Ep #46, Edward Ford, with Verizon
Communicators know they need to make more videos for internal communications but there are a lot of questions communicators need to answer. Here's at least three of them:
- What kind of video?
- How often to produce them?
- How to get employees to watch them?
On this episode of ICology, listen to Edward Ford from Verizon about their internal video news program they produce on a daily basis. Edward is the enterprise community manager at Verizon's headquarters in Baskin Ridge, NJ. He's one of four communicators who hosts the daily program called "Up To Speed." Edward shares their process for creating the videos, how they select the news items featured and who gets to be on the daily video.
The focus for Verizon was to create content in a new way for employees who can be "up to speed" with corporate content in just a few minutes. It's a great lesson for other communicators who looking to create snackable content for employees who are on the go and desk-based. The videos get posted on VZWeb, the company's enterprise social network. The team is able to track all of the analytics and comments to measure success and figure out which content gets the most feedback.
And appearing on the videos has given this internal communication team a bit of celebrity status within the company, being recognized by leaders and employees across the company.
Chuck Gose: Hello. I'm Chuck Gose, the host of ICology. Thanks for listening to this episode. Join me in Las Vegas, March 28 through 29th for ALI conference's Digital Workplace Summit. I'm chairing the event and I've worked with ALI to assemble truly an all-star lineup of speakers. We have past guests of ICology, Julia Markish, Kristin Hancock and Liz Jurewicz will be there, along with communicators from the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Southwest Airlines, American Express and Verizon - also today's guest.
Go to learnICology.com/vegas. You'll find everything you need to register.
All kinds of data point to communicators doing more video. And this really started back in 2015, maybe even before that and has been on the rise since. But I think the bigger question is, what kind of video are you going to do?
We know people like video to still be of good quality, but we don't need the high production value and fancy sets. And dear God, please no green screen. All your employees want is great content and they want content that's going to help them in their job, and possibly even entertain them.
I think our guest today has grabbed on to both for this strategy. So I want to welcome to the show Edward Ford, the Enterprise Community Manager at Verizon. Edward, welcome to ICology.
Edward Ford: Chuck, thank you so much for having me. I'm real excited to be here today.
Chuck: So, I'm beginning to introduce guests in a new way and I'm completely copying this off of another podcast called, "Tell Me Something I Don't Know." Here's what I do know about you, Edward. You've worked in the past at SMP Global and Thompson Reuters before joining Verizon. You have twin girls. You like ramen. You're a BC grad. And I think secretly you're my best friend. So, tell me something that I don't know about you, Edward.
Edward: All right, so here's something that you may not know about me. Actually goes back to my BC days. I actually sang in the Boston College Gospel Choir which is called "The Voices of Imani."
A funny story about that is, my freshman year one of the fellow members of the choir, he was also on the basketball team. So at our Spring concert, he was at his basketball end of year banquet, so I had to fill in and sing his solo. Literally in the middle of me singing his solo, he walked in. So we ended up doing a duet on his song.
There's something that you don't know.
Chuck: I think what I just heard there Edward is that in Vegas we might be doing a duet.
Edward: Let's do it! I'm ready.
Chuck: I think that's what I inferred from that story. Okay. You've been at Verizon now for a little over two years. What are some of the changes in communication you've seen take place there at the company?
Edward: I think that there's been a few changes. I think we've changed our style a bit. We've become a little bit more relaxed. We talk a lot about communicating to people in what we try to call "snackable content." Just getting to the point very quick, short, very conversational with employees so that they can quickly understand what it is - the key messages are and can kind of move on their day
I think a lot of times we get wrapped up in thinking that our content is like a destination for people. Often people are just trying to get in and get out as quickly as possible. We're trying to help them do that by being as short and to the point as possible. I think the other thing and we'll talk a little bit more about this, but I think making greater use of video to tell the story and to really connect with people is another focus for us.
