Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Using Video to Humanize the Leadership Team: Five Tips to Make It Easy

Video can be a great medium for helping employees feel a human connection with company leadership. We’re not talking about an-hour long presentation on finances. Try 60 to 90 second videos on topics that have some relevance to the culture of the company, like one of the values, or a new sustainability effort. Or maybe try a video that includes all the members of the leadership team answering the same few questions, from the business-related, like: “What’s the coolest project you’re working on right now?” to the personal: “Out of all our products, what’s your favorite?” or even “What was your first job ever?”

To get the most bang for the buck, it’s helpful to plan a series of videos and shoot them together. That might mean shooting six videos that are each a conversation with one member of the leadership team about how their function supports the vision of the company. The CFO will obviously have different answers from the CMO. Or it could mean creating a dozen videos that each include responses from several different members of the management team. Using the examples above, one video could have each one answering the coolest project question. Then the next video might be the one where they each talk about their favorite product. The other 10 videos could cover anything from how they see the values playing out in their everyday work to how each of their functions helps the company be more customer-centric.

Here are a handful of tips to make leadership videos simple and affordable:

1. Prepare carefully. If you plan to produce 10 videos, you might want to develop ideas for 12 or 14, in case one or two don’t pan out. For each video you plan to produce, have the questions prepared ahead of time. Sometimes it helps to give the people you’ll be shooting the questions beforehand so they can begin formulating answers. Think through the edit and create your shot list. Know how you plan to cut the footage together so you make sure to cover everything you’ll need to shoot.

2. Position the interviewer off camera. Rather than a talk-show setup with an on-camera interviewer, keep it simple. Keep the interviewer off camera, and cut that person’s questions out later. The interviewer is there just to prompt the interviewees to cover the desired topics.

3. Use a green screen. Especially if you’ll be shooting leadership in different locations, this allows you to keep the lighting similar and slip in any background you want. Just position the green screen far enough behind the interviewee that the green won’t reflect on their skin.

4. Have a second camera. This can be a locked-down camera on a tripod without a camera operator. The purpose of this footage is to provide cutaway shots, particularly when you’re planning to use just one person in each video.

5. Be efficient with your executives’ time. Even if you’re shooting a dozen videos with six or eight different members of the leadership team, try to get the footage you need in under 30 minutes for each of them. In most cases, it should take less than that.

Interested in producing a series of leadership videos? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

3 Tips for a Successful Culture Magazine

Culture magazines are a great resource for communicating across a multitude of functions and geography. Internal magazines are opportunities to bridge silos, create shared pride and boost recognition, all of which contribute to higher employee engagement.

At Tribe, we’ve created culture magazines for clients across industries ranging from consumer products to aviation to fashion. Especially in manufacturing, retail and other non-desk populations, magazines enable the company to make these frontline employees visible and even recognized as heroes throughout the organization.

Often produced as a quarterly publication, culture magazines don’t have to be a daunting or budget-busting. Here are three simple tips to keep your magazine on track.

  1. Develop an editorial plan. Establishing reoccurring topics and themes for each issue will take a load off the planning process at the beginning of each issue. Think through your messaging and communication goals for the publication, and be sure to work each of them into the plan. Allow for flexibility by including a feature story, but we would recommend at least three basics, like employee spotlights, leadership Q&A or wellness and volunteerism updates.
  1. Appoint an editorial board. This simple task has been a life-saver in ongoing magazines Tribe has produced in the past. At the start of each new issue, gather your established team composed of people from across different segments of the organization. All it takes is one organized conference call to discuss potential stories and features for the upcoming issue. By the time the call ends, you should have your identified editorial plan for the next issue, and the correct contacts to start producing the content.
  1. Keep revisions to a minimum. For best, and most efficient results, collaborate on the front end of the magazine, not the back end. A large part of this helpful hint is cutting down on the number of reviewers themselves. Once the articles are written and the issue is put into design, keep the circle as tight as possible. Multiple rounds of revisions can do damage to your timeline, and as a result, impact the budget.

Interested in developing a culture magazine? Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Engaging Financial Communications: Include Employees in the Story

Business chart with glowing arrows and world mapHow do we get employees engaged in corporate earnings announcements? The quarterly hand-wringing is loud enough to be heard outside just about every Fortune 500 company.

Short of learning if they’re more likely to get a bonus or get laid off, there’s very limited interest from the average employee without a C or VP in their job title. The language and terminology used when reporting financials to employees tends to be the same language that companies use when they’re reporting to shareholders and analysts. The trends and numbers that are reported tend to be high-level or global numbers that can be very hard for someone down in the business to understand or relate to.

