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An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee
connections that deepen engagement, build trust
and accelerate business performance

Five Consumer Marketing Approaches to Borrow for Employee Engagement
By Meghan Barstow, Senior Vice President, Employee Engagement
At a time when the voice of employees is more trusted than CEOs (according to the 2015 Edelman Trust
Barometer), many companies are missing opportunities to engage with this important audience—its most
natural base of advocates. The fact is, there’s an increasing divide in the way employees are engaged and
communicated with at work (a dry, one-size-fits-all approach of corporate newsletters, intranets and leader
messages) and how they interact with content in their personal lives (engaging content tailored to their personal
interests and preferences as consumers). Taking a page from what works to engage consumers, there are five
things companies can do to break through the clutter, drive better engagement and, ultimately, better business

1. Identify and engage your influencers

2. Get personal.

A campaign’s or program’s success starts with
research—in particular, knowing your audience and
influencers. This is great news for those of us in
employee engagement because it’s relatively easy
and cost-effective to learn a lot about our audiences.
After all, we have access to demographic data and
can very easily directly talk to and poll employees for
their opinion and input.

There’s the well-known workplace adage to leave
your personal life at the door, but the reality is that
the personal is what drives open rates, interest and,
ultimately, a connection. The power of storytelling
isn’t news, but how companies are leveraging it is
evolving. This Melcrum blog discusses just that—the
concept of “humanizing" the workplace experience
by creating opportunities for personal connections
and leveraging storytelling. And we know it works.

While an external campaign will map out the most
influential reporters, bloggers and organizations,
identifying the leaders, managers and employees who
will champion an internal initiative is equally important.
These stakeholders can help co-create the program so
there is buy-in, accountability and a better chance of it
resonating with the broader employee base. They can
also be your early adopters and, ultimately, a go-to
source of information for their teams and colleagues.
The following are groups to target as early adopters or

High-potential employees identified by Human
Resources (HR), leadership or managers
Technical employees, such as Research
Development or Information Technology

The most popular intranet stories? Employee
spotlights. Photos are also a sure way to increase
click-through rates, in particular those submitted by
employees. The same holds true for leader
communications. This classic New York Times article
highlights how one CEO realized his personal hobby,
motorcycling, was a
catalyst for creating
connections and ultimately trust with his employees.
So inject a little personality into your corporate
communications to attract and hold the attention of
employees. Here are some quick wins:

Dropping the omniscient “we” and opting for firstperson communications

Developing leader profiles and new colleague
introductions that highlight the personal

Conducting storytelling training for leaders and


Employee networks, such as multicultural, women’s
or veterans groups

Employees who self-select based on their passion
and level of interest
© 2015 Edelman

3. Think “omnichannel.”

5. Surprise and delight.

Today, many marketers are focusing on creating the
experience for their brand—a
consistent experience for consumers across all
channels. The opportunity for internal communicators
is to take stock of all channels and tools available
and strategically use a wide range of them to
repeatedly reach and engage employees.

A mantra of consumer marketing, why shouldn’t it
apply to engaging employees? This recent AdAge
article introduces the concept and two examples of
how companies drive brand loyalty with unexpected
approaches that make the recipient feel special.
What’s great is there are many fairly simple ways to
treat your employees like VIPs:

Repetition is important, as there’s a threshold of times
consumers need to hear a message to believe it or
take action (our 2012 Trust Barometer identified 3-5
times for credibility). That’s why we need to get
creative and be respectfully persistent if we want
employees to dedicate time, attention and energy
to a business priority or communications initiative.

Provide a preview of a microsite before it goes live.

Leverage internal social media channels to engage
a group of champions through exclusive information
and opportunities.

Host a product launch event with giveaways for
employees, friends and family. Better yet, invite a
(celebrity) guest to make the event truly special.

Consider these approaches in addition to the usual
suspects of email, the intranet and town halls:

Partnering with HR to incorporate your content
into key communications, such as the annual
benefits communication

Piggy backing on existing milestone events, such
as employee picnics and celebrations to
incorporate a brief update or distribute

Getting creative with onsite displays, such as
augmented reality posters, column wraps and
floor visuals, onsite photo booths and live content
capture of meetings

4. Test your market.

The bottom line is that the lines between “internal” and
“external” communications are blurring—employees
are both consumers and potential promoters of their
employers’ brands or services. Engaging them like loyal
consumers is good business sense. Go ahead and take
a marketing mindset to your internal programming—
the impact may surprise and delight you.

About Us
Edelman Employee Engagement helps organizations
accelerate business performance, delivered by highly
engaged and trusted employees. For more
information, visit us at or follow us on
Twitter at @EdelmanEE.

Organizations are perfectly suited to pilot programs,
because in our experience employees are incredibly
forgiving of new efforts if the objective is clear and
feedback is reflected. Here are some examples:

Test new communications tools with a subset of
your employee population, such as the sales
team, R&D group or a specific geography. For
instance, try Poll Everywhere at your next team
meeting before you use it at that global town hall.
Real-time polling at events always makes for
dramatic results.

Invite a cross-section of randomly selected
employees to help design your program. For one
company, we shared messaging, visuals and
potential activations for a global sponsorship, and
employees helped refine the approach.

Involve employees in the early stages of product
development. We worked with a company that
invited employees to be part of R&D’s new
product sampling.
© 2015 Edelman