Ep #30, Elizabeth Jurewicz with Rackspace
Elizabeth (Liz) Jurewicz is the social enablement strategist at Rackspace. In this episode of ICology, we talk about the employee advocacy culture she's helped build at the company. Liz is not an internal communicator at Rackspace but you hear what she does impacts IC greatly. Of particular interest to internal communicators is her advice on how to provide proper training and support for employees, as well as understanding where internal communications and social media overlap.
Rackspace was one of the first companies that used Twitter as a primary customer support tool and Liz was part of that team. And while it's important to focus on the social channels we all know (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.), it's also very easy to do so. Liz shares that it's important to be channel agnostic as she discovered that many of Rackspace's employees use more niche and industry-specific social channels. She notes that if you only provide employees "do's and don'ts" with social media, they focus on the don'ts. Instead she recommends you focus on behaviors that encourage "conversation over controversy."
Chuck: This is a ICology. It's podcast dedicated to interesting people doing interesting things in the world of internal communications. And in this episode, I have guest Liz Jurewicz from Rackspace to talk about social enablement. If internal comms is your passion, then this is your podcast. Listen in.
Hello, I am your host of ICology, Chuck Gose. It's always interesting to me when the topic of employee advocacy comes up. So let's take a look at it first from the employer side. Because it generally makes a ton of sense to make use of employee's personal social networks to spread company news, information, job announcements, this could be job openings, whatever that happens to be, and the math adds up.
When you look at the size of employee social networks, often individual employees might have a Twitter network that's larger than the company's Twitter network. And all kind of studies point to the fact that we do trust the information from people like ourselves. So from the employee side of things, if you are proud of who you work for and you want your company to grow, which is a strong indication of engagement, you'll likely share information that makes sense to your networks of friends and colleagues. It honestly just comes down to the content and the message.
There is also a side to advocacy that some, and I kind of get it to that it might feel a little icky to a few, where employees might feel pressured to share company news just because they are employed there, they get a paycheck from there, and sharing content that might feel awkward to a network that they've curated themselves outside of work that this is unfit with who those people are, with what the company is looking to share.
And this is just the pushing out of content, the broadcasting side of social. What about the listening component to it and bringing content back into the organization? We're gonna get to the bottom of this topic today with Liz Jurewicz, the social enablement strategist at Rackspace. Liz, welcome to ICology.
Liz: Thanks so much, Chuck. I'm really excited to be here.
Chuck: Glad to have you on. We met first at the Nashville ALI event back in May, I believe it was. But since then, we've had some really good conversations that we both have names, last names that tend to get butchered pretty easily, yours probably way worse than ours. How I pronounced it is not how it's spelled, so when we get to later and we ask how people can get in touch with you, you might want to make sure you spell that for people so that they find you. But otherwise, I'm happy to have you on the show because I do think this is a great topic to hear from someone who is inside the company trying to make this happen.
Liz: Right. Yeah, just a little extra context about how I ended up at the Advanced Learning Institute. Initially, I ended up there because I was part of a speakers' bureau, and they basically set us up with an opportunity to practice, and so Advanced Learning Institute had reached out about a social summit that they were doing. Little did I know that it was an internal comms conference.
And so, it was one of those fortuitous accidents, I guess you would say, that I as I social media strategist ended up at an internal comms conference because...that was about two years ago at this point, and I really think in the development of the social enablement program at Rackspace, that experience and learning more about internal comms and the places that it overlaps with, social and employee advocacy, has really helped shape my program in a different way.
Chuck: That's great to hear because I think so often, people think social is external, internal comms is internal. But I think we'll see today when we have this conversation how that overlap does show up. So for those listeners who aren't familiar with who Rackspace is, just explain real quickly what you guys do.
Liz: Sure. So it's funny because my mom still isn't entirely clear on what we do. But we are the number one manage cloud hosting company, and so really what we offer is, to sort of explain it in easy terms, is the internet, the reason that websites work, company websites. You need not only the hardware but you need that layer of support on top. So, we have experts from all the different clouds, all the different types of managed clouds across the tech industry to help and support all the different kind of applications and workloads a business could have.
Chuck: That's great. I think, as you said it, we just sort of assumed everybody here is a cloud, and I heard somebody once compare it to, it really just means somebody else's computer that it sits on. But you are right, though. It's now become such a huge part of the business and it's actually a side of the business that I think more internal communicators could learn about and understand how that works.