Connection to the vision. Quarterly financial reporting is an opportunity to highlight progress toward company goals. If your company has a well-documented vision or business strategy, this is a great time to help employees connect the dots between the vision or strategy and financial performance.

We tend to be fans of teams. Professional baseball fans understand that their team is part of Major League Baseball, and they’re always happy to hear that the league is doing well. But they get animated about their team’s performance. Did they win last night? Will they make the playoffs? Will they finally get to the world series? Are they trading for the pitcher or batter that’s going to get them over the hump?

Companies are all about teams. Look for creative ways to bring the financial conversation down from corporate or global level to the team level. By segmenting the financial reports toward divisions or departments – smaller teams – within the organization, it becomes easier for employees to relate to the results. That can help them cheer on good news or to dig in and work harder if results were less than expected.

Connecting high-level financials to team or individual performance requires both creativity and a pretty deep understanding of company goals and departmental contributions. This doesn’t have to be an exact science. It’s simply a mindset of connecting actions and contributions of employees and team members to financial results. When you include employees in the financial conversation in more relevant ways, they’ll inevitably begin to care more deeply about the results.

Interested in connecting employee actions to financial results in your organization? Tribe can help.

Brittany Walker

Three easy ways to improve your intranet

Your company’s intranet should be a reflection of its culture. Culture is not only about your mission, vision, values, logo and formal rituals, but it also includes employee beliefs about the company, myths and ancillary symbols that develop over time. Reviewing your intranet should shed some light on the intangible areas of your company’s culture. Analyzing your site doesn’t need to be a formal process, but by taking some time and reviewing a few basic elements, you will also gain a better understanding of your culture.

1. Site design should be reflective of your external brand and your desired internal culture.  Look at the design element of your internet and intranet.  Are they of the same quality? Do they look similar?  Does it appear that the company invested in both? Does your intranet reflect your desired culture in terms of being fun or potentially a more formal culture? If the answer to some of these questions is no, it may be a good time to improve the design.

2. If work/life balance is something your company values, give employees the opportunity to share information about their personality on the site. Rich employee profiles are a great way for employees to connect on a more personal level and improve their working relationships with co-workers. The underlying message that employees will receive is that the company cares about them as individuals, not just for the skill set they bring to the company.

3. Review your values, culture attributes and other brand elements to see if they are reflected in the site. Your intranet is a great tool to communicate and sustain elements of your brand, which in turn help develop your culture.  Look for interactive ways such as spotlighting employees that live your values or promoting events on the site that help build camaraderie.

Do you have other ideas of how to analyze your intranet for insights on your culture?  Tribe can help.

Steve Baskin

Communicating Vision and Values: Give Your Employees Something to Do

Businessman opening hands

Tribe does a great deal of work communicating corporate vision and values. Quite often, the vision includes a grand statement about becoming the biggest, the best, the safest, the broadest, the fastest, the most caring company in the business. And while we’re becoming the “est”, let’s have integrity, passion and be innovative. That’s all fine. We all want to be the best at what we do and exude expected values while we’re doing it.

The problem with these broad goals and statements is that it doesn’t tell your employees what it has to do with them. If we’re communicating with employees and want them to engage in the conversation, we have to give them something to do.

Employee communications should provide instructions on what employees can do to contribute to the goal. When we talk about becoming the best in our industry, we take the ball out of employees’ hands since they can’t control what the competition is doing. When we can’t control or change the outcome with our actions, we’ll tend to ignore the communication and assume that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

Achieving broader company goals – or the company vision – doesn’t magically happen. It’s typically the result of the successful execution of internal business strategies. So when we’re communicating with employees, it’s important to be as specific as possible about what they’re supposed to do. They should be able to internalize the communication to understand how their actions should change after seeing/reading the communication.

Therefore, when we’re communicating corporate vision and values, it’s not enough to print a poster with the vision or send an email from the CEO that states the values. It’s a start, but we also have to provide context of how we’re going to achieve the vision or examples of how the values show up within the company.

Need help communicating Vision and Values inside your organization? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Authentic CEO Communications That Are Super Easy On the CEO’s Calendar

tCEOs are busy. They don’t always have the time, or the inclination, to pen their own material for employee communications. Having a leadership blog or letter to employees ghost-written by someone else, whether an internal communications professional or an agency, is a commonly accepted solution to that challenge.