It's kind of taken on two forms. We've done more on the production side - not just me but really the entire team. More higher end productions and I think we've also really tried to do this stand-up type of style. Real quick hitters that are on the lower end of the production value, but really bring in the vitality of seeing your colleagues and seeing what they're doing and what's some of the things that the business is rolling out. I think both of those things have been positive changes for us.
Chuck: I really like that term, "snackable," because I think that gives people a nice visual of sort of an amount of content. Because I think you're right. Sometimes communicators can dump too much or do a little bit more overload in content. And that is a nice segue because in the past I've seen you speak at events and you talk about the video program you guys have called, "Up to Speed."
Why don't you share with listeners some of the origins of that so they get a sense for what Up to Speed is.
Edward: Absolutely, so Up to Speed has taken Verizon by storm. It really just started as an idea to get folks keyed in on some of the top stories that are on our Intranet which is called, "VZWeb."
It was started actually with my colleague Jeremy standing up and recapping some of the top news. As it gained some steam, we added more of our team members to host Up to Speed. Usually two of us now will host each episode. It's myself as I mentioned, Jeremy Godwin, another colleague of mine. Kenny Regner and Shravya Gejala. The four of us kind of rotate and we again just recap some of the top stories and news that is going on on VZWeb or in our industry.
It's quick, so it's a pretty short piece. We usually are somewhere between 90 seconds to two minutes. In and out. Then we do other things to tie in. We'll talk about if there are new products that we're rolling out. We'll have leaders or product owners come on and we'll do really quick-hitter interviews with them.
It really grew from this desire to make sure that people knew what was going on with the company. Now it's really grown into a destination where people can go to get a snapshot on the big news for the day.
Chuck: Let's talk about some of the logistics that you touched on. I assume you guys work off of some sort of editorial calendar. So talk a little bit about that. Who produces it? You mentioned the four - you and three other colleagues that are on the show. How do you decide who gets to be on camera? I know you're not shy about being on there and I'm sure the other ones aren't either. Talk a little bit about some of the logistics of "Up to Speed."
Edward: "Up to Speed" is a daily production, so we will shoot it each day and it airs first thing in the morning or we post it I should say first thing in the morning. An email goes out to all of our employees as well with a link to the content. From a production standpoint, it's one camera. Initially I think we started actually shooting it on an iPhone. It was really kind of minimal in terms of production.
Now we have lights and because we have a studio here, so we do light ourselves now. But it's still just one camera and we will put in additional shots. We'll edit in B-roll from either the articles or if there are other kind of more produced video pieces as a part of it. We will put those in there as B-roll. But that part of it is pretty straight forward.
In terms of the scripting of it, we usually will sit down and write a script. Again it's all driven from what's happening on VZWeb, our Intranet. We'll look there and see what some of the top stories are. We have some standing features that feature stories from employees. Those are kind of evergreen ones that we can put in there from time to time as well. That drives it. We usually have a sense for what's coming up each day and we'll pull from that as we build the script.
As I mentioned, we do write a script, but it's really more so of a guide. We try to let our personalities come through. Again, keeping it really conversational and interpersonal. I think that's helped us because it's allowed us to develop a relationship with the audience. We see that in the comments. People comment and they, as much as they're commenting about the news that we're covering, they're also commenting and really conversing as us as the hosts so that they connect with different aspects of our own personality that we try to bring through as we talk about whatever's happening at Verizon.
It's really fun and in terms of who appears, we just try to rotate it from a scheduling standpoint. This is not the only thing that any of myself or my three other colleagues, that appear on Up to Speed do. So it's really a scheduling thing of who has meetings in the after ... whenever we're shooting. Who's available to be on camera for that day. We try to even it out so that we're all appearing on it two to three times a week.
Chuck: It sounds like given this visibility, probably the four of you become somewhat corporate celebrities I would imagine at Verizon where people see you almost every day.
