How to Launch an Internal Video-sharing Program
(I originally contributed this post to the July ‘12 edition of CW Bulletin by IABC - International Association of Business Communicators)
Today, communicators have so many options to choose from when delivering messages to their internal audiences. Email and web pages have been the norm for years, constituting the traditional “push” and “pull” communication models. But as technology has become more affordable and easier to use, online video has emerged as a dominant employee communication medium. 
Organizations should embrace online video for internal communications for many reasons. Here are some of the lessons I learned during my tenure at Microsoft, where I had the opportunity to launch and manage the company internal video-sharing platform called Academy Mobile.
Why you should care about video
Shel Holtz, ABC, IABC Fellow, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, said it best: “Face-to-face remains incredibly important, but not always practical. Video is the next-best thing, since you can still look in the speaker’s eyes, hear his voice and see his body language. It’s not the same as face-to-face, but it’s closer than anything else.” 
It’s because of this visual richness that many communicators are extra cautious before jumping with both feet into the online video pool. It requires more work to create a good video than to craft an email communique, and if something goes wrong, it’s easier to spot the spoiler. Good is not necessarily synonymous with expensive. Sometimes videos that were inexpensive to make can have the greatest impact. Authenticity trumps professional production, especially given how the YouTube phenomenon has trained our eyes to accept video that is far from broadcast quality at all times.
Video storytelling consultant Drew Keller outlines some of the basic qualities of “good” videos:
A concise, clear, focused message with a call to action
An emotional storyline that explains the situation, the problem and the solution
A prepared subject (as necessary) who is comfortable in front of a camera
A suitable environment for the shoot
A proper technical setup (lighting, sound, equipment)
Video production is both an art and a science, and I’d mistakenly oversimplify the matter if I argued that there is a one-size-fits-all formula that works for every organization and scenario. Instead, I’ll highlight how some organizations, including Microsoft, have adopted online video for internal communications.
Meet me now or watch me later
Online video can be delivered in two ways: in real time or on demand. Real-time videos require all parties to be present and engaged at the same time. Examples of real-time videos include a CEO town hall that is streamed live to all employees or a webinar where a presenter delivers an online demo to a virtual team of co-workers located around the world.
Cisco, which manufactures video networking gear, has fully embraced online video as part of its organizational culture. Many employees telecommute from home using unified communication desktop software and, for important meetings (including candidate interviews), there are high-definition telepresence systems available at various Cisco offices.
Wells Fargo bank has set up multiple studios in the U.S. to record regular company newscasts that are delivered daily to each employee’s desktop. The flagship program, called Take Five, is professionally produced by employees for employees and features different themes every day. They also operate mobile webcast stations that are deployed as needed to record presentations at various branches.
Live video events can further extend their reach when they are recorded and made available on-demand for later viewing. At Microsoft, we discovered that, on average, three times more people usually watch prerecorded live videos at their own leisure, often while doing other tasks like checking their email. They also often download the media on their mobile devices. This freedom to consume content anytime, anywhere and on any device is something that employees find valuable, as it fits well with their busy lifestyles.
The three pillars of a company video program
If your organization is seriously considering an internal video program, I suggest you start planning around three key pillars: infrastructure, business processes and adoption strategy.
Infrastructure is essential. Where are you going to put your videos? This is a difficult question because it usually requires the involvement of the IT department, which will inevitably bring up issues like bandwidth, storage, security and probably many other valid points. But don’t get discouraged too soon by these obstacles. My advice is to start first with a pilot program, nothing too scary or disruptive from the company intranet perspective. For example, there are external hosting services on the market that can securely store and distribute video within corporate domains, a solution that could alleviate some of your IT department’s technical concerns. 
Whatever platform you end up adopting, it should offer users the opportunity to easily comment, rate and share videos. In other words, your intranet should treat media as social tools capable of spurring conversations and not for just plain consumption.
The second pillar is about business processes. Now that you’ve got an empty platform, how are you going to fill it up with content? Depending on budget and resources, video could be produced internally or outsourced. Another option that we pursued at Microsoft was crowdsourcing directly from the workforce. Through a program called Podcast-in-a-Box, we distributed cameras, recorders and editing software to employees who committed to publish three new videos each month. After two years, this program alone generated more than 2,000 videos at an estimated cost of US$40 each. Of course, not all the videos were great, but this initiative helped consolidate the notion that online media was an integral element of the organization’s internal communication and knowledge sharing.
Even better, as our video platform increased in popularity, we noticed a healthy competition among executives to be among the first to launch regular video updates to their own teams. This trend also ignited a series of requests to set up individual video channels on our platform in order to provide proper branding to key contributors.
Finally, you should consider an internal adoption strategy. Now that you have the video content and a platform, how are you going to attract viewers? Online video should be promptly integrated into your communication rhythm. Lengthy executive memos can be converted into short text summaries that include an embedded video link. If your goal is to promote grassroots contributions, try launching a contest that sparks the creativity of your employees by asking them to make videos about subjects dear to them. Reward their efforts by featuring their best videos on your intranet and internal newsletters.
Just be aware that success will take some time. At Microsoft, it took a full year before our program reached the tipping point.
Online video can be quite an effective internal communication tool, if done correctly. As an internal communicator, you are in a unique position to experiment, learn and engage with this medium. Have fun with it and keep an eye on the increasing opportunity that smartphones and tablets will offer to reach your audience.

