ICology: Social, Video & Mobile for Internal Communications

Ep #24 - Kristin Hancock, Chris Bias, Jody Wilkins and Michael Anton

Communicators love hearing from their peers and in this episode you get to hear from four of them. I attended and spoke at this May's Social, Video and Mobile for Internal Communications event put on by ALI Conferences. Held in Nashville, it was a great event with many great speakers. During the evening networking reception, I pulled a few of them aside to talk about their sessions. 

In this episode, you'll hear from

  • Michael Anton, IBM
  • Kristin Hancock, College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba
  • Chris Bias, Roche
  • Jody Wilkins, Concur

Episode Transcript

Chuck: This is ICology, the podcast dedicated to interesting people doing interesting things in the world of internal communications, and some other stuff too. This episode is a selection of interviews I conducted at the recent Social Mobile and Video for Internal Communications Conference, held in Nashville, Tennessee. If internal comms is your passion then this is your podcast. Listen in. 
This is Chuck Gose. I want to thank you for listening. I received such positive feedback for the PRSA Connect Interviews, these are a series of episodes I did a few weeks ago, that I thought I'd do it again. 
In late May, ALI Conferences conducted the Social Mobile and Video for Internal Communications Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. There are many great speakers but I was fortunate to pull these four people aside at the networking reception for a quick chat about their presentations. Michael Anton from IBM is first up. Then we have Kristen Hancock both past guest, and at the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba. Chris Bias from Roche and then close out with Jody Wilkens from Concur. 
Now, all the interviews were conducted near the networking reception so you'll hear some background noise but it's not distracting to the conversations. I hope you enjoy what these four communicators have to share.
Chuck: Right. I'm now here with Michael Anton from IBM, spoke earlier this morning at the conference. You had a great line that you used in your presentation that I never heard of, that is really something that’s carried through your organization and it’s “treasure the wild ducks.” So explain what that means. 
Michael: Yeah, thanks Chuck. Sure. Treasure the wild ducks an old proverb that it's based on… I believe a Finland proverb where a farmer would go out there and he would have a pond or lake out there, and he would have these ducks that would show up every year. And he likes his ducks and he would just feed them occasionally. And then the following year, some of them leave and some of them stay and some of them coming back and you know, feed them. And the more you feed these wild ducks, the more they're just embedded in the organization. That they're not going off and flying south. They're not doing what they should be doing when we…
And taking that into IBM is we go into organizations with all these great ideas and great motivations, and great things that we want to do. And we get into this organization and we're fed food and all of a sudden, we become stagnant. We're getting in there and we're not doing the things that we want to do. 
And so the idea of treasuring the wild ducks is let's not feed them. Let's let them be wild and let them come back and come back with these innovative ideas that’s gonna transform the organization. So an organization like IBM is… You know we've reinvented ourselves over and over and over and over and over. And they don't do it by just being stagnant because we would have been dead a long time ago. We keep doing it by.
And so as an organization in terms of communications, we gotta do the same thing. We can't just send out newsletters, send out emails and so kind of we took that it from communications, internal communications. And said, “Okay, we've got to think differently because the workforce is coming in and the work has been there for 30 years. We gotta treat them different. Let's treasure that wild ducks and that was kind of what I was trying to dissect.
Chuck: Right. So those employees that have been there 30 plus years, imagine the change that they've seen not just in IBM but just in technology in general. 
Michael: I remember, you know, I've been there for close to 12 years and I've had trainings on mainframes, on PCs, and now we're out of that business So people who've been there, who have mainframe experience, who have COBOL, C++, all those, that's where you came into IBM. That that's where you were cherished. Those languages, those platforms, those ideas are gone. So you either need to change with the times or you need to, you know, be gone, retire, or find another job. 
So you know IBM is really good about trying to keep its resources and give you the training and give you but you've gotta... There's a lot of anxiety around change. Any time there’s change, there's always anxiety. Especially as you’ve specialized in one language or one platform, and one client, or one sales and to be able to change requires a lot of coaching, motivation, understanding, and patience. 
Chuck: Now one of the big things you talked about was…and maybe this is part of that change is allowing employees to have more fun and sort of celebrate being a part of IBM. So what are some of the tactical things you guys have done to bring fun or encourage employees to have more fun at work?
Michael: One of the big things we did was change the dress code. Everybody thinks that IBM the past is blue suits, white shirt, and a blue tie and that was our uniform for, you know 50 plus years. That's how people came to work or you had a hat. You know just last year, we changed our policy, our dress code policy to allow jeans. I mean that's just… The founders of IBM would probably roll in their graves if that's…you know? Because that's not the way we came. But now we're embracing it. It's created this energetic, fun atmosphere. We're taking down cubes and we're creating these labs, these kind of design, creative thinking labs with couches and you know? 
And I know Silicon Valley's been doing this for a long time, but we're now taking boards off. If you’re losing a conference room, you can take the boards and do it in the kitchen now with you. The whiteboards can come with you and we're creating… 
Create your own pizza is another idea that we had. This is how would you build a better pizza and we're not asking them to build pizzas. We're in essence saying take this concept of how would you build a better pizza like the Domino's. How to build a better pizza in your own project? And people think of it that way. They start going, “Oh, I would change the this or change that” and you were rewarded now by a leader or senior leader coming to your project with pizza saying, “Great idea. Those are great ideas.” So it's different but it's fun. Like it’s…
Chuck: Right. Well and I've been thinking more and more about the role that internal communications plays in recruitment. So I would imagine making changes like that has got to be huge on the recruiting side when you consider who IBM competes with for new employees?
Michael: Yeah. I don't dress in a suit anymore when I go recruiting, when I go to universities. I'm dressing way the way I show up for work. And yes, I know that a lot of these business students and business school students, they have their suits on and they see this in a new and casual way. We’re not like your dad’s [inaudible 00:07:10] said. But it's true. We’re not like the same old IBM that we used to and that's the perception. We got to keep that. 
And so it's in terms of communication, we're finding other ways to communicate. It's not just…as I mentioned in the conference we're doing through a text or doing videos or asking them to submit videos that… We're Tweet chatting with the senior VPs of IBM who are on there and then they're asking you to guest blog and they're publicizing it all over, you know, their blog to their senior, their bosses. And so you feel like you're getting engaged which, you know, I'm sure, back in the day, they didn’t have those options to communicate with their senior leaders. They weren't communicating with their VPs like we are today. And technology’s kind of given us that option and we have embraced it and it's treasuring those wild ducks. 
Chuck: Well, thank you Michael. 
Michael: Thank you.

