Building and creating loyalty among customers, vendors, business partners and investors is critical for any company. These brand ambassadors help by reaching out to people and organizations, creating public awareness and otherwise supporting and promoting the brand.

Create employee brand ambassadors in order to boost customer loyalty and engagement.

Equally important are employees who positively represent the business, whether they are at work or outside living life, because they are the brand's face to the public. When done right, employees become a force that supports and promotes the company.

Let's look at Market Basket, a regional grocery chain in the Northeast. A family squabble led one cousin to push another, the longtime CEO, out of his position. Employees were so attached to the company and its figurehead that, according to the Boston Herald, an "unprecedented worker and customer rebellion" shut down 71 stores. Within six weeks, the protesters forced the unpopular part of the family to sell their interest and restore the CEO. A Facebook page that was part of the campaign gained more than 87,000 likes.

That sort of passion breeds strong business. According to a Gallup study, engagement has a strong correlation to earnings per share (EPS). "Companies with an average of 9.3 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee in 2010–2011 experienced 147 percent higher EPS compared with their competition in 2011–2012," the study notes. "Companies with an average of 2.6 engaged employees for every actively disengaged employee, in contrast, experienced 2 percent lower EPS compared with their competition during that same time period." And according to the 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer, employees are seen as far more trustworthy spokespeople for a company than even the CEO.

How to Breed Evangelism

Employees who are passionate about the company and who become brand ambassadors are far more than simply engaged. Earning that type of internal support isn't a straightforward process, though. Here's how to get there:

  1. Create the right conditions. You can't order employees to be engaged and engender the qualities of brand ambassadors. Instead, create the right working conditions. Give your workers not only satisfactory pay and benefits, but also a sense of belonging, accomplishment and meaning. People have to love working for you to be really effective because their attitudes will always show through. Give employees responsibility and the authority to carry it out. Let them see that you do your best to treat customers and business partners well. When upper management takes real pride in how the company works, employees see it. Additionally, run surveys and ask employees directly to see how they feel and what they need.
  2. Make your brand clear. You might assume your employees understand the company's brand, positioning and market differentiation. However, the 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only 41 percent of a sample group of 3,000 workers would agree with this statement: "I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand different from our competitors." In such a case, not having employee brand ambassadors at the ready is the least of your problems. Widespread ignorance of such basics undermines a company on a fundamental level because it indicates a lack of clear strategic direction. That, of course, means that executives must be able to articulate corporate and brand values themselves.
  3. Look for authentically enthusiastic employees. Avoid an ambassador program that would ask employees to talk about the company in exchange for a bonus or reward. That smacks of bribery, but what's more, the results will be inauthentic and could hurt the company. Look for people who are genuinely enthusiastic about your business. Recognize them through a nonmonetary award system, whether it's writing about them in a company publication, making a formal presentation or some other action that focuses on showcasing those employees and their efforts.
  4. Empower employees. Like Zappos, which is well known for its strong corporate culture and commitment to keeping customers happy, let employees do right by your customers. This will help them share in the company mission, and they will be more likely to take actions that strengthen the relationship between the business and its customers.
  5. Help them leverage social media. One of the most efficient ways for employees to act as brand ambassadors is through social media. Encourage them to share pictures and updates about their time at work. Help them feel confident talking about the company on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram or Google+, and give those interested proper training on best practices. Although it would be nice to have all employees pulling for the company, never force people into a spokesperson position that makes them uncomfortable. Those who are actively interested could be ambassador candidates. Teach them how to make and keep connections, show them which principles to follow and then get out of the way. The more you try the micromanage their efforts, the less you will get.

Are your employees evangelists for your company? What did you do to get them there? Let us know by commenting below.

Erik Sherman is an NCMM contributor and author whose work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Inc. and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch. Sherman has extensive experience in corporate communications consulting and is the author or co-author of 10 books. Follow him on Twitter.