ICology Live at PRSA

Ep #51, PRSA Connect in Denver 

ICology is available on Apple Podcasts, as well as many other platforms and appsOr you can simply listen to the media player above.

At this year's PRSA Connect conference in Denver, I was the closing keynote and conducted a live episode of ICology, featuring guests and attendees from the annual employee communications event. This was a bit of an experiment that was fun and worked out so well. Interviewees were called up on stage to answer a few questions from Chuck and possibly even guests. In this episode, you'll hear from:

  • Sean Williams, True Digital Communications
  • Kelli Newman, Piedmont Health
  • Chris Wagner, Bananatag
  • Nicole Kroul, ACT
  • Kristen Bowser, Dayton Children's Hospital
  • Becky Graebe, SAS
  • Nancy Weaver, Cosmopolitan Resort of Las Vegas
  • Amy Jenkins, Chipotle
  • Madison Suarez, Chipotle
  • Debra Capua, Davis & Company
  • Ally Bunin, Brighton Health Plan Solutions
  • Elisabeth Wang, PRSA Connect conference chair 

You can follow along to the Twitter stream from the event at #prsaconnect

Other event recaps

"Go where your employees are and other takeaways for internal communicators" - Ally Bunin

Episode Transcript

Chuck Gose: This is ICology. It's a podcast about interesting people doing interesting things in internal communications. And in this episode, we are talking to the people at PRSA connect. Awesome. All right, so I'm the host of ICology, Chuck Gose and this is a live episode of ICology.

This is going to be a blast. I've been taking notes throughout the event, hearing some controversial things. I know not everybody can attend every session so this might be a repeat for some in the crowd. Others, you had not attended the session, so it'll be new for you.

So, the first person I want to call up is Mr. Sean Williams. Sean, will you come up please? So for those that don't know you, why don't you give a quick introduction.

Sean Williams: Dead air, the worst thing in the world on radio. I'm Sean Williams. Until 12 weeks ago, I was the owner of Communication Ammo, which I've now merged with True Digital Communications where I run the education and internal communication practices.

Chuck Gose: Fantastic. Okay, so you are active on Twitter. You and I possibly even first met on Twitter, I believe years ago. And you shared something on Twitter yesterday after the Workplace by Facebook session where the gentleman speaking from Facebook said, "Workplace by Facebook is not an ESN." And you disagreed with that, so I want you to sort of expand. You disagreed on Twitter. I want you to expand on that a little bit more about how do you view Workplace by Facebook and how is it a little different than how he explained it?

Sean Williams: Workplace by Facebook is an interesting tool. I had the chance actually to work on Workplace by Facebook when I was subcontracting through another agency on a project last year. And indeed, it offers many, many great benefits. Most of them are related to communication. If you look at the individual components of what's there, the ability to post information, to engage in instant messaging, to create collaborative chats, to use live video, nearly all of those things are related to somebody communicating with someone else or groups of other people. So I looked at it and said, "How is this really different from, for example, Yammer?"

Yammer offers much of that same functionality. Jive, Jive is styling itself to replace your intranet even. So I look at Workplace by Facebook right now as an enterprise social network that has aspirations to do something else.

Chuck Gose: Well, and I thought it was interesting when he spoke too that he mentioned ... I almost viewed it as a possible replacement for an intranet. I thought it was interesting, he said, "No, they have an intranet, but intranet is static and Workplace was dynamic." Do you agree with that standpoint?

Sean Williams: Yes. What I would say is intranets are about tools. Primarily it's about automating different functions that were manual functions, bringing those into a common location and giving everybody a chance to be able to use those things. And doing so effectively. Intranets for a time, were the primary vehicle for news and information in the organization. That's changing, as we've seen throughout the last three days. The communication functioning of an intranet is still important when you have content that has to be stored someplace and be referred to again and again.

I look at Workplace by Facebook as something eventually that might replace even that storage capability, provided, of course, that organizations are okay with their information going into a Facebook realm.

Chuck Gose: Thank you Sean. Next, I want to bring up Kelli Newman from Piedmont Health. Where's Kelli? Come on up, Kelli. So why don't you give us a little bit of your background there at Piedmont.

Kelli Newman: Sure. I'm Kelli Newman and I'm internal communications director at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, Georgia.

Chuck Gose: So you presented on your intranet launch. I was not able to attend, but the beauty of Twitter. I saw all kinds of shares, activity, pictures, advice you were sharing with people. So I'm curious. To launch an intranet. Did you have one before? And why were you replacing it?

Kelli Newman: So like many organizations, we did have an intranet that was really a proprietary solution that was implemented by our technology department. And so it had really reached the end of its life cycle and it was really time for our intranet to grow up.

Chuck Gose: Okay. Oh, I like that. I like the intranet grow up. So what were some of the tactics you used as part of that switch over to get employees onto this new intranet?

