Want to turn employees into evangelists? Start by getting out of their way

Much has been said over the past few years about the secret sauce involved in turning your employees into genuine – and effective – brand evangelists. But the best single piece of advice I can think of is this: Simply get out of their way.

In the past week, Nordstrom’s has been getting some nice blog attention thanks to the way one particularly passionate and creative employee is using Twitter:

David Meerman Scott: In a corporate environment where many companies fear letting employees use social networking, Nordstrom is doing it right. Yes, there is a corporate @Nordstrom Twitter account, but Dave’s personal touch is a fantastic way to use Twitter for business, pushing the interaction down to people who work directly with customers.

Edward Booches: …a couple of weeks later, as promised, he sends me a DM and a half a dozen pictures of perfectly presented Robert Graham shirts, the cuffs turned up and the collars open to reveal the piping.  One strikes my fancy. I DM back to Dave, confirm my size, along with my Amex number and 24 hours later there’s a box on my back porch – delivered overnight on Nordstrom’s dime I might add – with my new shirt. Now this is customer service.

What’s so great about this example is it appears that @NordstromDave’s efforts are the product of his own enthusiasm and initiative, and not the result of any sort of top-down corporate program. And that goes right to the heart of my earlier point – given the level of social media intelligence within the workforce today, one of the most effective means of empowering your staff to become true ambassadors for your company is to do everything you can to ensure you aren’t holding them back.

Some years ago, on a long-since deleted blog (found thankfully via the waybackmachine), I wrapped up a post on fostering community marketing at Microsoft with five basic things I tried to do. To paraphrase:

  1. Listen and learn
  2. Help energize, support, and build the community
  3. Connect influencers back to the product team (avoiding filters)
  4. Help the community connect with each other
  5. Get the hell out of the way

It’s that last one that applies best to the example of @NordstromDave. As I put it then:

My job is to stir the pot, mix in good programs to support the community and the product teams, and then get the hell out of the way to let it all happen. I don’t jump in and be the oppressive marketer or PR guy saying “no you can’t do that, it’s not on message.” I don’t try to filter or restrain. One of the best things I can do is facilitate the connection…and then step back and not try to manage or control it all.

That is the real secret behind @NordstromDave. As a company marketing or PR pro, your job is to do everything you can to encourage, inspire and empower your fellow employees to become the brand evangelist you hope they aspire to be – and then with every ounce of self-control, avoid trying to turn their enthusiasm into overly-structured programs and campaigns or wrapping them in guidelines and directives.

Set the stage, and then get the hell out of the way. Nice job @NordstromDave for providing such a great reminder of that simple idea.

Photo by WDOT on Flickr via CC License


  • http://blog.esimplestudios.com Gabriele Maidecchi

    I always believed that if one company’s employees are not fans of the brand they work for, how can you ask the same to customers?
    I have been lucky to have great people in my company and I always made sure to always facilitate their way within it, and even I can see the results both in social media and real life.
    If your company has got happy employees, it’s easier to expect your customers will be happy as well.