Feature Story

Now Playing on the Intranet: Video for Internal Communications

by Kristi Essick

Internal communications professionals are always looking for ways to get time-strapped employees to pay attention to company news. Today, enterprise social media tools have turned internal communications into a two-way dialogue, allowing employees to participate in discussions, share ideas, and ask questions.

Internal communications (IC) professionals are always looking for ways to get time-strapped employees to pay attention to company news. The rise of the intranet a decade ago made it easier for IC teams to distribute information – eliminating many in-person meetings, handouts, and emails – but getting users to regularly log onto these systems  proved challenging. Today, enterprise social media tools have turned internal communications into a two-way dialogue, allowing employees to participate in discussions, share ideas, and ask questions. But these new social platforms still suffer from "logon fatigue" – with many employees too busy to regularly check in.

One of the best ways communicators have found to get people's attention is video. A recent study from UK-based research firm Melcrum found that 93% of IC teams now see video as an important tool, with two-thirds of respondents planning increase their budgets for video in the coming months. More than 54% of IC professionals said their employees now expect to see video inside the organization.

When faced with the choice of reading through long documents or watching a short video, employees almost always choose the later, says David Jackel, partner at Boston-based corporate video production company Shave Media. The company helped Genzyme create internal communications videos to explain important changes in the regulatory environment, as well as created a series of videos for Microsoft intended to communicate a unified sales message to several different business units.

"Video is a powerful tool for internal communicatons because it allows companies to engage with their entire organization through uniform messaging that's much more compelling than an email," says Jackel. "Recipients of internal communications videos are more likely to fully absorb the intended message than they would through more traditional media."

Many Uses for Video

IC teams use videos internally in many ways, from communicating company directives, to addressing compliance and regulatory issues, to providing online training. Many organizations also leverage the emotional power of video to boost employee morale. Instead of distributing a printed employee newsletter, companies produce uplifting videos to highlight the work of a specific employee or department, encourage people to volunteer, or just share images from the company picnic. A few companies are also experimenting with allowing employees to post their own videos, according to the Melcrum study.

A few ways companies use internal videos include:

  • All-hands meetings
  • Sales kick-off meetings
  • Training and e-learning CEO speeches
  • Video newsletters
  • Communicating company values
  • Safety and compliance training
  • Entertainment and perks

Video is also an efficient way for large organizations to distribute messages globally. Instead of having to prepare dozens of documents in various languages, IC teams can film their CEO addressing the entire workforce, adding subtitles if necessary. Multinationals like Boeing, McKesson, AT&T, and IBM have experimented widely with internal corporate video, producing everything from training videos to feel-good viral hits geared toward employees and the public alike.

But not just any video will resonate with employees. IC videos have to be interesting and well-produced, or employees won't watch them; a dull video of a talking head or a laborious training video well test anyone's patience. Here are a few examples of how to get IC videos right.

Short and sweet. Microsoft Services Asia, came up with a novel way to get employees to watch a weekly video from the IC team, creating a regular video podcasts called "5-Minute Friday." The IC team had fun shooting the videos, which they produced a sort of mini-series- starting each episode with a jingle and montage of employee photos, and then launching into a specific topic each week. 5-Minute Friday arrives in the inboxes of 4,000 employees across Asia each Friday morning at 9 am.

Engaging. IBM uses video to communicate internally about training and staff meetings, and to share marketing messages, video whitepapers, and corporate presentations. IBM's trick to get people to watch these videos? Make them lively and include concrete, valuable information of interest to the viewer. Almost any video is more engaging than a long document or slide presentation, but you can make videos even more engaging by adding humor, comics, or music – anything to grab the viewer's attention and get them to keep watching.

Easy to find. There's no sense producing great videos if they're buried where no one will watch them. Try different distribution strategies, such as via email, on kiosks scattered throughout your headquarters, or via your enterprise social networking platform. AirBus launched an IC video program to communicate corporate messages to its globally-dispered workforce. AirBus ran videos - from CEO addresses to maiden flights - on its intranet, but also on hundreds of "Airbus TV" kiosks in offices and on factory floors around the world. The company's goal was for everyone to see the videos, not just office-based employees, but according to Laurent Fradin, Head of Web and Images at Airbus.

Online video is quickly becoming of everyday life, with people watching videos on their smartphones, tablets, PCs, and streamed onto TVs. In today's video-saturated world, IC professionals need to start thinking of their employees as an "audience". If you can deliver a message in an entertaining way, your employees won't just be better informed, but will be more engaged in their job.

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