Kelli Newman: So it's ongoing, but one of the very first things that we did, which has always been really a part of our culture is to make the intranet the home page of your web browser. So that you really don't have an option. If you launch the browser, the very first thing that you see is our intranet. But we also use a lot of different strategies to try to incentivize our employees to engage. And so we'll do a number of different things like contests or asking folks to participate in a quick poll to answer a question really just to get them interested in clicking on the content and the news and the various things that we want their eyeballs on.

Chuck Gose: It probably wasn't perfect through the roll out.

Kelli Newman: Course not.

Chuck Gose: Were there any surprises along the way for you as you launched this new intranet?

Kelli Newman: I think that one of the biggest surprises for us, because what we launched was a social platform. And what we were moving away from certainly didn't have any of that social capability. One of the things I think I'm very surprised about, with our culture, we have a very vocal employee population. And I think what has been surprising to me is how slow adoption of the social features really has been. And so that means as an internal communications team, we have a greater challenge to help our employees understand, one, it's okay to engage. And then two, how to engage. So it really becomes an impetus on our team's behalf to really create programs that get our folks active and commenting and sharing that content. And we're starting to see an uptick, but I think it's going to be an evolution. And so that's an exciting challenge for us.

Chuck Gose: Absolutely.

Camille Stepp: Hi, I'm Camille Stepp. I am with corporate communications for corporate Clayton Homes. My question to you as we look to revamp our intranet, if you could do it all over again, what's one specific item that you've done or implemented that you would do over again. And something that you would not.

Chuck Gose: Oh. I wish I'd have thought of that question.

Kelli Newman: Oh, what would I do over again? I definitely think we would have spent probably more time helping our folks understand the social aspect of the intranet. And really thinking through different strategies and maybe piloting with small groups how that user really would interface in a social environment. So that's one thing I would do differently. Something I would do all over again was definitely leveraging, we do have a group of employee ambassadors. We call them our Piedmont Connectors. And I definitely would continue to use that group. And really they have been great advocates to the adoption of our technology, just generally.

Chuck Gose: Thank you, Kelli.

Kelli Newman: Alright. Thank you.

Chuck Gose: Next I want to call up Chris Wagner from Bananatag. A round of applause for Chris, making his way up.

Chris Wagner: Hi, I'm Chris Wagner. I'm a co-founder at Bananatag from Vancouver, BC.

Chuck Gose: You presented this morning on something called, the Hook Model. So quickly explain what the Hook Model is.

Chris Wagner: So quickly, the Hook Model, it's a model for engagement, and it comes from product designers. It consists of four stages that work in a loop. And you want to get people through these stages starting with a trigger, to an action, to a variable reward, to an investment. And by getting them through these four stages, you get them much more likely to continue through this loop. And the more times they complete that loop. They form habits and you develop engagement on a platform or whatever sort of challenge you're trying to face.

Chuck Gose: And I attended your session. And it was the part on variable rewards that triggered some thoughts that I had, but why don't you go a little bit deeper into that before I ask my next question. What do you mean by variable rewards?

Chris Wagner: So the reason that we things, first of all, is to get a reward. And so when we get triggered for something, our goal is to get a reward. And we go through the action to get it. The special thing about variability is that it increases the amount of motivation that we have to reach that reward. So if the reward's the same every time. If you do A and you get B every single time, you're less likely to do that as frequently or be as motivated to do it. If you add variability to that reward, you're going to have much more motivation as you get curious or whatnot. It's just ingrained in us to complete that action much more often.

Chuck Gose: And so my question then, after I heard that, because that was just a new concept for me, as a leader in the company, a growing company, how could you apply variable rewards to an employee recognition system? How can variable rewards have a play in how leaders or managers recognize employees?

Chris Wagner: Yeah, well I guess just not doing the same thing every single time. Trying to think of some examples off the top of my head, but I think there was an interesting presentation by Chris Lee on gratitude and how different people even appreciate different types of gratitude. And so introducing that into the way we reward employees will increase their motivation to change their behaviors in an effort to get those rewards.

Chuck Gose: And have you started using the Hook Model internally at Banana Tag?

Chris Wagner: Not specifically for employee recognition, but that would be a really interesting application.

Chuck Gose: Okay.

Chris Wagner: Definitely we've looked at it with our product. And but yeah, that would be interesting.

Kristin Hancock: It's Kristin Hancock. I'm with the College of Registered Nurses in Manitoba. You kind of just stole my question, Chuck. But I can see that cycle. I think it's easier for me to see it with activities at work in the workplace. I have a harder time seeing it digitally, so I guess maybe to that question. Maybe you haven't implemented it specifically for email, but are there examples of ways, or maybe in the room, there are examples of ways that people have looked at that variability in reward cycle digitally.

Chris Wagner: If we look at digital platforms, and social platforms might be the most obvious example. We looked at Facebook at Work. We saw that presentation yesterday. And there's a really interesting opportunity there. Every time you get notified that something is going on there, there's going to be a different reward waiting for you. Did someone like your post? Did they share it or comment on it? These types of social rewards that we get are very inherent in some of these social platforms that we look at.

Chuck Gose: Alright. Thank you, Chris.

Chris Wagner: Thanks.