How to Launch an Internal Video-sharing Program

(I originally contributed this post to the July ‘12 edition of CW Bulletin by IABC - International Association of Business Communicators)

Today, communicators have so many options to choose from when delivering messages to their internal audiences. Email and web pages have been the norm for years, constituting the traditional “push” and “pull” communication models. But as technology has become more affordable and easier to use, online video has emerged as a dominant employee communication medium. 

Organizations should embrace online video for internal communications for many reasons. Here are some of the lessons I learned during my tenure at Microsoft, where I had the opportunity to launch and manage the company internal video-sharing platform called Academy Mobile.


Why you should care about video

Shel Holtz, ABC, IABC Fellow, principal of Holtz Communication + Technology, said it best: “Face-to-face remains incredibly important, but not always practical. Video is the next-best thing, since you can still look in the speaker’s eyes, hear his voice and see his body language. It’s not the same as face-to-face, but it’s closer than anything else.” 

It’s because of this visual richness that many communicators are extra cautious before jumping with both feet into the online video pool. It requires more work to create a good video than to craft an email communique, and if something goes wrong, it’s easier to spot the spoiler. Good is not necessarily synonymous with expensive. Sometimes videos that were inexpensive to make can have the greatest impact. Authenticity trumps professional production, especially given how the YouTube phenomenon has trained our eyes to accept video that is far from broadcast quality at all times.

Video storytelling consultant Drew Keller outlines some of the basic qualities of “good” videos:

  • A concise, clear, focused message with a call to action
  • An emotional storyline that explains the situation, the problem and the solution
  • A prepared subject (as necessary) who is comfortable in front of a camera
  • A suitable environment for the shoot
  • A proper technical setup (lighting, sound, equipment)

Video production is both an art and a science, and I’d mistakenly oversimplify the matter if I argued that there is a one-size-fits-all formula that works for every organization and scenario. Instead, I’ll highlight how some organizations, including Microsoft, have adopted online video for internal communications.


Meet me now or watch me later

Online video can be delivered in two ways: in real time or on demand. Real-time videos require all parties to be present and engaged at the same time. Examples of real-time videos include a CEO town hall that is streamed live to all employees or a webinar where a presenter delivers an online demo to a virtual team of co-workers located around the world.

Cisco, which manufactures video networking gear, has fully embraced online video as part of its organizational culture. Many employees telecommute from home using unified communication desktop software and, for important meetings (including candidate interviews), there are high-definition telepresence systems available at various Cisco offices.

Wells Fargo bank has set up multiple studios in the U.S. to record regular company newscasts that are delivered daily to each employee’s desktop. The flagship program, called Take Five, is professionally produced by employees for employees and features different themes every day. They also operate mobile webcast stations that are deployed as needed to record presentations at various branches.

Live video events can further extend their reach when they are recorded and made available on-demand for later viewing. At Microsoft, we discovered that, on average, three times more people usually watch prerecorded live videos at their own leisure, often while doing other tasks like checking their email. They also often download the media on their mobile devices. This freedom to consume content anytime, anywhere and on any device is something that employees find valuable, as it fits well with their busy lifestyles.


