Corporate Evangelists: Who they are and what they do

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The word ‘evangelism’, is derived from a Greek word which roughly means, ‘to proclaim the good news’. In Christianity, it means to publicly spread the teachings of Christ. When evangelism entered the business world, it came to mean advocating one’s brand and explaining to people how your services and products can help people. It is focussed more on the idea of the solution, rather than the product itself. The aim is to make the brand name synonymous with the solution.

One of the issues that surrounds evangelism is that it is difficult to understand and may sound abstract. If people cannot define it, they cannot succeed at it. However, if done right, it can have deep and wide impact, down to the lowest levels. One of the best indicators of successful evangelism is if customers, employees, future customers, influencers and the community, in general, speak about the product and company as synonymous with the solution of the problem. A simple example would be how we advise others to ‘google’ information, rather than browsing through encyclopaedias, which takes up a lot of valuable time. Here, Google has become synonymous with online searching, which helps us find information faster.

Emmanuel David

“To be an evangelist and a leader, one must have robust values and a firm belief in the brand. One must be ready to spread the word about the brand selflessly. Courage of conviction and authority over the subject are two other things, which are essential”

The goal of evangelism is to build a community around the idea of the solution, not the product, and making it possible for people to be part of the solution. People who are given the title of ‘evangelist’ need to be careful how they spread the word about the brand and its work.

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Who can be evangelists?

Evangelism is not about HR. To be an evangelist, one needs to be a leader with a strong belief in the brand’s singular cause and the ability to gather the community and pass on that same belief to them. This person can be anybody in the organisation. If it is a senior leader, she/he can be an inspiration to other employees. As Nihar Ranjan Ghosh, president-HR, Emami, said, “To be an evangelist and a leader, one must have robust values and a firm belief in the brand. One must be ready to spread the word about the brand selflessly. Courage of conviction and authority over the subject are two other things, which are essential.”

Rani Desai

“For word of mouth to be effective, it also depends on the onboarding and offboarding processes of the employees. It is the overall experience that contributes more towards employees being firm advocates of the organisation”

However, believing is not everything, and Rani Desai, CLO-partner matters, Deloitte, agrees, “For word of mouth to be effective, it also depends on the onboarding and offboarding processes of the employees. It is the overall experience that contributes more towards employees being firm advocates of the organisation. Evangelism, as a practice, is not yet as prevalent in India and it is important to be clear about the message being sent.”

Moreover, the company needs to have a robust idea behind its operations. As Emmanuel David, director-HR, TMTC, puts it, “Every company needs to have a three-fold focus to arrive at total employee and customer engagement. The first is to have a social message or a cause behind which people can rally or which it can advocate. Second, in the face of failure, having the courage to admit defeat and build stories around it. That is, having the creativity to innovate a new beginning from it. It can be a witty tagline or a catchy story. Third, it should focus on diversity and inclusion in the real sense. Not just gender and handicapped people, but ethnicity, caste, class and everything in between.”

The idea is to create a story, where your brand is the solution to a problem. It cannot be about the products alone. If all of the stories are about the products, then it does not remain a story. It becomes a brochure. By giving ourselves wider scope, we make the story bigger and our audience larger.

Brand evangelists stay focussed on one idea and follow through. People are ready to follow them because they start believing in them and simultaneously start believing in the brand. Believing and convincing others for the long term is what evangelism is all about.

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