Chuck: I’m here with Kristin Hancock from the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba and also a past guest of ICology and still a record holder for the longest employer name. You spoke this afternoon and you had one slide that I think caught people off guard but was a pleasant surprise when you talked about your grandma
Kristin: So the theme of my presentation was going from zero to hero. So I was trying to incorporate heroes into the presentation and my grandma is one of my heroes. And the theme for the slide was that she does not make excuses for anything. So then my message was really as communicators, we can't make excuses for not having video as part of our communication strategy. So that’s how that came into being.
Chuck: And communicators are known for making excuses about not doing things. However, you sort of had a bit of an aha moment that made you realize why you guys needed to begin investing more and more in video.
Kristin: Right. So we'd never done anything in video before really. And one of the biggest moments I had was being in Boston for a conference and admittedly, scamming my way into a Boston College football game. I took pictures of the event and I took video of the event, and when I got home what I realized is I was never showing the pictures, I was only showing the videos. And it just really hit me how valuable that was for your personal life but also in work too. 
Chuck: And then once you’ve made that decision, you really stressed the importance of creating a strategy. You got everybody in the crowd even make a pledge about doing their video strategy. But one of those lessons that you wanted to share was something you heard from a past ICology guest. 
Kristin: Yes. One of the biggest lessons I've learned from listening to ICology was from one of your past guests Ally Bunin and her big takeaway was who else needs to know. And so when we were planning our video strategy, we made sure to include other people from the organization who were not on our communications team so that they could bring ideas to the table. And what we found out was that we were missing the boat on a lot of things because they were doing things or they had needs that we didn't know about. Because we weren't asking them and we hadn’t brought them to the table before that point. 
Chuck: All right. Thank you
Kristin: You're welcome. Thanks.

Chuck: I’m here with Chris Bias from Roche and you have probably the most interesting and peculiar title for a presentation. 
Chris: Yes. So our title is “How to Get More Stamos into Your Corporate Videos.” 
Chuck: And I assume by “Stamos," you mean John Stamos. So why do we need more John Stamos in internal comms videos?
Chris: Well it's all based on when to have fun in your videos and when to introduce humor. And we like to do that to get the message across to, you know, when there's some important message to get across and we have a story, we like to use humor to get people interested. And we have a particular video that we actually use, an autographed photo of John Stamos winking during our video.
Chuck: And so how did John Stamos become the object of this versus Emilio Estevez or somebody? Why John Stamos?
Chris: Well, it would be our vendor 12 Stars Media that came up with that idea. We needed props. So we're talking about hiding your valuables in your car before you got to the spot where you're going to park and we asked them to bring valuables. So we had a little children's jewelry box, we had various things like that, and then they brought an autographed photo of John Stamos that we could hide before you got to be a parking spot. 
Chuck: Well, I think this is a good example of a one of the sort of mundane or routine communications that communicators are asked to do like a security thing.
Chris: Right.
Chuck: That you guys chose to have fun with because it's a pretty safe one to have fun with. How did people respond to it?
Chris: I think people watched it a lot more than if we just sent out a stupid memo or a talking head of somebody saying, “Be careful when you're parking. Park close to the building.” You know, we really used some humor in it, which got people to watch the whole thing. 
Chuck: And then is there any plans for John Stamos to make any future appearances in any internal comms videos?
Chris: At this point, there are no exact plans but I would hope so, for sure. 
Chuck: And then so, is humor now going to be a part of sort of future communication? What I mean by that is in a recent episode, we had Stephanie Davies from Laughology that you know being humorous isn't always about cracking jokes or being the class clown. Sometimes it's about making people relax, pay attention, and maybe change their attitude. So is this something you're gonna probably try to use again in future videos or future messaging? 
Chris: We absolutely have. If not humor then fun. We've tried to do a lot more fun in our videos and we've got burnt a little bit. Now I'm going to talk about that during my presentation about one of the leaders thinks that we should use 70% message, 30% humor and that sometimes our videos go a little over the line. Reverse that a little bit. So we have to be a little bit careful with our with our leaders but definitely humor is something we want to use going forward.
Chuck: But I would imagine the data you have on the videos probably shows that the humor works. 
Chris: Absolutely, it surely does. That people watch it to the end. They don't turn off the video after a few seconds, that kind of data for sure. 
Chuck: All right. Well thank you.
Chris: Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