Edward: Yes. It is, we are recognizable at this point. As I mentioned, the email goes out and we usually have some type of behind the scenes photo of us while we're shooting. So people are seeing our faces and I have noticed now when we'll have company events, or even just walking around the halls ... I'm based here in New Jersey. My face and that of my colleagues is recognizable to people. That has been interesting as well to say the least.
Chuck: As you know, the great thing about video is that it's measurable. I'm curious how do you measure and do you know what type of content will get the most views? Or like you just shared, even get more people commenting on the videos.
Edward: Measurement is something that's really important to me personally and really to the entire team. We do look at how what we're tracking in terms of what we're tracking for Up to Speed. So of course we look at some of the baseline data in terms of views on the video and the article that houses it. We also look at the comments that come in. So the number of comments is an indicator of engagement for us. Taking it kind of one step further.
In addition to that we do look through the comments and see what the engagement is. It does vary. Sometimes the comments are directed to us, where people are engaging with us and some of the things that we've sprinkled in. In addition, we also will hear comments on whatever business initiatives we're covering and responses, excitement about that.
The last piece we've seen in the comments, we've actually done this to drive some of the engagement, is we've done some giveaways. We did a whole slew of giveaways running up into the holidays. This was strategic in terms of promoting some of the products that we sell at our stores and really educating employees about what these various products do. But we made as a way to enter people to use comments.
So obviously we saw a tremendous spike in the volume of comments that were coming through. The interesting thing was it was almost like the engagement with us kind of took a back seat because people were talking about the products. I know that I speak for the rest of my Up to Speed colleagues, we were excited to get through that because we wanted to have that kind of dialog that we had developed with talking to folks in the past.
Some of the things that we've learned from looking at the numbers is that Up to Speed drives a tremendous amount of viewership in VZWeb. So it's become a vehicle, a primary vehicle to communicate important top-line messages to employees. The numbers have shown us that in terms of the engagement. If you look at it on a weekly basis, Up to Speed is usually, as a franchise or series, one of the most viewed items on VZWeb.
The measurement has told us that if there's something that's important that we really want to get out in front of a high number of employees, then it's something we can use Up to Speed to drive.
Chuck: I would imagine the company has to be absolutely thrilled to see employees on there talking about product.
Edward: Yeah, there's a lot of excitement because it's one of those things that, regardless of where you sit in the business, what level you are in terms of the organization, it's something that most people can relate to. There is a lot of excitement, particularly from leaders. I get calls now where maybe a year ago people would approach me about, "Hey, I want to get a story on VZWeb." Now they're approaching myself and my other colleagues and teammates saying, "Hey, how do it get this on Up to Speed?"
I think it's definitely become a cultural thing within Verizon which is pretty cool. I carry that with a lot of responsibility to make sure that folks are remaining informed about the business and that they can connect with the resources and information to help to extend whatever it is that we're doing.
Chuck: I've noticed that you've started sharing some of the Up to Speed teasers on your personal Twitter account and I'm curious is there any background of this? Is this some kind of employee advocacy side? Are you just teasing it to see if there's employees that are watching on Twitter? Give me a little background.
Edward: We have really been looking at how we can use Social to extend and connect with more employees and so we've said, "Hey, let's try to get this out to folks, via as many channels as possible." So as you mentioned we started posting these teasers on Twitter. It's been a lot of fun to be able to post them and we're starting to see engagement kind of pick up as we move on here. We've started putting some things up on Instagram as well. I know it's user ship is very heavy, in particular on our retail side, our employees in stores heavily use Instagram and the leaders in our markets use Instagram as well.
It's really just trying to connect with folks as much as possible and really get them access to this content. I think the other thing that's been really cool about Up to Speed and I think ties into this teaser in our own - using our own personal profiles is that people have connected with us and in as much as they learn about the news that's going on at the company, they also enjoy seeing us being excited about what's going on at Verizon. We get comments a lot on the Up to Speeds via email. People saying, "I love starting my day with you guys." So this is just another access point for people to be able to get that connection that when you're in a company that's almost 170,000 employees, that connection is invaluable.