Chuck Gose: Yep. All right, so next I want to invite up Nicole from ACT. I'm putting you on the spot here.

Nicole Kroul: You are.

Chuck Gose: I shared on Twitter yesterday, you asked a question to the keynote who was here from McDonalds. Repeat that question for everybody.

Nicole Kroul: Okay. So I wanted to know how they measure engagement, because there's so many different metrics for it. I wanted to know if they had a secret formula, kind of like their Big Mac sauce, right?

Chuck Gose: And I shared on Twitter that I thought that was probably the best question of the day, only because I think it pointed to how difficult that is to answer. We all talk about engagement. It was referenced as everybody sort of different definitions on it. When I do other presentations, I talk about this engagement rollercoaster that we've been on where we get caught up in it with never ending cycle. At ACT, why is it that you're looking at this? Or what is it about engagement that you're wanting to find out and get to the truth of?

Nicole Kroul: It kind of feels like a moving target sometimes. Engagement can mean different things to different people. We have parts of our organization that work in customer success and they're on the phones all the time talking to students and parents. And how they engage with our organization is different than our test administrators who are in the field administering the ACT assessments, which is different from our international team, which is working on a million different timezones. So it is a little bit of a moving target. \

We're trying to figure out how to define it based on a wide range of metrics. And Chuck after talking a little bit yesterday, challenged me and said, "Engagement can't always be just a formula that spits out a number at you." Right? Because it's quantitative and qualitative. So we haven't figured it out yet. But I think the important part is that we're all trying to figure it out and we're not trying to make it easy, which is what I was asking McDonalds to do for me.

Chuck Gose: And I didn't let you introduce yourself before because ACT might sound familiar to some people in here.

Nicole Kroul: Okay, so yes. ACT is the college entrance exam. We're based out of Iowa City. Iowa is where our corporate headquarters are. And it's a really fascinating place to be right now. Our CEO has been there under two years. And he's really challenging us to think about lots of new types of learning and really trying to become more of a learning and a learning analytics company rather than just an assessment company.

Chuck Gose: And when we met yesterday, you had shared that you had only been in internal cons for about a year having come from external. What sort of voids or gaps have you seen coming from external to internal, some skills and talents that you bring to raise the game internally at ACT?

Nicole Kroul: I would say, I come from a journalism background. I was a broadcast journalism major in college. And I worked in marketing in other organizations since then. So, I know how to shoot and edit video and tell stories and some of that. But moving that to an internal space sometimes can be a vacuum of your skills, because not everyone is necessarily trained in it or knows how to leverage video, but they love what it's doing for communication. So I think video's something that I've been working on for over a decade in shooting, and editing, and doing that. But I've seen in internal communications that be probably the number one skill that I've been able to leverage and build a little bit of my career even upon.

Chuck Gose: Thank you, Nicole.

Nicole Kroul: Thanks, Chuck.

Chuck Gose: Alright, next I am going to call up Kristen Bowser, please. She's excited. She rolls her head back. I had the pleasure of introducing Kristin. And for those that weren't in here, the strange thing about how we know each other is that we attended the same high school. We were in high school together, same time.

Kristen Bowser: But didn't know it.

Chuck Gose: But didn't know it. And you know how every small town has a world's greatest ice cream shop. It would be complete if we had shakes from the K.

Kristen Bowser: It would be.

Chuck Gose: But we don't have those. One key part of your presentation yesterday, that I'm not saying you should have spent a lot of time on it, but I appreciated that you had in there was about admitting failure. And I think sometimes as communicators, we're so scared to do that. But yet all of us know it happens. So kudos to you for doing that. Talk about why you included that in there.

Kristen Bowser: I mean again, as communicators, not every single thing that we're going to do is going to work. That's why I think it's really important. In our presentation yesterday, we talked about the fact that we benchmarked off of other like children's hospitals just like ours, so we could learn what worked well, what didn't work well. And then adjust from there. So we tried something. It didn't work. We're not going to do it again. And we'll try other things. And if those don't work, we won't do those again either.

Chuck Gose: And the other thing I liked about your presentation too, was you talked about a topic that isn't necessarily a sexy one. You guys talked about town halls and the value of face to face, which a lot of people either don't do, because it can be expensive. It can be quite complex. It's very time consuming. Or why are town halls and face to face so important at Dayton Children's?

Kristen Bowser: Because you can't replicate what we're trying to do and leverage people to be passionate about the brand and be highly engaged without having two way communication. So we can push messages out all day long, and hope that they're going to see and read and engage? But this is a way for our CEO to really actively engage with our staff.

Chuck Gose: Good segue to the CEO. Do you think that she is critical to the success of these town halls? Or how would they be different if she wasn't the one involved.

Kristen Bowser: I don't think they would be nearly as successful. I think your CEO has to be the face. Last night when we were at Lucky Strike, I was talking with Natalie. I don't know where Natalie's at, but she had indicated their chief strategist officer does their town halls. And I said, "I just think you've really got to work on making a recommendation to change that. That person should be the face of your organization."