Liz: It's fascinating. I think a lot of times, I do not initially start out in the technical field. So this was more like a skills transfer for me when I came over into Rackspace. But just being in this environment and learning about the different technologies and capabilities, it's so powerful. So, whatever industry that you are in, especially in communications, learning more about how the technology works and how you can integrate it, I think it's definitely a time well spent.
Chuck: And given that it is very technical, I think people might have some perceptions, maybe [inaudible 00:06:05] about what the culture at Rackspace would be like, and listeners always like to know what things are like at other companies. So what are a few words you would use to describe Rackspace's culture?
Liz: I would say fantastic. It's really neat because part of our orientation process for new hires, it's called "Welcome home". And as cheesy as it sounds, I really do feel like I found a home here at Rackspace because it is tech and because it... So we are a 24/7, 365 service company, and that can be really challenging to keep up with that kind of demand.
And so I think that we have really created that sense of home, that sense of friends and family here as we are a culture because of how demanding and committed we are to the work that we do. And so I think Rackspace really strikes that good balance of we're really focused, we've got incredibly smart, hardworking people here, and yet we still find a way to sort of keep that levity about our coworkers and our colleagues. I think we do a really good job. So I honestly have been here a little under five years and really do feel like I found a second home.
Chuck: And before we get into your specific role at Rackspace, you just said you are not in internal communications by trade but we are all communicators in one way shape or form. Give listeners a sense of your background. I think that will help explain sort of where you are today.
Liz: Sure, absolutely. So I did study communications in undergrad, and that was made through a lot of different reasons and decisions but I've always really been fascinated by the mechanics of communication, I'd put it that way. But in college, I actually made a little bit of a turn in my career when I went over to study abroad.
And so, I went to Spain, my junior year, for a study about internship and it changed my life. And so from there, I spent the next about three and a half years studying Spanish. I did my masters degree in Spanish. So a different kind of communication, if you will. And then I found myself working at a Spanish language newspaper doing gosh, a little bit of everything, but a lot of translation, and it really got my toes wet when it came to communication journalism, developing a story, all those kind of wonderful parts of being in the news world.
So that was my previous job to Rackspace was actually at the newspaper. And then coming over here, initially, I started out in support but then really found my way quickly to the social media team because I felt like that was a right fit. So I really do feel like I'm using all that communications background. In addition to, and the way I kind of liken it too, so as a translator, I feel like everything I do, it always look through that lens of translating.
So it's simply figuring out what message you want to send and finding either the right words or the right language, whether that be tech language or whether that be just business language or sometimes, again, even Spanish, actual language. Just finding the way to translate that message so that the person on the receiving end really hears what they need to hear and gets what they need to get.
Chuck: I think that's a great analogy for communicators because, you are right, that sometimes we will have different barriers that come into place. Some of those could be individual languages, some of those could just be the context of the content and words that are used. So that's a good way for communicators to think about, especially communicating things that might be a little more complex or the ways we can use a different language, so to speak, to make it resonate more.
Liz: Right. So initially, it was a real different transition and I had a hard time kind of wrapping my head around, like tech, how is this going to work. And then when I figured out it was just another language or when my brain kind of made sense of it that way, it was just phenomenal. And I used all those same skills that I used when I was translating for Spanish here in my role just translating for tech. So yeah, it's been a really good fit, I feel like, for that reason.
Chuck: Now, when we spoke before, you said you created your role. So did you just walk into Rackspace one day and be like, "Hey, guys, guess what I'm doing now?" I'm sure it didn't happen that way, maybe it did and [inaudible 00:10:30] I hope it did, but I doubt it didn't. So explain why you said you sort of naturally fell into the situation.
Liz: Absolutely. Oh gosh, I'm just kind of giggling imagining how that conversation would have gone if I was like, "So this is what I'm gonna do." No, it was very much almost like in a natural evolution. So, as I mentioned, I started out on the support side so I was working with our customers, supporting them as an account manager, transitioned initially to social support. So still offering that same support level but just via social channels. And as part of being on that team, we were starting, when I joined this team about three years ago, we were just starting to do a little bit of outreach.