Chuck: Your job ... You shared with us a little bit before about you and your other three colleagues, that this isn't all you do. So your job is more than just Up to Speed. So what else do you have going on or what are some of your other responsibilities there as Enterprise Community Manager?
Edward: When I joined Verizon it was really to roll out our Enterprise Social Network which is called Crowd Around and I continue to do that now. So we use that to be able to connect employees, have conversations and really transform business processes as well to the extent that folks can use that environment to work together better and more quickly to get their work done.
I continue to spend a lot of time nurturing our Enterprise Social Network. I also look at myself as telling the stories of the business, so in addition to Up to Speed, I am often doing stories via video, writing, et cetera, talking about what's going on in the business. It speaks to my background.
My background has a mix of straight employee communications in its most traditional and conventional sense, exploration with Social Media as well as just kind of a marketing background. I put all this together and really see myself as trying to better connect the organization, the people in this organization to each other so that we can get work done and shatter the hierarchies and the things that separate us, to come together as one Verizon.
I think that's really the charge that this whole team is working toward. As we're telling these stories, as we're out with employees, as we're doing events for the business, it's all with an eye to how do we bring people together, galvanize them so that we can really deliver to our customers in a unique and transcendent way.
Chuck: There might be some communicator listening to this episode and they might say, "That sounds great. I want to do that. I want to start my own version of Up to Speed for my company." Do you have any simple advice or tips that you'd want to share with them to help them get started?
Edward: Sure. I would say a couple of things. One is I would say start small so you don't need - some people get intimidated when they hear video. They think they need to have a DSLR camera or they need a set and lights and all this equipment. Audio microphones and everything. You don't need all of that. You can start real simple. People - we talked about this when we were last together, Chuck. You just take out your phone and scroll through any feed on a Social network and you're seeing video in your feed. And not just videos that necessarily need to be professionally produced. There's people live, Facebook Live, Periscope ... shooting things that are going on.
The expectation on the viewer side has kind of lowered and the barriers to entry from a production standpoint have lowered because you can do this literally on your smartphone. So I would say don't be intimidated on that front. Start small.
The other piece of advice that I'd have in terms of the delivery and the content is, be true to yourself and your organization. Obviously there's a range. Some people work in super-relaxed cultures. Some people work in more buttoned-up cultures, but I would say you're not communicating to an aspiration of a culture. You're really communicating to people. Under all those layers of our organizations, people at the other ends of those screens. So if you can talk to those people and really connect with them in a real way that's true to yourself, that will shine through in the video.
If you're getting started, those are the two things I would say to you as you take that journey.
Chuck: I think that the advice of starting simple - I know I shared some of that fear and I guess a little bit of intimidation even starting the podcast. Because of all the articles I read said, oh you know you need this software and this mixer and ... These $100 microphones and all this. In fact you don't. You can do that if you want, but you don't have to do that. So I think sometimes it's just getting started is sometimes the hardest part for people. Then once they start, then they can start playing and start adding and start buying.
I think that is great advice because a lot of times communicators are pretty good at throwing up roadblocks for themselves, so don't let that happen when you can get started so simply.
Edward: You'd be amazed what people will put up with if they connect with the message and what you're saying, what you're talking about. And then it's almost like you're building a case for yourself, right? So if you start doing something with your iPhone and people really love it and they're like, "Oh well it's a little blurry." Or whatever. Now you have a case to go to, and try to get some budget for, hey well in order to continue what we've started, we need x, y and z.
So you can almost start with what you have and then build a case for getting some of those other things to kind of step up your production value down the road. But it's not needed to get started though.
Chuck: That's great advice, Edward.
Chuck: Now we're gonna move along to the lightning round which is a chance for listeners to learn a little bit more about you.
Are you ready?
Edward: I'm ready. Let's do it.