Chuck Gose: Where do you now want to take town halls? What's the next step for Dayton Children's?

Kristen Bowser: We will continue, obviously to evaluate. We are working on making it more accessible for staff. We have obviously 24 hours, three shifts a day. And we have a space that holds 135 people and 2700 employees. And we're expecting all of them to attend. So we're looking for more ways to make it friendlier and easier for them to access the information, because it's information they won't get somewhere else. They have to come or have to stream in order to get it.

Chuck Gose: Also, I thought it was somewhat ironic. You had talked about that you guys had retired the previous way of doing town halls and it was called Scoop.

Kristen Bowser: Correct. Because you got a scoop of ice cream.

Chuck Gose: Right. You've got a retirement party. And at the same time we had ice cream up here for the event.

Kristen Bowser: That's true. That's a good point.

Chuck Gose: So I don't know if you coordinated that or not.

Kristen Bowser: I did not.

Lena Davey: Hi. I'm Lena Davey, director of internal communications for Worldwide Clinical Trials. And town halls is something that we struggle with. We have a global workforce. We have people spread all over the globe. We have a lot of at home employees. 40% of our employees are at home. So we struggle with engaging people in town halls. And something that struck me was that you do 15 town halls.

Kristen Bowser: Correct. Three times a year.

Lena Davey: And I was able to convince our CEO to do two. One in the morning and one in the afternoon to address timezones and things like that. And I guess my question for you is more around, for yourself, how do you stay sane trying to do 15 town halls? And what period of time do you try to cram all of those in?

Kristen Bowser: So that's a good question.

Chuck Gose: We're not saying she has, actually.

Kristen Bowser: We do them over around a three week time period. Just like the rest of you, we are at the mercy of the busies person that works in the hospital who is often traveling, in back to back meetings. So it has to be a priority for your CEO. And it was very, very important to her, because she is so engaged and wants to have that face to face communication with staff.

Alyssa Hooper: My name's Alyssa Hooper. I work at DaVita downtown here. And I'm an internal communications coordinator. And we do town halls with our CEO, sometimes other executives for the corporate staff. And then our version of that for our other 67,000 employees, whatever it is, is a phone call that literally we get everyone onto this conference call and they can ask questions and answers similar to a town hall style. And I've been really thinking critically about that since your speech. And I'm wondering, do you think that having a phone call without the video element can be as successful?

Kristen Bowser: I guess I'm just a really big proponent of two way communication. And you get that when you're in person. So there's a million ways to reach people. We're looking at expanding things that we're doing to try to make it more mobile friendly for staff, because they're not sitting at their desk. They're at the patient bedside caring for kids. But it's like when people say, "Well print's dead." But there's still a place in the world for print even though it's a little more old school. So I think it's the same thing with two way communication. That it may seem a little bit less sexy, because it's not on your phone. But there's real value in it. So that's my thoughts.

Chuck Gose: Alright. Thank you, Kristen.

Kristen Bowser: Alright. Thanks.

Chuck Gose: Alright, next I want to call up Becky Graebe. Come on up. They're so excited to come up here.

Becky Graebe: I'm Becky Graebe, director of communications at SAS.

Chuck Gose: So another session I was not able to attend due to doing another one, but there was a tweet from @LoreaniSays. Is she in here? Okay. You wrote that Becky talked about that our job is to ignite conversation, not dominate it.

Becky Graebe: Absolutely. I think that so often, we feel like we have all the pressure of communicating everything, the full context of it, all the details. But I think we leave out the part that so many of our employees can add if we'll let them into the conversation. Whether that means in the comments section of an article. Or if you have a social networking platform to get them involved and just start the conversation.

Chuck Gose: So how do you ignite it though?

Becky Graebe: I think by asking intriguing questions. You can start there. You can work with some of your influencers. We have a social networking platform where we know who our influencers are, so we'll go after them to say, "Would you start a conversation?" Or, "Could you pose this question on the hub to get people talking about it?"

Chuck Gose: And is that who this 140 club is?

Becky Graebe: The 140 is a social employee advocacy group. And it started, they named it the 140 because their goal was to get 140 employees who would sign up for a six week course that would teach you everything about how to be great on social. Not for the company, but to represent yourself and your profession, whatever that role might be within our company. Of course, they've well exceeded that, because it's just an awesome program that just equips you to be good on social.

Chuck Gose: What would you say to an organization who may not be quite the size of Sass. Do you think that has an element to the success?

Becky Graebe: I don't think so. I don't think size really has as much to do with it. I mean obviously you're going to get a lot more volume if you have a broader employee base. But I think anytime you have somebody from within the company that is able to talk positively about the good things you're going, the good work you're doing. That's a plus. We've heard so many times throughout the conference hearing from colleagues, hearing from employees or people that work within our organizations carries much greater weight than some of our official external spokespeople or sea level executives.

Chuck Gose: And sort of from my view of things, SAS has always seemed to have been a bit of a leader when it comes to internal social. Or at least maybe more vocal about the efforts that they've done. Do you think that's a product of the culture? Or do you think that's a driven from leadership standpoint?