I mean, initially, we were very...I call this lean but mean. We were a rather a small team so we were kind of heads down, you know, really in the thick of it was at the time. But we knew on the horizon that we were wanting to start to do some outreach internally to employees to educate them about what we were doing, what our focus was. But initially, it was very minimal. It was a 30-minute presentation as part of our employee onboarding. And what was happening is that I was trying to do those presentations kind of as the newbie.
That was always to kind of get me up and going on the team. And I reaLized very quickly that we just had an opportunity there, that in 30 minutes, you really can't get across all the nuances about social media and really honestly set employees at ease. Because part of what we had to do in those 30 minutes was tell them the dos and the don'ts. And what we found initially is that most employees just walked away with the don'ts. They just remembered the don'ts.
They were like, "Ooh, I don't want to mess up and get in trouble." So after doing that initial presentation for a couple of months, I was like...I really just think that there is some potential here if we wanted to dig down deeper. So, again, it was me kind of building the business case and saying, "Hey, I think there is an opportunity to do some real training in education around social, kind of presenting the value preposition of what educating employees would look like and could look like, and then also kind of explaining and building that model around the training courses that I do."
So it definitely, I would say, this started as a brainchild probably early 2014 and we didn't start doing training until 2015. So it was definitely like a year in progress of kind of building that business case and then getting a little bit of a leash to go out there and play and try and experiment until we found what worked.
Chuck: Now, you are not part of the internal comms team at Rackspace.
Chuck: But we love you anyway despite the fact. But obviously what you do impacts it greatly. So talk about how you work with your peers.
Liz: Right. So, in our organization, the social media team, we fall under the umbrella of global comms, which internal comms is a part of that. So I mean, I know my colleague who runs internal comms here very well. She is absolutely lovely, but yeah, we do kind of have a little bit of a different alignment. But specifically with the development of enablement, since, again, my focus is on enabling employees, we get to have a really interesting little overlap.
And so I would say it probably wasn't until we started this program that we sort of refocused how we work with our internal comms in a different way. And again, it became a little bit more of like a collaboration where I am learning things from working with employees and talking to them about social media and facilitating these workshops that, again, our internal comms team, they might not have those same kind of conversations. And so, it just became a really unique opportunity to learn from our employees about what they are thinking, what they are using, what they are talking about. That, again, I don't think our internal comms team was having those same kind of conversations.
So it just gave us a really unique opportunity to get to know about our employees in a different way. And so as I would say, it opened a dialogue on our team about, again, how do we collaborate. And as I mentioned earlier, I think the events learning, the conference was a real opportunity for me to come back and say, "Oh, I understand what you guys are doing now." Like, I get where you guys are coming from and your focus and so back to translating, I think it really helped me translate what I was doing and make it more relevant to internal comms.
Chuck: I want to take a step back and go back to talk about the Rackspace culture. So you had described it as fantastic, which is good to hear. When it comes to employee advocacy, was this a culture that was very social forward, meaning they are already sort of active socially, or did you really have to coach a few people in an effort to help build the social workforce?
Liz: I would say a little bit of both. So the origins of my team, the social team at Rackspace, actually are a little different than in most companies. Most companies start out on the social marketing side and then kind of reaLize, "Oh, I think we need to add a customer care or support component." We were actually the opposite. Our team, founded about five years ago at this point, because we noticed that customers were asking questions on social media, on Twitter, on Facebook, and etc.
So we started actually from the support side from our sort of focus is fanatical support, so going above and beyond in everything that we do. So it started very organically by a few support people starting to reach out and answer those questions on social media. We've formaLized it, of course, into a team and we have a process and now some great tools that help us do that. But I would say it started very organically from, again, people just wanting to help. So I think there was that group of people that were just active online and willing to take this initiative to reach out, extend a hand, help.
Now, I would say that back to those sort of dos and those don'ts, we are a publicly traded company, we deal with data and privacy, and so there are a lot of security concerns that we have to take into mind. And so, I think that in communicating some of those dos and those don'ts, I think there did develop a little bit of a culture of fear around. Oh man, I just don't want to say the wrong thing online and get myself in trouble or get the company in trouble. And so I think initially, there was some hesitation and concern about kind of what can I actually do? What would be good? What would be helpful?