Chuck: All right. First one up. A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
Edward: Whoo! This birthday weekend was lit! After-party in Antarctica, who's coming?
Chuck: What is your number one travel pet peeve?
Edward: Loud talkers. Keep it quiet in the cabin, please.
Chuck: What's a book that you recommend every communicator should read?
Edward: So I thought about this one and the book that I'm gonna recommend is "The Tipping Point," by Malcolm Gladwell. I don't know if someone else has mentioned this previously on the podcast. I don't recall hearing it, but the reason that I say this book is I read this book - I guess ... I might've still been an intern when this came out. I don't even remember.
But the thing that moved me about it was how to really create these movements and I apply that to internal communications because we all have these goals to really empower the organization and to the extent that you can get folks excited and passionate about the mission of the organization and the work that they're doing, it almost helps you do your job for you.
You don't have to be the one always rallying people. If you can excite people to rally themselves, that is huge and I think he talks about how to create these movements in "The Tipping Point."
Chuck: What's a tool that you rely on to make sense of your world? This could be an app, this could be a website, this could even be a hammer. What do you use, Edward?
Edward: I think that ... I go with a generic answer and I'll say my phone, but the reason I say that is because is because it's a gateway into so many different tools, right? I use everything literally this thing from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed. It's my alarm. I see what my commute is going to be like. I get my news and information from there. And so to me, the phone is really my gateway and my tool to really help me make sense of the world.
Chuck: And I've gotta say you're the first person to answer with their phone.
Edward: That's interesting.
Edward: You know what, I'm just thinking now it sounds pretty generic since I'm at Verizon that I said my phone, but that's really not the reason that I said that. So I just want to make that known.
Chuck: What is the best piece of advice you've ever received and do you remember who gave it to you?
Edward: The best piece of advice that I've received is from my dad and my dad always used to challenge me when I was a kid to think critically about whatever things you hear. Whether that's in a classroom and what the teacher's telling you ... I was a communications and history major, so that served me very well in my history major as you challenge different perspectives of a particular story and how it's being told. And it follows me to this day. Think critically about what it is that you're trying to do. Your goals and your objectives and how you're measuring to get there.
My dad has really rooted me in that and it's served me well throughout my life and my career.
Chuck: What's a final piece advice that you want to share with listeners. Now your chance to leave that lasting impression and on the podcast we've got obviously communicators that listen, but we also have business people that just want to get better at communicating. So what's your advice that you want to share with them?
Edward: So I would say this. I think employees are an important group of people and we need to look at them as a community of people. So instead of just kind of communicating at them or to them, I think it benefits us to give them a venue and the space to have conversations with us.
The extent to which our content, our videos, our events and even the tools that we bring into the organization, facilitate and foster those conversations, I think there's value in that. Because those are the conversations from which you can drive insights about where the organization is going, how employees are feeling, do they connect with the mission? Is there a disconnect? Is something not getting through? Those conversations can be rich.
I think fostering open conversation and dialog amongst employees within your organization is something we'd all be well served to do more of.
Chuck: That's a great message, Edward.
Edward: Thank you, man.
Chuck: So I did want to thank you now for coming on ICology, sharing this great internal video program that you and your coworkers are leading at Verizon. One of the things that I think makes it so great is that anybody can do it - in any market. We've got communicators in enterprises like yourself. We've got people that work in manufacturing. We've got people that work in healthcare, retail, other sort of corporate markets. So anybody can do this.
I will see you next month in Las Vegas, Edward.
Edward: Yes sir. We'll be out there. Chuck, I appreciate it. I'm a big ICology fan so thanks for having me on and it's been great.
Chuck: Visit learnICology.com to catch up on old episodes, get to know guests better, read blog posts, and check out events. Also all episode transcriptions are there.
And keep an eye out for Something Else, the video series where I ask the internal comms community a question and you provide the video answers. These are all at learnICology.com/somethingelse.
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