But employees can smell fake a mile away. I was once in an elevator in a large corporation with the CEO’s latest blog posted on the wall. It was a nicely designed piece, with a photo of the smiling executive. Two employees who happened to be sharing the same elevator were chuckling at the ruse. “Oh yeah, like he really wrote that.” I glanced at the copy, and agreed with them. It read like a press release that had been revised by committee.

Yet it’s important to employees to know what the CEO is thinking. They want to know that he or she has a vision, that there’s a plan for the company’s future, that the work that they’re doing in their individual jobs contributes to some greater plan for success.

At Tribe, we’ve found a few ways around this conundrum. They all can be achieved with a very small chunk of time in the CEO’s calendar and result in authentic communications employees can trust. They also don’t require huge budgets.

1. The Q&A: This is the simplest possible solution. Rather than guessing what the CEO is thinking, just ask. Tribe has used this method for several clients on a quarterly basis. Here’s just how easy it is to do:

  1. Book 20-30 minutes on the CEO’s calendar once a quarter for a phone call
  2. Prepare a handful of questions related to the company vision, one of the values, a current business challenge or strategic objective
  3. Have a nice conversation with the CEO and record it (We usually use an iPhone and the Voice Memos app)
  4. Have the conversation transcribed (We use a professional transcriber, but any intern could handle it)
  5. Construct a Q&A column using quotes from the transcript (Most CEOs appreciate you cleaning up any stumbles or grammar faux pas)
  6. Have the CEO review it, make any minor tweaks, and you’re done

2. Leadership Video: Tribe recently shot a year’s worth of monthly videos in one day, requiring about 20 minutes per member of the leadership team. The CEO was interviewed on all 12 subjects, but that took only about an hour of his time. We covered everything from the Vision and Values to building a customer-centric culture to the balance between people and technology. That gave us enough material for more than a dozen ninety-second videos, each featuring the CEO and several other members of the leadership team commenting on the same theme. (We have a Tribe person off camera doing the interviewing, and then of course delete all that in the edit.)

3. Podcasts: If you don’t have the budget to shoot video, or if your CEO is shy about being on camera, use the same process above to record audio rather than video. Edit into short podcasts you can post on your intranet or email to employees.

Interested in trying some new forms of leadership communications? Tribe can help.

 

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Connect Employees to Something Bigger by Telling the Company Story

Do your employees feel like they’re helping to write the story of the company? Perhaps the most important goal of internal communications is to help employees see how their individual roles connect to the big picture. They need to connect the dots between the work they do every single day and the success of the company.

The company story can be an invitation for employees and prospects to join the experience. Make the story relevant for corporate employees but also those in the manufacturing facilities, distribution centers and other production jobs. People on the factory floor should know that they’re creating a product that provides people with something that makes their lives better in some way.

Look for the golden thread of purpose that has always run throughout the company’s history. Although business strategies and even the organization of the business may have changed dramatically since the beginning, there’s likely a perennial purpose that’s been there year after year. For instance, an IT company may be using entirely different technology and providing new sorts of services than it was even a few years ago. But look for the reason why the company exists, the need it fills for its clients. In that example, maybe the company purpose is and was to help clients’ technology work flawlessly so they can focus on their own business instead.

What channels would you use to tell the company story? Tribe often creates what we call vision books for clients, in which we help the company articulate the vision and values of the company. This is an ideal tool for telling the company story, for a variety of reasons.

The company narrative can also be told in almost any other channel. Tell it in the employee magazine, on the intranet, as part of a company anniversary event. We’ve even incorporated colorful gems of company history in digital signage.

The importance of the story is that it connects employees to something larger than themselves. Being an integral part of the whole makes work more meaningful, and more meaningful work builds employee engagement.

Interested in telling your company’s story? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

What Can Communications Professionals Do If Their Company Isn’t Already a “Chill Place?”

iStock_000088161219_skate“If your company  is a chill place, you won’t have to talk about it. It will be obvious the minute you walk in the door.” Could not agree more. The above is from Liz Ryan, author of a fantastic Forbes blog  titled “Please God, Can We Stop Talking About ‘Core Values?'”

“A lot of corporate and institutional weenies love to talk about Core Values, as though their organization’s values were somehow fundamentally different from every other organization’s values.” That’s another scathing but awesome line from her blog.

And this, perhaps, is my favorite bit: “I assume you lead your company with a human voice and choose trust over fear at every opportunity. If you do those things, you don’t need to stop and plumb the depths of your Core Values.” All of the above and more from her post is excellent advice for the CEO and his or her leadership team.

But what if you’re charged with communicating culture to employees in a company that isn’t totally chill? How can you help shift the culture towards what Ryan calls a “human place.”

