Meet Chris Blatnick–an Employee Evangelist!


Share on LinkedIn

Every company should strive to have at least “one” Chris Blatnick on their team. Why? He is what we would call a true employee evangelist.

An employee evangelist is someone who believes so much in the company they work for and the products they sell that they passionately commit themselves to them. The evangelist becomes both an internal advocate and external sales force with the sole purpose of promoting the product or service that they love.

We think you will be astonished at the passion, energy and commitment that Chris has put into promoting Lotus Notes.

We were very fortunate in that Chris agreed to do an interview with us. We asked Chris a series of questions to help better understand the mindset of an employee evangelist.

Background: Chris now works Lotus Software. Lotus is part of IBM, within their software group. Chris was a user of the Lotus products for many years and became the de facto evangelist at each company he worked at. Being in this role has served him well and he believes that it was one factor in him obtaining the job at IBM. Besides his day job, Chris runs the Interface Matters blog, where he write posts and shares code that helps Lotus Notes developers learn about best practices around user interface design.

We asked Chris five questions to help better understand the mindset of an employee evangelist. Here are his answers to the questions.

1. What does it mean to be an evangelist?

I definitely consider myself an evangelist of the Lotus brand. I have seen the tremendous business benefits that implementing the Lotus technologies in the correct way can bring to a company and I love to share this experience with others. Basically, I have a passion for what Lotus software brings to the table and I feel like I need to tell everyone about it and help people become more proficient when using it. This passion manifests itself in many ways.

For example, in my previous job for a large, international company, we had an enterprise-wide deployment of Lotus Notes. We used it for our e-mail system as well as for thousands of situational applications around the business. Even though it was a tool that many employees spent a good part of their day in, we provided very little in the way of training. I knew that there were so many good features going unused since people didn’t know about them and I observed employees performing certain tasks in obtuse ways because they were unaware of the correct tools to use. Because of this, I decided to start a grassroots campaign to educate people. Since our training department couldn’t afford to put a formal program together, I came up with the idea for a monthly lunchtime session which we coined the “Lotus Notes Power Hour”. During this session, I invited employees to join in (either in our training room at the corporate office or remotely via web conference) as I explored various functional parts of Notes. This was a completely voluntary event but it was enormously successful. People loved learning about these “new” features and they felt that the sessions provided immediate benefit in that they could start being more productive right away. I actually invested a lot of my own time in putting these sessions together each month, but as an evangelist I felt that the payback to our company and our employees was completely worth it. Not only did people become more productive with the software, but they actually liked it much more and some even started showing others a few of the key features. This was very exciting to me!

Part of being a self-proclaimed evangelist is getting the message out to as many people as possible. Sometimes you are “preaching to the choir” but it’s great when you can share that vision with a wider audience. While I loved helping people internally, I always felt there was more I could contribute. Lotus Notes has a vibrant on-line community, with many bloggers sharing their knowledge and thousands of people around the world participating in various web forums. Two years ago I started my own blog and began spreading the word by participating in some of the major Lotus conferences as an industry speaker. I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to interact with people from all over the world via my blog and like to think that my efforts have helped strengthen the Lotus brand in some small way.

2. What do you think companies can do to create employee evangelists?

Certainly I think that many companies would be well served by creating actual positions with “evangelist” in their title. Evangelists not only help promote the brand or product that they are passionate about, but they help build goodwill within their community or sphere of influence. These are the people that hang out in product message boards sharing their knowledge with others and answering the tough questions or the folks that tell all their friends, families and associates about how cool their company’s stuff is.

Although I’m sure most companies would love to have every one of their employees be evangelists, the truth is that it often takes a lot of work. By creating a true position for employee evangelists, these employees could dedicate themselves to the cause without feeling that they have to go it all alone. If this idea is not a possibility, companies could still help employee evangelists in small ways. Perhaps they could give them a sneak preview of upcoming products or enhancements (under an NDA, of course). Maybe the marketing department could give them a supply of t-shirt or other give-away items (people love tchotchkes!). The evangelist does what he or she does because of love for the product, but any kind of support that the company can give to aid them in their cause would most definitely be welcome. Whatever you do, make sure you let them know that their efforts are appreciated. This is often the only thanks they ever need.

3. Are there any companies out there that are fostering employee evangelists? If so, which company and what are they doing?

Since I’m in the tech industry, I know that some of the big computer companies out there have been cultivating an employee evangelist culture. I work for Lotus now (see…evangelism really pays off!) and we are putting some effort into that area. I just started to get involved in an internal community within the greater IBM company whose goal it is to empower all IBM employees to better use our Lotus tools. We do this through lunch-and-learn sessions, web conferences and one-on-one coaching. I think this is going to be very successful. Microsoft is another company well-known for their employee evangelists. They are actually one of the employers that have people dedicated to this role. The evangelist’s role within Microsoft is to travel to customer events and industry conferences, participate in online groups, etc. and share their passion with others. This has certainly paid off for Microsoft, as they have a very dedicated developer community.

4. What has Lotus done to help foster your continued evangelism?

One of the most important things I think Lotus has done in recent years to make me even more of a true believer is that they really began to open up to the entire community. By that I mean that we saw a movement toward involving the community in more of the product development lifecycle. Lotus Notes recently released version 8 of the software and this version is a radical leap forward from an end-user perspective. Lotus realized that the success of this release hinged on getting actual user feedback and interaction, so they mobilized the community like never before. They conducted many, many user interviews, asked for feedback on a community facing blog, and so on.

This desire to get the product right by actually engaging the people that use it really struck a cord with me and made me more passionate about the company than ever before. In fact, it inspired me to finally pursue a job with Lotus and I am now very happily spreading the word as a Lotus employee!

5. Do you believe that employee evangelists have common traits? If so what do you think they are?

I think that employee evangelists are basically cut from the same cloth in many respects. First and foremost, they are passionate in delivering the message, whether it be for a product or service, because they truly believe in what they are endorsing. You can’t fake this part, because most people can see right through the facade.

I suggested before that companies should go so far as creating actual evangelist positions within their enterprise, but the most important part of this exercise would be getting the right people in the job. They can’t just throw the title at someone and expect them to perform well in the role. Rather, the title should follow as a direct extension of the work that they are already doing on their own.

I believe evangelists also have an innate desire to help other people. That desire, coupled with their sincere belief in the product or service they love, helps drive them to become an evangelist in the first place. They also are generally very motivated people. Being an evangelist is not just a 9 to 5 job. Rather, that person puts in the extra time and effort that it takes to preach the message to others.

We think that everyone who takes the time to read this post will realize the importance of promoting a culture that supports employee evangelists! What is your company doing to create “a” Chris Blatnick?

Judy McLeish
McDaniel Partners
Judy McLeish is the founder of a boutique consulting services firm that focuses on building customer experiences through creating engaged employees.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here