XVA Labs Employee Advocacy

That’s Not Advocacy, It’s Propaganda

In Culture, Employee Advocacy by Matt Ridings5 Comments

Advocacy. It’s important. I’ve given at least half a dozen speeches at huge conferences on the power of having your employees and customers become your largest sales army. It’s obviously something I’ve believed strongly in for a long time, and in the world of social it’s the only way to truly scale engagement.

But like many things that go across the boundaries of internal departments and external walls, there is a tendency for organizations to fall back on technology and control rather than focus on the core. I see more and more articles revolving around things like:

  • How to provide curated content for your employees to share
  • The tools that allow them to share said content

I see companies who are lauded externally for their ‘social engagement’ when in fact behind the scenes the company is actually using the employees individual accounts to push out tweets and Facebook updates on their behalf.

No, I’m not kidding, and these are efforts led by people writing those popular articles you see on Huffington Post and Inc., people sitting on the important conference panels, people getting awards. And they use words like transparency, authenticity, and flattening hierarchies. All while putting their own words into their employees social media mouths.

That’s not advocacy, it’s propaganda.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m all for ensuring that employees know the latest talking points. I’m all for ensuring that they’ve read the latest content that someone thought was relevant. I’m all for having tools that allow them to share that stuff quickly and easily.

Those are great ways to enable people. The question you forgot to ask was “what are we enabling?”. If you want to enable advocates then you first have to ensure that you are creating advocates. If you want to enable a propaganda exercise then at least call it that (or ‘PR’ if you prefer a less volatile term).

So forget the tools and curation and talking points for a minute. Picture your employees at a cocktail party. Are they talking with pride and excitement about what the organization is trying to accomplish? Or are they bitching about hypocrisy, bureaucracy, inefficiencies, etc., etc.

If it’s the former then by all means give them the tools to tell the world about how awesome you are, and let them do it in their own way. If it’s the latter then I humbly suggest that you have more important things to be working on first. You might want to start with your organizations culture, or having a clear organizational vision and set of values that you live by every day.

There is a vast difference between advocacy efforts and propaganda.   Which are you trying to accomplish?


Matt Ridings – @techguerilla

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