The best thing you can do is to lead from where you are. Start your communications strategies from a place of respect for employees. Be the voice in the meeting that speaks up for being  honest with employees, even when it’s difficult. Put communication channels in place that give employees a way to share questions, concerns and comments — and then create systems for giving those employees a response. Advise your leadership to take the high road, even when that’s not what they want to hear.

While this is decidedly more difficult than working with a company that already has an enviable culture, it may have a more powerful impact on the world. As the bumper sticker version of Ghandi’s words says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Want a partner in helping to shift the culture at your company? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Making Your Vision and Values Actionable for Employees

iStock_000056231554_MediumIf your company has communicated its vision and values to employees, you’re way ahead of the game. Outlining what the company is trying to achieve and articulating the values intended to guide the business is a huge step.

But just because you’ve shared the words doesn’t mean you’ve finished the job. To truly create alignment between employees actions and the company vision, you need to go further.

The next step is to help employees understand how they, as individuals, can help make that vision a reality. Do they know what part they play? Do they see the connection between what they do every day and the business goals of the company? Do the values seem relevant to them?

One of the best ways to achieve this is through concrete examples. Instead of telling employees what they should do, try showing them what it looks like to live the values and support the vision.

For instance, if you have an internal magazine, incorporate several employee spotlights in each issue. Take three or four real employees and interview them about how they see their job supporting the vision, and how they put the company values to work in their day-to-day work. Include photography, so other employees get to see people like them, in roles like their own, being treated like heroes.

One benefit of this sort of communication is giving recognition. Employees who approach their work with an eye to how it contributes to the overall success of the company certainly deserve all the recognition they can get.

The other benefit, and perhaps the more important one, is modeling the desired behavior for employees throughout the company. When you let employees tell their stories, giving specific examples of times they’ve applied the values in their work, or explaining in down-to-earth terms how they see their work contributing to the vision, it helps other employees get it. It enables them to take the lofty language that is common to company visions and values and apply it to real-world situations.

That’s when the magic happens. When employees make that connection between what they do at work and something bigger than themselves, that’s when you get alignment. When you’ve got alignment between how employees are working and where the company wants to go, you improve on measures that really count. Engagement, productivity, retention, profitability and of course, the bottom line.

Interested in building your alignment? Tribe can help.

 

 

Steve Baskin

Being The Best In Your Category Or Industry Is A Lot Like Being A Major League Pitcher

Baseball Pic 2I’m in awe of Major League pitchers who can throw the baseball a hundred miles per hour. A few years ago, I was at an expo at a sponsorship event and stepped into a pitching cage to see how fast I could throw a ball. I’m not completely un-athletic. But for me, sport is more about endurance than bat and ball types of things.

After lobbing the ball a few times to get warmed up, I wind up for the real thing. Forty-seven miles per hour. That couldn’t be right. So I wind up and give it everything I’ve got. Forty-six miles per hour. And now I have a newfound respect for major league hurlers.

So how does a major league pitcher make a ball fly at a hundred miles per hour and consistently hit an inches-wide target that’s ninety feet away? First, he practices pitching over and over for years and years. Then coaches and trainers meticulously hone his pitcher’s movements to ensure absolutely perfect form that won’t break down under pressure. Finally, and probably most importantly, the pitcher calls on every part of his body to participate in the process.

Sportscasters say, “that pitcher has a great arm.” But it’s not just the arm that throws the ball. Fingers have to hold onto and release the ball. The shoulder has to power the arm. The spine and hips have to generate torque to whip the arm around. The legs have to provide that forward propulsion for the movement.

The lungs can’t be seen from the stands, but if the pitcher couldn’t get air in him he wouldn’t be able to throw the ball. In fact, he’d die. The same is true with veins, arteries, blood and just about every other part of the body.

It’s a very similar story when we think about how high-performing teams deliver the brand experience at the best companies. There are front-line people delivering a service or selling the product. Typically, someone with a great pitch. But as important as they are, front-line employees are just the final connection to the customer.

Without the rest of the company, the brand experience falls completely apart. Someone invented the product or service. Someone figured out the operations requirements for building the product. Some actually worked on the assembly line or sewed on buttons. Someone made sure that the plant or office is a comfortable and safe place to work. Accounting figured out how to bill the customer so that employees could get paid and everyone would actually show up for work.

While the connection is not always obvious, everyone in the company has a role in the customer or brand experience. Everyone in the company contributes to making the product as good as it can be. Companies work at their peak when every part of the organization understands how his or her individual actions contribute to the company’s success.

Interested in communications that get every employee in the company aligned with your goals? Tribe can help.