NewsCred CEO: How to transform your employees into an army of brand journalists

In today's media world, getting employees to create content can help you stand out, so focus on quality, says Shafqat Islam, CEO and cofounder of NewsCred.

Shafqat Islam
Shafqat Islam

Employees can deliver niche expertise with an intimate understanding of their brand, which makes them credible in consumers' eyes. But getting them involved with content creation is a waste if you are not providing basic training and laying down an organizational structure.

In order to be successful at this, brands need to roll out a framework that makes it easier for employees to become content-creators.

Grow the voice of your employees
Too often, brands make the mistake of taking content too lightly. Rather than asking employees to create content, brands often encourage them to share ready-made content across social channels. But content is about more than likes and retweets.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s always useful to have a wider reach via people who can mobilize content by sharing and circulating it. The problem lies with the employees who are not given the tools or authority to create long-form content, especially when it’s much easier to post something short and sweet on social media.

When consumers search for a brand on Google, they can be actively seeking in-depth content that informs and endears them. This is why it’s just as important to motivate employees to tell their own stories – to get them to develop their own voices – so that the content they produce is unique and moving. Not only will this result in better content, it will generate each of these employees their own following and audience.

Leverage visual social platforms
Long-form content would be the Holy Grail for every brand, but if you don’t have the luxury of time, or a huge budget available, how do you convert a company full of employees into savvy brand journalists? The answer requires brands to think outside of the box: content is about more than just writing. This doesn’t necessarily mean training employees to be the next great photographer. Using Vine, YouTube, and Instagram can be just as effective.

IBM, for example, has created an opportunity for staff to make employee-generated content using Instagram. Being a large company, IBM has employees in offices all over the world, with many others constantly travelling in and out of different countries. By encouraging employees to post photos of their home offices, travel locations, colleagues, hobbies, and activities, they are able to build relationships with their peers around the globe. More importantly, consumers can get a behind-the-scenes look at IBM, making the brand seem more "human."

Instagram is an obvious platform to use – with more than 200 million users, there’s a good chance that many IBM employees already use the platform in a personal capacity. Not only that, it is easy to take, upload, and curate content using dedicated hashtags that can be seen by any user. This shows that although in-depth training can be worthwhile, it can be as simple as providing employees with insight into a social platform such as Instagram.

Define brand storytelling goals
This means defining early on what the brand’s goals are when it comes to storytelling, so that employees have an understanding of which audiences to tailor their content to and what this audience’s interests are. It also means laying down a central theme and storytelling strategy. With so many different brand voices, it’s crucial to have an established understanding of what theme the content will take on.

In addition to setting out some basic rules and being clear about goals, brands need to think about internal systems that make running what is essentially an employee newsroom easier. There has to be a clear timeline for each piece of content, from its ideation to its production to its publication and distribution.

Though it does seem like a tall order to ask employees to serve as brand journalists, once the transition occurs and a good system is in place, it is a brilliant form of content marketing for brands — simply because there is, in a consumer’s eyes, nobody with more insider knowledge about a brand than its own employees.

Shafqat Islam is CEO and cofounder of NewsCred.

This column originally appeared on the website of Marketing.

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