pipeline? It’s critical that your programme is strategically crafted to meet specific business goals.

When it comes to which employees can participate, opening up programmes to the every single employee may cause content oversaturation and can be hard to manage. However, good programmes do showcase all areas of the business, from flight crews to ground staff, and back-office employees such as sales, operations, and IT.

For example, Etihad’s video series ‘Etihad Stories’ provides an inside look at life as an airline employee, including Q&A videos with cabin crew and behind-the-scenes footage of guest services staff at the airport.

  1. Improve quality and frequency with incentives

As much as employees may love the company they work for, you still need to provide motivation for them to participate. Many programmes include prizes and perks that reward employees for creating and sharing content.

By working towards an objective that provides a tangible reason to participate, employees are much more likely to remain engaged in a programme, and will also likely create higher-quality and more engaging content. In fact, according to research, employee-generated content can reach 10 times more people than brand accounts, with eight times higher engagement levels.

Platforms like Sprinklr, Hootsuite, and Ambassify enable employees to collect points by sharing company posts on social media, with regional and departmental leaderboards encouraging healthy competition among colleagues.

  1. Achieve consistency with guidelines and training

Not all user-generated content is created equal. To ensure aligns with both your company’s objectives and creative brand style, it’s vital you include robust brand guidelines, best practice examples, and templates for consistency – all of which are easily accessible and easy to understand.

Consider holding training sessions to demonstrate how employees can take part in your company’s social advocacy programme, and set expectations that clearly communicate the initiative’s goals, implementation, and ongoing success.

For inspiration, look no further than TUI Group’s social ambassador programme, which regularly offers social media training to help employees communicate effectively through their personal social media channels.

  1. Test, measure, learn for optimal success

Employee advocacy programmes don’t achieve success overnight. It’s crucial travel brands remain patient when introducing any new initiative, especially one that puts the onus on employees to produce results.

Whether you’re tracking reach, awareness, link clicks, or conversion rates – advocacy programmes should be treated like any other marketing campaign. That means consistent tracking of success, and tweaking your approach and metrics based on the results you’re achieving (or not achieving).

For example, if your employees are driving significant awareness around a specific travel destination or experience, consider offering your customers personalised deals to encourage conversion. Employees can advertise this using exclusive referral codes, and be rewarded with bonuses and other employee perks.

Just as important as external metrics are internal metrics, such as employee participation levels. It’s critical to remember that one can’t flourish without the other – so don’t neglect them.

Transforming employees into brand ambassadors

Ultimately, a successful social advocacy programme is only as strong as the people powering it… your employees.

The key for travel brands is effectively establishing a balance between giving their employees the freedom to create and post content that shows off destinations, activities, and experiences, while still adhering to brand guidelines and governance.

Start small, think big, and once your programme begins to build momentum and employees begin transforming into bona fide brand ambassadors, the sky really is the limit.

Contact us now to find out how 8020 can support your employee advocacy programme.

Trudi Beggs