Becky Graebe: I think there are several things that weigh into that. First of all, I will give credit to our leadership, because I think they are forward thinking. They have been since the time the company was founded in the 1970s. They wanted to always be on the cutting edge, not just with the software and technology we create, but with the way that we go about that as a working community. But I think there's some other things that come into play too. I think we have a natural advantage when you have a lot of people that are steeped in technology and software at their core. They're looking for those new tools. They're eager to try those new things. So often times, they're coming to us asking, "Can we have this?" Before internal coms even knows about a tool or knows that it's out there. So I would say those things and then just trust. I mean there's a whole level of trust that has to be in place before you can open this and promote that with your employees.

Chuck Gose: With having employees very tech savvy like you talked about and them often coming to you with ideas. Is shadow IT a bit of a problem meaning people just start using tools because that's just where they want to do it without getting the corporate approval.

Becky Graebe: Yes. And I mean there's good and bad with that too, because in addition to having our official enterprise networking platform, we also have been experimenting with Slack, because some people in R&D went ahead and stood it up. And so it was competing there for a little while. And it's a great platform. And it serves a great purpose. But sometimes, because they can, they do. Another example is that we had folks that were blogging long before we ever would have considered having an enterprise blogging platform. But because they could, they did. So they stood it up and we had all this great information that was being exchange between people who had their own rogue servers. And it wasn't data that could be protected by the company.

So yeah, it's a risk. But it also told us, "Hey, there could be something here, right?" So when we built our official blogging platform inside the house, we knew we had to make it so compelling that they would switch over. Otherwise, they're going to keep doing what they're doing. So we put some things in place to say, when somebody requests a blog for instance, an internal blog, we want to turn that around in 24 hours. We don't want to say, "Yes, you can have that. It'll be a month. We'll get back to you." Because they're going to go elsewhere.

Chuck Gose: I'm curious if anybody has instituted any plans, worked against it, celebrates it and possibly I would love to hear an example. And for those that aren't familiar, Shadow IT would be employees using non-approved technology for corporate uses. So for example, if you've got employees using WhatsApp to text back and forth with each other. That would be an example of shadow IT. I would love to hear an example from someone who's successfully either brought in technology that others have used or you've had to put the kibosh on technology.

Nancy Weaver: I'm Nancy Weaver. I'm internal communications manager at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. And in true brand form, we are the right amount of wrong at times. And we have a social based intranet. And were one of the first ones to really implement it back in the day. And for as great as the space has been for our teams to create their own spaces that have everything from schedules to policies and procedures and all things that are inherent to those teams. We do have a group of employees that we call costars that have gone off and set up their own Facebook private group. The official schedules are posted on our intranet. And their managers also post there. But that's also where they have conversations about switching shifts, have conversations about things that might be happening outside of the workplace because so and so is sick. Or so and so has this graduation going on. And it becomes a social space for them.

And we're aware of it. And the only thing that we asked, because our people team has asked is that we don't have to run it. We just need to be able to see it. And so our costar relations team checks it every once in a while just to make sure that we're not having any compliance issues since we are heavily regulated by Nevada gaming control. But we trust our costars to do the right thing. And 99% of the time, they do. And so we honor and appreciate the things that they want to do because it identifies the need for us as we're looking at our intranet, now. How do we create those spaces much like Becky talked about so that we can bring those things into the fold in a more cohesive way.

Chuck Gose: That's a great example. Well, thank you, Becky.

Becky Graebe: Thank you.

Chuck Gose: And Nancy bringing up trust is a great segue to a story that I heard recently is, how many people here have an employee handbook at work. Show of hands. How many people have read their employee handbook cover to cover. That's impressive. I would be if how many people had flipped it open. But here's an example. She talked about the phrase, "Use your best judgment." Trusting employees. Have you guys heard about Nordstrom's employee handbook? It's a note card. A little five by three note card. And it says, "Use your best judgment." Think about that. Other companies are so risk averse that they're worried about all the potential probably little things that could happen, setting all of these policies in place that most employees, now maybe because you're communicators you've read it. Other people don't even know where it exists or maybe they saw a link on the intranet. But Nordstrom is taking the stance of, use your best judgment. And that applies in every situation. So thanks for volunteering that, Nancy.

Alright, I'm going to bring up Chipotle. Yes, Amy come on up please. Is it Madison? You're going to come up too?

Madison Suarez: You want me to come up?

Chuck Gose: No. No. No. No. No. No. This is a two parter. I'm going to just bring you both up at the same time.

Amy Jenkins: I'm Amy Jenkins. I'm the internal communications manager at Chipotle.

Chuck Gose: So a little bit before, we were talking about failure. This wasn't a failure on your part, but you had a great presentation from sort of crashing to crushing, which everybody's familiar with what happened at Chipotle, we don't need to re-dig that up.

Amy Jenkins: No, please.