And so that's actually where I was able to sort of pitch this idea of like, "Let me help clear that up. Let me put training in place and guidelines in place that really make that clear for employees." Because I think what happens a lot of times is we had these policies and these rules that are written in legal speak and employees don't know what that means or what that looks like when they are about to press tweet or when they are about to press post. And so, that was really my role, once again as a translator to come in there and say, "Oh, hey, you know this rule about privacy? Well, this is what it means when you are working with customers or dealing with customers."
So I think that was our opportunity, and I think once we got those guidelines in place and once we got the training in place, we have seen a huge shift culturally in engagement, and I think employees were right for it. They just needed that little bit of guidance to get over the hurdle and get that clarity that they needed to be more active online.
Chuck: And I know there are some communicators who still today deal with leaders in leadership who still have this fear of social net, so much of respect for it but a fear of it. But I would imagine given the history you shared about being on social for years now to answer customer support, that your corporate leadership is quite supportive of this.
Liz: Yeah, I would say so and I am very fortunate. The organization or my my leadership team directly, so we have a VP of social strategy, Rob La Gesse, so that's my VP that I rule up under, and yeah, he has been a social advocate from the start. So I think having somebody like that in a leadership position really helped to change that dynamic. And I think going back to, again, creating clarity around what we were trying to do and how we were trying to enable employees, I mean we did that same education with leaders as well.
So just getting in front of leaders and explaining the safeguards that we are putting in place, the education opportunities that we were having, I think they got on board pretty quickly. So between having a member of our senior leadership be very socially active and be part of online advocacy from the very beginning and then also having a very comprehensive training program in place, I think those two really made it a very easy decision to support.
Chuck: Now, for those who are listening to the show for a while or are a part of my social networks, people know that I really like LinkedIn. I really enjoy Twitter, but in a conversation you brought up, I thought you made a great point that it's very important, especially in your role when you're your talking about employee advocacy and being active on social, that you are very platform agnostic when it comes to these things.
Liz: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that, again, comes from knowing my audience, if you will. I mean, our employees are very technical. We have technical experts that...that community uses very different channels to communicate, Github, Stack Overflow, Hacker News. And if I were just to stick to the sort of traditional big four social media platforms, I think I might alienate a bit of that audience because those aren't their platforms of choice.
So early on, I had to kind of think through that. That was part of the planning of how to build this program, and that's why we chose to take a route. Absolutely I offer resources, and actually one of the classes is on around building a strong LinkedIn profile because I think as professionals, a lot of people do gravitate towards LinkedIn. So it's a great place to get started online and build that strong reputation.
So I do offer a class around that, but I had to create a program focused more on the behaviors than we do online because which platforms people leverage are gonna be very dependent on their role and their comfort level. So I didn't want to sort of dictate or prescribe a path for people. I really wanted to give them options and flexibility, but I had to provide some guidance and structure. So that's why we made the choice to focus more on strategic social behaviors versus which platform you are doing them.
Chuck: And for people who attend conferences, memberships of communication associations, read articles on the web, employee advocacy is a popular topic in corporate communications. And as a result of that, there is all sorts of platforms and pieces of software out there to help a communicator do this, and I've even had a few on the show. And so, I think some people, some companies might say, "Oh, we need to do employee advocacy. Let's go buy this platform to encourage it." But you went a different way to build the employee advocacy program, which I think was super smart.
Liz: Right, yeah. So we kind of touched on this, which was in technology or in tech companies and from the other tech companies that I've talked with, this is pretty standard as just to do your job, you have to log in to possibly three to five different portals to access customer information, and there is always sort of SSO logins and things like that. So just to do your standard job, employees are having to have multiple monitors up and such. So my concern has always been, if we are gonna do something, I really want it to be an integrated piece of their work. I don't want them to have to feel like, "Oh gosh, I have to log in to this other portal now."
And so, that was why initially we decided not to jump straight into a tool. Because I think one of the things that...tools are so tempting, especially when they show you in the demos like the best version of all of it, but there is definitely a learning curve. And then back to those behaviors, you are basically asking people to change their workflow when you introduce a new tool. You are asking them to remember to log in or think of this new tool at such and such moment, and that takes a lot of training. That takes a lot of reinforcement to get that done. So what we decided was, hey, let's just start with the basic platforms.