Chuck: I'm here with Jody Wilkins from Concur who presented earlier today at the conference. You kicked it off with a different style of presentation than I've seen before about showing a highlight from [inaudible 00:13:44] tournament this year. And you made a great analogy to sports teams and some of the challenges that communicators have. 
Jody: Yeah. Well thanks for having me, Chuck. What I've noticed is that, you know, sports in our culture just have such a tremendous appeal and impact on people. And so what really got me to thinking what is it about sports, athletic teams that really just drives people to, on one hand stay up late and on the other hand, lose their minds in some ways. And what it came down to me is it's about three things. 
One is the outcome is uncertain. We're not sure what's going to happen and so there's that level of anticipation of not knowing how something…if or it is or isn't going to resolve that is just really attractive. And then the second thing is people really like to be a part of a group. And it can even be a losing group, but they do want to identify themselves with a group and then lastly, winning of course makes us all feel better. 
And so as I got to thinking about that, I realized that employees and what they do at work is a similar scenario, it’s a similar context for them. People want to feel like they're part of an unfolding story. They want to know where they belong, and to which group they fit in, and then they want to rally for a winner. 
And so when I started to think about that, it really started to drive how we at Concur approached how we communicated either digitally or through video or through our communications. We wanted to show employees that this story is unfolding and they're a part of it. That we are… They belong here and that we are a winner in our field and that seemed to make a real impact.
Chuck: Well and one of the strategies you showed everyone was a new video program that you launched, called Buzz 180. Which is not just named… it’s 180 degrees but it’s 180 minute or 180 seconds of video. So talk about some of the successes that you've had with that.
Jody: So a lot of times people come in and they think that a video will solve something. You know if they can capture an emotion or they can use…if they're trying to tee up a certain event or a certain campaign they're working on. But we sat back and realized that we wanted to build something more sustainable, something more long term. And so we came up with a series that we would do that really went to the heart of what's…you know how our teams are doing and the products that they're building, and how they're developing. 
And so what we did is we release the this video every few weeks. And we have our VP of user experience go around and introduce the different product leaders in their teams in a way that really celebrates the work being done on a regular basis. Because it's really hard to keep that newness and that freshness and that excitement alive in a 40-hour work week. You know not everyone feels super inspired on Tuesday morning at 9:00and we wanted to do something that would try to keep them informed and educated about what it is we do. And we've really struck a nerve with these short series of videos that shows people the great work being done by people in their company. 
Chuck: Well because I would imagine the three-minute length is probably good both, from people watching. But also probably really helps you guys focus in on the message by getting your key messages in there within three minutes. 
Jody: Well I work in the software industry and those people, you know forgive me for saying so there. They're kind of nerds and they can really geek out and really get into the weeds really quickly. And all we really want is for all of our employees to be our best brand ambassadors and to be able to do that, they don't need a lot of information. We just need them to be able to speak intelligently at the soccer game, or in line at the supermarket about what it is we do and the service that we provide.
And so by doing it in under three minutes of course, our audience knows that they're going to get something valuable. They're going to get something quick and hopefully they walk away with being able at a base level talk about and really celebrate what we do and how we do it. 
Chuck: Right. Well thank you, Jody.
Jody: My pleasure. Thank you, Chuck.

Chuck: Thank you to Michael, Kristin, Chris, and Jody for putting down their drinks for a few minutes to help with this episode. If you want to check out future ALI Event, ICology is a media sponsor for the Strategic Internal Communications Conference in Boston this July. Simply go to aliconferences.com to learn more about it. And if you choose to sign up, use the code “ICology” to save $200 off the registration. 
Make sure you hit subscribe on iTunes or your preferred listening platform so you don't miss any future episodes of ICology. There are two great ones coming up. One where I talk with two communicators of the challenge of communicating within a fast food chain as well as discussing survey results that reveal a technology gap in corporate communications. And if you really like what you've heard, those five-star reviews are always appreciated. If internal comms is your passion, ICology is your podcast, thank you for listening.