Chuck Gose: But, I think a message, whether you intended it or not was, I think you really talked about all the positive things that happened as a result of that. So I'm not suggesting those things wouldn't have happened without that. But do you think that was a big catalyst for some of the new things you're doing. And then talk about what some of those new things are.

Amy Jenkins: Yeah. Absolutely. As the crisis hit, it started every single department in the company internalizing a little bit and looking at what we do and how do we support our restaurants and how do we give them the best tools, and resources, and technology, and communication so that they can be better at what they do and make their job easier every day. And it finally had leadership listening to all of those ideas and suggestions. And it gave us the opportunity to look at our vision and how we communicate what we do across the company. And really get our voice out there. And take us from being more tactical to more strategy driven, show people you don't just send communication something to send out for you. You share what you want to do and they'll help you do it more effectively. So a lot of those new tools came from that of us just saying, "We're going to not wait for permission anymore. We're just going to go do this stuff." We can do it for free. We don't have to ask for the budget. We're just going to go do it.

And so that prompted a weekly video segment, a new show for our crew members. It prompted a weekly podcast that we're doing for our field leaders now and more targeted communication to our corporate staff as well.

Chuck Gose: Talk about the weekly video. What are some of the mechanics behind that? How is it produced? Where do people watch it? Those sorts of things.

Amy Jenkins: Yeah. Absolutely. So we're very fortunate. Our internal communications team, which is me, Madison, and then we have one other member. We work within the training department. And so we have some amazing people on our training team including a whole video staff. It's really two people, but we are able to take them away from creating training materials. And also focus on creating communications tools. So they really help produce that segment. We turned a closet in the office into our studio, painted the back wall as a green screen, set up a really fantastic camera, hooked up a Mac to it to be our, actually we use a tablet. We hooked up an iPad that serves as the teleprompter. And we just invite people from all over the office to come in and do these three minute segments.

Chuck Gose: Do you have some analytics and metrics on how often they're getting watched or the frequency of viewing?

Amy Jenkins: Little bit. We work through a company called Bright Cove is where we host all of the videos through. So we're able to see how many people watch it. Problem is, we don't know who and we don't know how frequently each of the restaurants are watching it. So we know we have over 2,300 restaurants. We average 5,500 views a week on the video. So our assumption is that at least one person or one team in every restaurant is watching that video every week. But one thing we can see analytics on is that they watch it on their iPad. So all of our restaurants have an iPad for training specifically. And we also post the video there. That could be really the low end of the views that we get.

Chuck Gose: Well, and I think the key is, you just have to get started. Sometimes the first step is just getting started. Which now I'm going to pass it off to Madison.

Madison Suarez: Hi, my name's Madison Suarez. I'm the internal communications consultant for Chipotle.

Chuck Gose: And the reason why they have you up here is because you are one of the co hosts of the podcast.

Madison Suarez: I am.

Chuck Gose: So talk a little bit about that. What was the idea behind the podcast? What do you talk about on the podcast? How long are they? Some of those details.

Madison Suarez: Yeah. So the idea behind the podcast was to really hit our levels of field leadership that aren't sitting behind a desk all day. So we have field leaders that manage anywhere from five to 10 different restaurant locations. So they're driving from restaurant to restaurant. They're taking conference calls from their call. They're constantly on the move. So it was really, "How do we maximize that extra ten minutes that they might have with some information that they might find helpful or they might really want to tune in to."

Chuck Gose: How about how long is each episode?

Madison Suarez: Yeah. So we try and keep it between eight and 12 minutes. We had one episode that was 19 minutes. And it did not do very well. So we've found 12 minute is probably the sweet spot. And what we like to do is we communicate all of our policy or procedure updates somewhere else. So we'll send an email with something new that's coming. And then we'll follow up on the podcast with the context behind it and we'll bring in an interview. Perhaps someone from supply chain to talk about how long they've been working on the initiative or what's really cool about it.

Chuck Gose: Well I think the sample you showed during your talk was something as benign as switching out, I think it was oranges to blueberries or something like that.

Madison Suarez: Yep.

Chuck Gose: So is the thought that if this goes well, that there could then become multiples. A podcast that would be geared toward the retail location workers? Or are you thinking, "This is the one vehicle for this one audience."?

Madison Suarez: Yes. That's a great question. And that's something we're starting to look into. So we just recently surveyed field leaders about what they think about the podcast. Pretty positive feedback. One thing that we learned that we were kind of surprised by, were field leaders were playing it for their general managers. And their hourly restaurant managers. So that's something that we're going to start exploring and see how would the tone change? What information would we give to GMs and not field leaders? And then I think the other audience would be our corporate or field based support staff.

Chuck Gose: And then how much time would you say you spend prepping for each episode, getting it edited to get that published?

Madison Suarez: Yeah. Also a great question. So it's way easier, I think than we thought.

Chuck Gose: Don't. It's not that easy, people.