Like, if people are checking LinkedIn anyways, if they are checking Twitter anyways, let's just start there and make their online activity a little more strategic or a little bit more intentional and sort of grow the foundation of those behaviors, and then over time, sort of when it makes sense, let's find the right tool to fit sort of their challenges, needs or obstacles. So I think we definitely chose to strategically not to jump into a tool right away simply because we were introducing so much training anyways around the strategy. We didn't want to have to also add on top that, now learn how to use this tool and all the features of this additional tool.
Chuck: And I'm gonna add a little bit of translation to something you shared. SSO is Single Sign On. For people who don't know SSO, it's Single Sign On. So I think a mistake many make, and I talked about this a little bit at the beginning when it came on, with affixes, they look at it very selfishly from a corporate point of view, like, "Let's use our network, employee networks to share news and get hits and drive traffic and take advantage of that," That's, again, there's good and bad to that side. But so often, the missing element is the listening component, the advocacy. So how do you encourage that with employees?
Liz: Yeah. Well, I think that goes back to, again, really knowing your employees. So again, you are gonna have probably a subset of employees that will fall into that first category, and I would venture to say they'll probably be your marketing and sales employees. They are gonna be the ones that are like, "Yes, I want to share that content. I want to be...the more the better, the more I can be out there proactively sharing."
But I think that you are going to have another subset of employees that, for them, social media is very personal. It's something they use in their personal lives. It's not particularly where they want to start sharing about work things. And so if you are only focused on the sort of outbound sharing, you are gonna maybe alienate a large portion of your employees. And so thinking through that, we really wanted to provide, again, people with options.
So it's like, "Okay, yes, there is gonna be one subset that you are gonna really want to share, and we'll create resources for you." But for everybody else, there are still things that you could be doing on social media that can impact your job, help make your day a little bit easier, and that includes listening. So, again, listening doesn't require you to be on social media 24/7. It's just setting up either alerts, notifications, doing simple searches. But just incorporating that social element into your workflow can really start to make a difference in your ability to help and serve customers.
Chuck: And so regardless of channel or platform, and you talked about the being agnostic and you talked about some of those specific channels that some of your employees might use, you shared with me very simple but great advice about how employees should represent Rackspace in social and you said, "Conversation over controversy." I think that's great.
Liz: Yeah, and I think that goes back to one of those buckets of fears that employees... Honestly, I think that's one of the best parts of... I'm a real advocate for in-person training. I know it's challenging as somebody who has been doing it for a bit of time, physically and time-wise, but I think it really gives people an opportunity to ask those questions that they were like a little too shy to ask, and that was one of them. It was like, "I'm afraid of trolls," or, "I am afraid that I'm gonna say that wrong thing that would go viral on Reddit." And it was a real opportunity for us to dig deeper into what that was about.
And I think that was a piece of it is, especially in the technical community, there is lots of different opinions about ways to do things, vast approaches. And so, I would have this technical folks going like, "I have an opinion about this technology, but I'm just too afraid to put it out there." And so, we would kind of talk through strategies around that. I'm like, "Why do you have to put it out there as a declarative? Why don't you ask it as a question and maybe see what other people think and have it be, again, more of that conversation versus feeling like you have to make a declaration about it and that, again, could lead to controversy?"
So I think, once again, it was working through strategies around how to, again, engage a community, have these conversations that they really wanted to have but just give them communication tools for finding a way to do it without, again, having that fear factor of, "Am I gonna say the wrong thing?"
Chuck: Well, I think it then comes down to, like you said, it's a matter of just sometimes choosing the right words or choosing the right tone, where you are accomplishing the same thing. You are just engaging in conversation instead of maybe aggravating or agitating someone on social, which is very easy to do.
Liz: Right. And I think there is a piece of it that with social being so public, I think sometimes we just put the pressure on ourselves. Like, "If I'm gonna go out there, I have to be really sure of what I'm saying." And we forget that sometimes you can just ask a question, like as I said, phrasing something as a question then it becomes, "Hey, I'm open to hearing other sides, other points of you, other sides of the story." You can still, of course, add your perspective and opinion, but it really just changes the dynamic, again, of what could have maybe then a very tense conversation.
Chuck: Now, you've carved out a very nice niche for yourself at Rackspace, it seems like. What would you recommend to someone who is in the internal comms who'd either be interested in doing something similar at their company, because it may not be as big as Rackspace, they might be a smaller team or their individual activities are overlapping, or how would you recommend they work with say someone on their social media team to help build a program like you've done?
