The communications team for a major U.S. city government is asking its employees to get more vocal on social media—chatting up a storm about everything from road closures to local festivals. As a result, the city has seen its brand visibility increase tenfold while delivering valuable messages to its highly engaged constituents.
Employee advocacy certainly wasn’t a new concept to the city’s social marketers, but it still took some internal selling to get a formal program up and running.
“People were really nervous when we started doing this,” said the city’s Public Information Officer. To allay these concerns, the team made the case for how open communication was essential to building trust while getting out in front of the message.
“Government employees are out there talking to your community anyway,” they said. “Whether Tweeting or in the grocery store, it’s the same thing. At least we’re providing training and giving employees accurate information to share with their followers.”
Spreading the word about festivals and road closures.
While promoting the city’s bread and butter—that is, naturally, tourism—the primary focus of their employee advocacy program rests in sharing local news (from festivals to road closures) as well as in correcting misinformation in the media.
To accomplish that goal, the city uses Sprout Social’s Employee Advocacy solution.
“It’s 50/50 between tourism and local information in terms of what we’re trying to promote,” according to the Public Information Officer.
Articulating a clear vision for employee advocacy
To measure the success of its employee advocacy program, the city settled on three goals.
1. Promoting development
Over the past years, the city has been working on redeveloping its downtown. Giving employees the tools to talk about business openings, events and road closures has been essential to this effort.
2. Building employee culture
Beyond redevelopment, the city also wants to build culture among its employees. To that aim, the communications team uses Employee Advocacy to highlight points of pride around government works, which they hope will draw in new talent at the same time.
“We spend a lot of time talking about organizational health and want to sell our employee culture to future employees,” the Public Information Officer said. Employees love feeling entrusted to take this on. For me, that does as much for your internal culture as it does for your external message.”
3. Delivering accurate information
Shortly after rolling out Employee Advocacy, the city was faced with an unusual issue at one of its larger parks. Due to a disconnect with volunteers, some of the park’s trees were noticeably over-pruned, Davies said. So she and her team took to the tool to explain what had happened.
“We were nailed in the press, so we wrote a blog post explaining our side and how the trees are salvageable. Through Employee Advocacy, we took back ownership of the story.”
In another instance, during a music festival, a few minor headaches with parking and street closures surfaced that might have otherwise turned into a full-blown, citywide migraine.
“Employees were really crucial in sharing the story, not only to people going to the event but also to residents getting stuck in traffic,” said the Public Information Officer, adding that it’s been one of the city’s highest performing stories on Employee Advocacy. “Employees feel more informed. They feel special that we are trusting them to share this information with the public—that they are sharing some behind-the-scenes info with their followers.”
Reaping the added benefits of Employee Advocacy
Outside of its clearly stated employee advocacy objectives, the city is seeing a few other positive effects on its overall communication efforts.
The city recently rebranded its Parks and Recreation Department with a marketing campaign called Discover the Fun. Employee Advocacy has helped get the message out to a much larger audience, shining the light on topics like where to have a picnic, the best park with a view and more.
Engaging through email
The city also relies on many of Employee Advocacy’s scalable features to keep employees apprised of what’s happening at work and around town.
Becoming a media powerhouse
The city’s social media accounts are growing leaps and bounds as well, thanks in part to a signal boost by Employee Advocacy. “Our Twitter account is rivaling local media agencies—and we are taking it to the next level,” the Public Information Officer said. “Employees are enabling us to expand our traditional network beyond our pages. We can call on them when there is a good thing happening or when there is a bad thing happening. It’s good to have Employee Advocacy there to really step in and amplify our message.”
Curtains up: Advice for on-boarding.
To get started with Employee Advocacy, the city’s communication team offers the following advice:
- Develop a sound social media policy.
- Train all your employees thoroughly, thinking about social holistically as an organization.
- Share best practices, and highlight your successes.
“Employees are the most believable resource out there. When our employees are turning around and sharing a media story, it’s more credible, because people identify more with people than with a city seal or city hall logo.”