Madison Suarez: It's so easy, Chuck. No, I mean it's definitely ... Getting started is the hardest part. And I think that's the theme that I'm taking away hat's so nice to hear from everyone else that the hardest part is getting started and getting a process in place. But Amy mentioned, we are fortunate enough to work with really talented video and audio team members that are teaching us a lot. So we're learning a lot on the fly. But process wise, I would say it's no more than a few hours a week. It's like three or four hours max. And it just depends on the interview. You know from experience it's how much you're preparing for an interview depends on what you're talking about, who you're talking to. If it's a content expert or a subject matter expert, it's pretty easy because that's the world they've been living in for a year, two years.

Chuck Gose: And it is a private podcast. Trust me. I tried every avenue during their talk to find it. All I could find was a graphic talking about the podcast. So you did keep it private?

Madison Suarez: Yes. Yeah. So we hosted on SoundCloud, which is pretty free basically unless you want analytics behind it, then it's a subscription. But yeah. It's completely private. Like you said, you can find the imagine and you can find our name and that's it. But I can send you a link to one.

Chuck Gose: Well that's okay. I just think it's so well done, because there's something about having a podcast for a niche audience. But it's also something about when you're targeting a specific audience with specific education, because one of the things about podcasts for anybody who's thinking about doing it, the real value in doing them is not ad hoc. It's not when I need to. It's doing them weekly, because we are habitual people. And we will listen to something on a weekly basis. So that was a good move on that part.

Madison Suarez: Yeah. Thank you. And that's something that came from feedback when we were piloting this with our field leaders. It was very much like we want to start the week with this information. So seven am, Monday morning, it's available every week.

Chuck Gose: Alright. Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Madison

Madison Suarez: Thank you.

Chuck Gose: Alright, next I want to bring up Debra from Davis and Company. Oh, she's got some fans in the back.

Debra Capua: Hi everybody, I'm Deb Capua. I work at Davis & Company. As you've seen the name up on the screen, we were one of the sponsors.

Chuck Gose: And the reason why I wanted to have you up here is that Davis & Company has already launched a survey, which is a chance for all of you to participate in. So I am a big fan of research. I am a big fan of letting people give their opinions. So why don't you talk about the survey and what Davis & Company is trying to accomplish with it.

Debra Capua: Well it's really interesting. We're looking at internal communication planning. So do you plan? If so, how does it go for you?

Chuck Gose: We have to stop and let them answer.

Debra Capua: If you don't plan why don't you?  Yeah. And that's really what we're interested in, what's happening out there, because what we hear from a lot of our clients, which we touched on yesterday. And Jane talked about it yesterday morning, is this idea of how do I become more of a strategic advisor rather than an order taker. And there's several ways of doing that. And Jane talked about it. But I think one of them that's really important is the planning as well as measurement because you get the quantitative data. We have to talk to business leaders the way they think. We have to speak in their language. So what we're looking at is what's going on with planning because so many of our clients are telling us that the work feels very ad hoc to them, that people come and they say, "Can you post this on the intranet?"

So what they really want to do is become more strategic, more mindful and planful about what they're doing. But what are those challenges? Why is that happening? Do you have a plan? Is it something you just put in a drawer? Or do you refer to it? So it's short. It won't take you very long. And it will be worth your while.

Chuck Gose: So I'm curious in the crowd. Raise of hands. Who would say you're a good planner when it comes to communications?

Allie Bunin: I'm Ally Bunin. I lead employee engagement and internal communications for Bright0n Health Plan Solutions, a small star- up health plan company in New York City.

Chuck Gose: So what do you feel makes you a good planner? Or why do you think planning is so important. 

Ally Bunin: So I think planning is key to getting buy in at the C-suite level. And I find that a very simple communication plan template that I've used for more than 10 years now gets attention, gets me the resources and the budget that I need because it's very simple. And so when I was starting out in my career, I had a very complex internal communications strategic plan, several pages long. It had the know, feel, do approach and what do you want them to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? And I always put in so much information so that people could really understand my thought process. And I've skinnied that down now to about a page of key messages and objectives and the summary. And the summary is really what they read first, right? Sometimes they don't even read the rest. And then I have a one page of tactics to a timeline.

And it's really simple, but it works. I've found it to be very, very effective. I took your survey at Davis & Company and the one challenge I reported to sticking to the plan, for me, is sticking to a timeline. So I find that there's always a fire. I have to rush and pivot my timeline a bit, which happens and you have to be flexible. But I do think that having a go-to plan template that you can use for just about any internal communication initiative, even a high level one that spans many years if it has to be, having that plan really keeps you accountable.

Chuck Gose: Well I think people will say, when you make a plan, plan to make changes.

Ally Bunin: Absolutely. You've got to be flexible.

Debra Capua: Yeah. For sure.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. So how can people go and find the survey? What's the easiest way?

Debra Capua: Well we've been tweeting about it. So we'll do that again. I'll follow up after this. And you can take it. You could also go to davisandco.com and you will find it there. You can link in with me, Debra Capua and get on our mailing list or join our Davis & Company group. There's lots of things you can do. We have a lot of good resources for communicators. And one of the things that's going to come out of this survey, so there will be a benefit to you in taking it, is that we're going to develop a smart guide. It's what we call our white papers. And we will report on, not only the results, but really try to help break through some of those challenges that people are finding in planning because it does make us those strategic advisors. It helps to give us a seat at the table. And I absolutely agree with what you said about keeping it short for the executives, because we know a lot of them really do have ADD. You can't keep them for more than that first page, but you might need the details that are behind it.