Liz: Absolutely. And I would encourage that. I think one of the pieces was I was willing to take on the sole responsibility, but it absolutely is a partnership with people throughout the different organizations to really spread the message and the word and the strategy across the different business units. So I think the more collaboration you can do, the more successful your program would be. But I would say specifically like internal comms to social media, we are really solving for the same things, like engagement is huge for us.
So in social media, we are looking for engagement from our external audience, but internal comms, you are only looking for engagement from employees. So it's about sharing those strategies, and then again translating them for whether you are doing that externally or internally. And I actually read an article the other day. I thought that was a fantastic example of this was...it was Hootsuite. Their CEOs were sharing about...he had an internal comms challenge of...employees were saying he wasn't available enough.
And so what he did, and he wrote a nice little article about it, was they used Facebook for business, business version of an internal Facebook at Hootsuite. And so he started creating these short video series that he could do from his iPhone to start to engage employees on a more regular cadence. And I think that's a fantastic example of what this type of collaboration could lead to.
It's like the social media team is learning about all the different features and functions Facebook-wise, Periscope-wise, doing all these kind of things. And it's through that collaboration that I think you can find sometimes internal solutions that, again, may just stay in the walls of your company, but using the same technologies, using the same strategies. And so, I think that there is such an opportunity for internal comms and social media to work closely together, to share resources, share strategies, and then kind of go back to their own audiences and imply it there.
Chuck: Yeah, I saw that same article, and it was great to see a CEO take that feedback very personally, come up with a solution, and use video as a way to do it, because he needed something that was very simple and effective for him as the publisher. And it was good to hear that they were using Facebook at work. So sort of my public plea now is I would love to have someone on the show who has used Facebook at work.
That's a very limited audience right now, but I do think the rollout, I don't even know if they have a timeline yet, but I do think it's an intriguing topic from that enterprise social network standpoint to see how leaders and how individual employees can use a tool that was initially designed externally focused that people were comfortable with, but now, they've brought it internal. And I would love to talk to someone who has used Facebook at work.
Liz: Yeah, I can't wait to hear that episode when you record it because I felt the same way. It's back to, again, that tool overwhelm. You are not adding another tool. You are simply taking a tool that a lot of people already use and just changing its functionality, and I thought that was very interesting. I too would love to hear a user case of how that's worked, how employees respond to that, both positively and negatively, and just get a deeper perspective. But I was really impressed with the article and, again, sort of the thought process and evolution of how they came to that solution for his challenge.
Chuck: And so, as you've worked with the other global comms team members at Rackspace, is there any other advice, any other tips that you want to share with communicators around this social neighborhood of advocacy conversation that you think would really help them either guide the conversation at their company or help build it to be even greater?
Liz: Sure. I personally think kind of where we started with this conversation today around the culture, I think communication is so much more fluid for employees than maybe internal comms, people realize. So, again, and I'm totally just from my perspective, I know there's a lot more involved in it. But internal comms, they have that mindset of they are the experts for what's going on internally inside of our walls, but we need to remind ourselves that for employees, they have a very different...it's much more fluid.
So, a perfect example here at our work culture, friends and family is one of our core values. So as you can imagine, you work with these people eight hours a day, and then a lot of people extend that straight after the work hour, now go into happy hour or hang out on the weekends or their families, vacation together. We really very much have that culture. And so when you think about it that way, it's like the internal-external is very, very blurry for a lot of employees, and I think probably more blurry than internal comms people realize.
Again, thinking through that, how maybe in the internal coms mind, it's very clear like, "Oh, this is internal and this needs to stay internal." But then thinking about the lives of the employees and how fluid that is, how do we either educate or inform or put systems in place that really help employees create that clear line of what does need to stay internal and what can go external. And I think that's the real education, collaboration opportunity for internal and social media is that our employees' lives are so intermingled.
I have that conversation a lot of the times in training, where people would say, "Oh, but I posted this thing just to my Facebook friends," and I'll follow up and say, "Yeah, how many other employees are you friends with on Facebook?" And then it kind of dawns on them like, "Oh, you are right." So I think this personal-professional has already started to blur in our lives, and so I think it's just incorporating that into our comms strategies, of reminding ourselves that we are the ones creating the message so it's very clear for us what needs to stay internal and what can't go on social media. But I think we need to offer a lot of reminders for our employees because for their lives, it's a lot more fluid.
