Authenticity. It’s one of the most unique elements employees represent that typical marketing channels simply cannot. At Autodesk, equipping employees to convey that sense of authenticity by telling great stories has been a core tenet of their employee advocacy program.
We sat down with Julie Hayes, Senior Brand Communications Manager at Autodesk, to uncover this and other best practices from her work building out a successful employee advocacy program.
Julie will be a featured panelist at the Flipboard/Voce Employee Advocacy Meetup on August 15, 2016, to be hosted at Flipboard’s HQ in Palo Alto.
What’s your role at Autodesk?
My team focuses on driving greater awareness and understanding for Autodesk, both internally and externally.
When did you start the advocacy program at Autodesk and what and who does it all encompass?
While rolling out our new corporate brand in 2013, we realized how passionate our employees were for who we are, and where we’re going. Finding an easy means to activate that passion, and getting out of the way, became my priority. We launched Bonfire, our first formal employee advocacy program, in May 2014. To date over 25% of our employees in 35 different countries are actively sharing content with their personal social networks, and over 600 Channel Partners are doing the same. We’ve since expanded our advocacy opportunities beyond social sharing, and market the many ways employees can stand-up offline as an Autodesk Advocate based on their location, skill set, and area of interest.
Has the definition of employee advocacy changed since you started the program at Autodesk?
Not exactly. For our online efforts we’ve remained true to the original spirit of Bonfire, but as our program has evolved we’ve made room for strategic social sharing efforts that cater to more niche audiences or content. We’ve also trained sales employees on social selling principles, which is less about advocacy and more about personal brand building and relationship marketing. As we move into the offline space of Employee Advocacy, our wins with Bonfire have opened doors to more broadly define employee advocacy, both the who and how.
If you could give one tip for others to get executive buy-in in buying a platform what would it be?
If there’s no risk, there’s no reward. Convince your executive team to let you pilot a small effort to determine if there’s an appetite, test and learn, and build the business case to expand. The practice and infrastructure behind employee advocacy programs is still somewhat new, and what works for one company may not work for another. You can only find that out by doing something first.
How do you keep employees motivated to share Autodesk content? How can you prevent it from being just another app they launch once a month?
For a voluntary program like ours, we recognize there’s always going to be turnover, and our goal has never been to have all 9,000 employees on Bonfire. I truly believe the core of our success has been our approach to content. Promoting products is the job of traditional marketing channels, not our advocates. Our employees are motivated by telling and sharing great stories, and we have lots of them. We curate content daily, in an authentic voice, across a diverse range of topics, and in 8 different languages. There’s something there for everyone. We take a conservative approach to gamification, choosing to incentivize during thematic content pushes. And by tapping into our company-wide rewards program to recognize great advocates, we’re integrating what might look like a marketing program on the outside, into the cultural fabric of our company.
Join us on Monday, August 15, 2016, from 6:00-9:00pm, at Flipboard’s HQ for networking and a panel discussion about best practices & pitfalls in starting and growing an employee advocacy program.