Chuck Gose: Thank you, Debra.

Debra Capua: Thanks. Thank you.

Chuck Gose: Yep. And then the last guest I want to bring up is Elizabeth Wang. Come on up.

Elizabeth Wang: I'm Elizabeth Wang. You've probably heard my southern drawl a little bit too much in the day and a half.

Chuck Gose: We first met at Connect two years ago. Why did you get involved, because it's not like you're already busy enough in your day job. But why was that important to volunteer as part of your profession?

Elizabeth Wang: Right, first of all, don't be scared that two years ago I was a new member, and this year I chaired the conference. But there may be one of you out there. I'm a believer in doing. I'm a believer in getting involved. I'm a believer in giving back to things that have given to me. And I needed to learn and grow. And I think the best way that you learn and grow is by doing. And someone said it earlier today or maybe yesterday, it was Becky, that when she first came to Connect, she felt like she had met her tribe. And I felt like that immediately. So I thought these are people who get me, who get what I do, who understand my struggles. Unlike anyone else that I interact with on a regular basis. And I thought these are people that are fun to be with, and they get me. And so why not look for more opportunities to spend more time with them? And the way to do that was then to volunteer?

Chuck Gose: And so what excites you about some of the growth specifically within our employee com section?

Elizabeth Wang: Well I think it's phenomenal how much growth has happened since I joined. And correlation there or I mean, causation, correlation. No. No. I shared it a little bit in my welcome comments yesterday. I can look at my career and just really see the importance of and the impact that we make. And I don't know that we are always recognized for it. And so if I can be a voice and an advocate for us both on the development side of giving us opportunities to learn and to develop our skills and get to where we are effective. But then also showcasing how we are effective and how we are making a difference. Then I've left our profession a little bit better than how I found it.

Chuck Gose: Well and you make a great point. So yeah, two years ago, we were sitting in the audience just like all of you are today. So you can obtain leadership. You can build those leadership skills and as you shared really get to work with a lot of fun people and be involved in that. What do you think people can look forward to next year for Connect?

Elizabeth Wang: Oh wow. The ideas are flying, so the conversations are really going. I think that the current leadership team and some of the new leaders are bringing incredible ideas. It really feels like we are gaining a lot of momentum. Gosh, do you want me to let some things out of the bag?

Chuck Gose: Well, that's up to you.

Elizabeth Wang: So, this was the first time we ever gave out a free registration for the next conference. I think that's something that we'll probably continue to do. There's a lot of discussion about needing an app for the conference. So that's something that I think we can find a partner to help us do that. Exciting keynotes that we're already looking into and having conversations about. So it's fabulous. And then an excuse to wear your boots.

Chuck Gose: True, in Nashville.

Elizabeth Wang: Who doesn't love that?

Chuck Gose: Success breeds success. There are so many new people here. A lot of people who've attended in the past who were not able to because it got sold out. In fact, I had a friend of mine who, when I heard it sold out, I reached out to her and said, "Did you sign up?" She was like, "Oh, no. I'll do that this week." I was like, "Sorry, too late." So we might make it a little bit bigger next year.

Elizabeth Wang: That's right. We are expanding a little bit.

Chuck Gose: Little bit.

Elizabeth Wang: Not a ton. It's still going to be important that when you see the registration link go out, it is still going to be important that you register quickly. I think that we could have easily sold 300 registrations for this year's conference, possibly more. And that's probably somewhere in the range of where next year's conference is going to land based on the venue that we've already selected and signed a contract with.

Chuck Gose: So yeah. So next year if you want to come back, sign up early. Tell your friends because you don't want to miss out. So thank you, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Wang: You're welcome.

Chuck Gose: So, that concludes our little experiment here. Hopefully this has been interesting to be a part of a podcast episode. Again, all I ask from you guys, if you are interested in learning more, connecting with your peers, ICology is just one of many resources out there. Connect with me on Twitter. Connect with me on LinkedIn. You might have seen on some of the screens, this is actually from a former colleague of mine at Rolls-Royce. She said this, "If internal coms is your passion, ICology is your podcast." I was like, "Heather, that's amazing. And I'm stealing it." So, that's now my intro. But it is my passion. ICology is my passion. People have asked me, "Like gosh, that sounds like it's a lot of work." I said, "No, I've made it work, because it matters to me."

So I want to thank all of you who have listened. If you haven't, you can search and listen to it. Go all the way back to the very first ones. I trust you, they've gotten better since then, because I've gotten better. And that's sort of the point with a lot of this. Sometimes you just have to get started. If you want to make improvements in your communication of your business, just get started. It can seem overwhelming, but once you start digging in, it's not that quite complex. Thanks, everybody.