Chuck: One, I think there is also an opportunity there for some of these internal stories, some of these employee stories had maybe initially only been planned to be internal but they probably have a great resonating effect with customers in the external world. So people get an insight into who the people are behind the Rackspace, and likewise, with customer stories that are out there publicly, the marketing might be using, those are the exact same stories that employees need to be aware of and hear about as well.
Liz: Absolutely, yeah. We have the opportunity or the example I presented that the Advanced Learning Institute was, we have a internal group called the Trainerhood, which very organically formed because there is people like myself that do learning and development, but I am not directly under our learning and development org. So I'm kind of on the outskirts of that. But there is such an opportunity to share resources, best practices and so, we created this sort of virtual community, if you will, it's global, to be able to do that, to have hangouts and share best practices, and from that, of course a natural desire, sort of to trickle up.
I was like, "We want this to go external. We want to be sharing with the outside world all these great things that we are doing and how we are really experimenting with technologies in our learning and development at Rackspace." And luckily, I was a part of the founding committee of this group that I was able to say, "Okay, we are gonna have to..." It's just as simple as like, "Let's share this immediately." There are some different considerations when you do go external. So the good thing was we were able to work together, and in the process of creating an external campaign around talent and development, our talent acquisition around this because it is.
It's such an appeal to know that internally we are doing some really neat things when it comes to investing in our employees and their professional development, and it's just striking that balance of...there are some components of this internal group that need to stay internal. So let's just start to speck out what pieces can go external and then what's gonna be the best way to communicate that.
Chuck: And so for someone, Liz, if they want to get in touch with you, maybe pick your brain a little bit more or learn a bit more about some of the policies, procedures, the program at RackSpace, what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?
Liz: Sure. I'm on Twitter, @creatingLiz, did that very intentionally, kept very easy to spell. So you can find me there. And then I am also very active on LinkedIn. So it will be ELizabeth, and I'll spell it for you. It's J, as in John, U-R-E-W-I, C as in Charlie, Z, as in zebra, and you can find me on LinkedIn. So either way, yeah, I would be happy to hear from you. I do try to try to get a little bit better but keep it consistent blogging on LinkedIn, a blogging cadence. And so, if I hear a question probably three or four times, I think it's then a right topic to blog on so people might actually want to check out a few of my past posts.
I may have made answers to all the questions they are looking for, but, yeah, happy to talk about this because it's an evolution. I have some friends that also do advocacy at other companies, and we definitely keep in touch, and it's constantly evolving. Specifically this year, I had the opportunity to do more conferences, present at conferences, and it always makes it...at conferences you are presenting like kind of the best version of all of it. So it sounds like you've created this program and it's all wrapped up and look at how wonderful it's doing, but day in, day out, I'm still evaluating pieces of it.
We are always looking at the content and making it sure it's still relevant. So I'm still happy to have those conversations because I'm still learning as well and I love to hear these different perspectives, different best practices. I think it's a great way to make sure that we are meeting the everchanging needs of our employees.
Chuck: Well, Liz, I want to thank you for being a guest on ICology and sharing your thoughts. As you said, I think it's a perfect way to describe it. There is an overlap that's occurring within social media and internal comms, and I think depending upon the size of the organization, that a overlap is going to be bigger with the smaller...the team. So I think internal communicators are gonna be asked to do more when it comes to social media as that is a natural channel.
There is a past guest, JoEllen Saeli-Lane who said, "You have to go where your employees are." And so often, now that is social media. And so, internal comms needs to be up on the technology, play around in it, and use it personally to understand how they can take advantage of it professionally.
Liz: Yeah, absolutely. And if we have time, I would just love to actually turn the tables and ask you a quick question which is, as an internal comms specialist, I think you've done an amazing job of that external personal branding, and I was just curious if you wouldn't mind sharing was, have you received any of that professional development training along your career? Or was that just, again, a sincere desire that you had to go explore, find where the employees were? Like, how did you develop this wonderful external brand for yourself?
Chuck: Well, thank you first off. Secondly, I'm gonna age myself here a little bit. Obviously, I was for the workforce long before social media was even a personal development. And so, I remember the first time getting on LinkedIn and thinking about, "Oh my gosh, this opens up an entirely new world." This was before LinkedIn even had all the features that it does today. But just from a building and documenting connections standpoint, I regret not having tools like this when I first started as a professional.
