What are effective ways of incorporating video into internal communications?

How internal communications can improve by using video technology.

Ian Cohen, Executive producer, Weber Shandwick

Aaron Heinrich, MD, San Francisco, Shift Communications

Brian Omlor, Lead creative, video, LaunchSquad

Leslie Pott, VP of global commercial comms, AstraZeneca

Abby Smith, Director of global employee comms, Cisco

Ian Cohen, executive producer, Weber Shandwick
Now more than ever dynamic content rules the day. Video in the social world is a game changer for internal communications.

Gone are the days of the boring newsletter or never-ending PowerPoint deck. Today, it's all about bringing employees' work to life, creating better connections and unifying workforces.

  • Celebrate great work. Extend a campaign's reach internally through video. This is a chance to showcase visually the success and results of a program. Video can serve as a powerful medium to share accomplishments, instead of resorting to the same old PowerPoint slide.
  • Connect employees to company mission and values. Use video to create passion for initiatives such as branding, CSR, and major corporate announcements. By bringing an organization's culture to life, videos can inspire employees and teams.
  • Unify and localize global offices. No matter where in the world you sit and what division you work for, communication through video can create the feeling of a single, global office. Sharing announcements via video human-izes colleagues, reflects local culture, and moves beyond colleagues as email aliases. Using video for internal communications is still nascent, but the Web and technology are making the creation and distribution a mere click away. What's next? Live, streaming video for all internal communications. Stay tuned.

Aaron Heinrich, MD, San Francisco, Shift Communications
Unless you went to film school or spent your career or college life in broadcast journa-lism, most communicators learn to write for print.

Yet the popularity of YouTube and the interest in visual storytelling is demanding otherwise. This is as true for internal communications as it is for external.

Most heads of internal communications resist the use of video because they think it is too expensive, will take too much time, or feel there's a lack of content control. But the simplicity and inexpensive price of existing technology, combined with being very clear about what you want video to do, will typically erase all of the above.

Simply making cameras available to executives can help them go from writing internal blogs to recording vlogs. Shooting on simple cameras is easy, editing is simple to non-existent, and the end result is more interesting. Since the emphasis is on creating a more personal communication channel, there is little to no additional investment in production equipment and staff.

Some key things to keep in mind are to keep video communications short and informative. When videos exceed three minutes, you're likely to lose people.

Freemium software applications such as Animoto that incorporate still photos and video into pre-designed templates set to music are an alternative option than straight video. While this takes a bit more time to learn, the end result is often more dynamic.

Video content can be as varied as the tools used and include topics such as new policies and procedures, new products, quarterly achievements, and mergers and acquisitions. Regardless of the tools or content, visuals make a good story better.

Brian Omlor, lead creative, video, LaunchSquad
When learning about something new, would you rather read a document or watch a short video? It's a no-brainer, right? It's like the old adage: "show, don't tell."

That's why many companies are increasingly using video for internal communications. It allows for consistent messaging that's easy to distribute and resonates with everyone. It is important for companies to know how to make the most of the visual medium. There's no universal playbook; every company is different and online video is still evolving. Below is a quick rundown of some of the effective ways to use videos internally.

  • Training. Toss out the lengthy handbooks and stale corporate videotapes. Employees are far more likely to soak up mandatory information in the form of dynamic screencasts and animated tutorials.
  • Milestones. When big changes happen in your company, a cool video can keep everyone on the same page. For example, video can be an effective way of communicating about company rebranding, mergers, personnel shifts, and more.
  • News and culture. Employees tend to snooze their way through newsletters and crowded meetings. Videos are a great way to unite employees to show company culture and pride. In order to ensure that your video is a success, keep it short, succinct, and entertaining. If you enjoy watching it, chances are your employees will too.
  • Size matters. We've found that large companies have the most to gain using video for internal communications purposes. Video has an intimate quality that allows even giant corporations to weave a tight-knit, neighborly feel, which is often a challenge as they grow.

    That's not to say small firms can't also reap benefits. Our company still talks about last year's holiday video. It was fun, unruly, filled with inside jokes, and reminded us that we're a family.

Leslie Pott, VP of global commercial communications, AstraZeneca
AstraZeneca has thousands of employees in hundreds of markets around the world and it's a constant challenge to keep global leaders visible, aligned, and engaged with employees.

Many employees don't have the opportunity to create a personal connection with their leaders, and may not even recognize one if they ran into them on the street.

We recently launched a series of very simple three-minute videos in which country-level leaders talk informally about why they're proud to work at AstraZeneca and what they aspire to achieve in the future.

To keep it simple, we asked site communicators to prompt their local leader with, "What inspires you about working here?" They filmed responses with digital cameras and emailed their clips. The videos were edited together using Windows Live Movie Maker, a free tool, and a soundtrack was added from a stock-content website. The entire process cost next to nothing.

Our first video kicked off a WebEx leadership meeting with 130 leaders. It helped humanize a virtual event and set the right context: authentic, interactive, and rooted in personal storytelling. Despite sitting in conference rooms around the world, leaders engaged in a great online discussion, posing more than 40 questions via virtual chat. In a follow-up survey, more than three-quarters called the event engaging and interactive.

Afterward, we posted the video on our portal to help employees put names to faces and - more importantly - connect leaders with their personal stories. We're already working on more follow-up videos to launch monthly. 

Abby Smith, director of global employee communications, Cisco
Transforming a traditional all-hands meeting with 1,200 attendees in a large keynote hall into a virtual global meeting with the majority of employees online requires a leap of faith. "Trust me," we told our leadership team. Video, we promised, would make the meeting more dynamic, effective and increase employee participation.

For example, we could answer 10 times more questions from attendees during the meeting. Using video, rich media, and collaborative technologies to connect multiple sites around the world and streaming it on our own broadcast channel, we expanded the scale of the meeting and enhanced employee engagement. Using Cisco TelePresence, a high-definition, life-size video technology, we linked 10 global sites and remote speakers.

That was five years ago, and it was a resounding success with more than 10,000 employees attending virtually. "We'll never go back to the traditional meeting," CEO John Chambers said after the first meeting.

Today, video is used ubiquitously across Cisco's internal meetings to accommodate multiple time zones, address the "work anywhere" trend, and increase engagement and participation, while scaling the voices of our leadership team. We have started to incorporate live moderated chat and quizzes to encourage interaction and idea sharing among virtual attendees.

Of the 16,000 employees who attended our all-hands meeting last month, only a few hundred were in the room. More than half viewed the meeting on Cisco TV, and one-third watched a video replay. The event received a 93% favorability rating, and more than 360 questions were answered using collaborative moderated chat technology.

As video continues to converge on the IP network, Cisco has broken through traditional models to realize the future of internal communications and events, enabled by the use of video. Companies that don't have in-house video capabilities can engage third-party vendors such as On24 and Thomson Reuters to achieve similar results.

The Takeaway

  • Video is an excellent way for companies to share information with employees who live and work in various regions around the country or globe.
  • Video helps achieve consistent messaging that's easy to distribute and tends to resonate with all employees, as well as to humanize virtual events.
  • Video can be used to communicate about a variety of topics such as new company policies, products, quarterly earnings and achievements, and mergers and acquisition.

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