Because there were people that I worked with, people that, I guess you could say professional friendships with, that I don't know where they are now and you never know where those future paths are gonna cross once again. And so for me, having a journalism background, social media was an amazing way of how you didn't have to rely on traditional channels. This might shock some younger listeners, but you used to have to use media outlets to get the word out about different things, either your company was doing or your organization was doing. There was no personal media out there.
Now, it's absolutely mind-blowing to me what can happen, whether you're an internal communicator, whether you are a professional athlete, whether you are a CEO or a billionaire on LinkedIn, everybody has pretty much the same reach and access. It's all about just what you do and how you maximize that. And so for me, it was all about being social on social media. Recently, I went on a little rant with a friend I'm getting frustrated with, some of these people were thinking once they get to this higher level, they stop being social on social media.
They just start publishing, they just start broadcasting, not actually being social on social media. It's almost like how the traditional media used to operate a decade or two ago. So for me, it's about finding like audiences, connecting with people like you. That's the big mistake. I wrote about this recently on learnicology.com that internal communicators, and rightfully so their mindsets are geared internally, and so they are thinking about the company.
But it's the smart ones or the savvy ones that are looking at their personal brand, how they can, not so much rise above the company or get more attention in their company, but really build their career and build their reputation outside of who they work for. Because odds are, we are not all gonna work 10, 20, 30, 40 years for the same company anymore. So what's that brand that you are building for you will dictate how your career progresses?
And so I took it very seriously, I took it very intentionally to build that, and then now, let's say a decade later, I haven't been on Twitter quite a decade yet, but it will be here before I know it, that it's amazing, the types of networks you can build, the types of true friendships and camaraderie that you can create on Twitter and, again, like you said, those are just a few of the tools. LinkedIn and Twitter are the ones I gravitate toward. There is whole other communities based on your profession and what you do, where those types of same conversations at network building can happen.
Liz: Right. That's fantastic. And I would just wholeheartedly echo that. I think I have been positively surprised but sincerely surprised by the power of the network that you can build, the relationships that I've made that initially started out as completely virtual relationships that have turned into real professional collaborations. And I have just been sort of touched by the generosity of people to share what they've learned along the way, their professional development and resources just because, as you mentioned, like that engagement when you show up, when you offer help, when you are sincere and authentic online, the ability to build that network is, it happens much quicker, I think, than people realize.
I think there is sometimes we are all time strapped. So there is like, "Oh, I just don't have time for that." But I think when people get started and they start to feel very quickly the power of these different platforms to create these strong relationships, these strong professional relationships, I think it's really easy to get a convert.
Chuck: Yeah, the whole "I don't have time element. I don't buy into that argument anymore," I always tell people that you have to make time. And the way I see it is the network you build is one of your most strongest resources that you have available. And a quick story I'd like to share around on that is a few episodes back, I did an episode with Rachel Miller from All Things I See about the Brexit conversation.
And we did that episode from planning, reaching out to we are getting it done editing in about three hours. Well, that was because we had first connected on Twitter years ago, years and years and years ago without having ever met face-to-face, any of that. We've only met face-to-face once, unfortunately, about two years ago, but when we did, we met with a hug. It wasn't a handshake, it wasn't a hello, it was a hug, and it's that strength of that that network, Rachel Miller is just one example.
She is a wonderful person, but that's just one example of the types of relationships and networks that you can build that will help you accomplish what you need to do. It may not be producing a podcast episode, it might be learning about a new job opportunity, it might be solving a problem at work. That's where internal communicators I think need to open their minds a bit and realize the tools and resources that are out there and available to them for what they do.
Liz: I love it. Let's...
Chuck: Now, you got me all fired up.
Liz: I knew I had to put it out there. I knew I had to put that question out there just because, as I said, I think you are a great example of somebody who has struck that down and then found it really well, so kudos to you.
Chuck: Well, thank you. Well, others, as I've mentioned, please visit learnicology.com to catch up on old episodes, get to know our guests better, read blog posts, check out events, there I'm speaking at our ICology sponsoring. Also follow ICology on Twitter @learnICology to pick up show announcements, as well as other icy news, things that I find interesting.
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