The three pillars of a company video program

If your organization is seriously considering an internal video program, I suggest you start planning around three key pillars: infrastructure, business processes and adoption strategy.

Infrastructure is essential. Where are you going to put your videos? This is a difficult question because it usually requires the involvement of the IT department, which will inevitably bring up issues like bandwidth, storage, security and probably many other valid points. But don’t get discouraged too soon by these obstacles. My advice is to start first with a pilot program, nothing too scary or disruptive from the company intranet perspective. For example, there are external hosting services on the market that can securely store and distribute video within corporate domains, a solution that could alleviate some of your IT department’s technical concerns. 

Whatever platform you end up adopting, it should offer users the opportunity to easily comment, rate and share videos. In other words, your intranet should treat media as social tools capable of spurring conversations and not for just plain consumption.

The second pillar is about business processes. Now that you’ve got an empty platform, how are you going to fill it up with content? Depending on budget and resources, video could be produced internally or outsourced. Another option that we pursued at Microsoft was crowdsourcing directly from the workforce. Through a program called Podcast-in-a-Box, we distributed cameras, recorders and editing software to employees who committed to publish three new videos each month. After two years, this program alone generated more than 2,000 videos at an estimated cost of US$40 each. Of course, not all the videos were great, but this initiative helped consolidate the notion that online media was an integral element of the organization’s internal communication and knowledge sharing.

Even better, as our video platform increased in popularity, we noticed a healthy competition among executives to be among the first to launch regular video updates to their own teams. This trend also ignited a series of requests to set up individual video channels on our platform in order to provide proper branding to key contributors.

Finally, you should consider an internal adoption strategy. Now that you have the video content and a platform, how are you going to attract viewers? Online video should be promptly integrated into your communication rhythm. Lengthy executive memos can be converted into short text summaries that include an embedded video link. If your goal is to promote grassroots contributions, try launching a contest that sparks the creativity of your employees by asking them to make videos about subjects dear to them. Reward their efforts by featuring their best videos on your intranet and internal newsletters.

Just be aware that success will take some time. At Microsoft, it took a full year before our program reached the tipping point.

Online video can be quite an effective internal communication tool, if done correctly. As an internal communicator, you are in a unique position to experiment, learn and engage with this medium. Have fun with it and keep an eye on the increasing opportunity that smartphones and tablets will offer to reach your audience.

The perfect date: Enterprise 2.0 meets Motivation 3.0

image

As more corporations finally embrace social media as a way to facilitate customer engagements, the notion of taking social media inside the firewall (also known as Enterprise 2.0) is getting more attention. Employees after all are consumers, and they may well benefit from tools that resemble the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia to improve their productivity at work. 

The benefits of adopting Enterprise 2.0 are being realized every day by organizations that embrace this new work style, including reduced travel costs, improved access to shared expertise, faster time to market for products / services and higher employee satisfaction.

In my former role at Microsoft, I had the privilege and opportunity to launch and manage the company’s internal “employee YouTube” (called Academy Mobile) and witness first hand the power of Enterprise 2.0 come to life. This initiative literally shaped the way many employees approached their jobs. But how?

The answer is in Daniel Pink’s book Drive. Daniel’s research explains how information workers need more than just a ‘carrot and stick’ approach to get motivated. High performance employees are seeking autonomy, mastery and purpose in their profession, what Daniel defines as Motivation 3.0.

Because Enterprise 2.0 paves the way for information workers to better share their expertise, increase their impact, enhance their reputation while ultimately contributing to the company bottomline, there is a direct correlation between Enterprise 2.0 and Motivation 3.0.

In my presentation I visually narrate the story of a Microsoft employee, Michael Gannotti, who exemplifies how he successfully leveraged the power of social media and online video to connect with customers, co-workers and shape his career pursuing Motivation 3.0.

What’s your experience with Enterprise 2.0?

UPDATE: I’m grateful that the Prezi team liked this presentation to the point of featuring it on the homepage of their site. In just a few weeks it has already accrued more than 40K views. 

What’s the ROI of creating an internal YouTube for your Enterprise?

When in 2007 we launched Microsoft’s internal video platform called Academy Mobile, little we knew about the ROI of setting up an organizational video portal that would host thousands of employee generated audio / video podcasts. Our focus was on adoption, internal evangelism and making sure that content would regularly flow on our platform to keep users engaged, happy and productive.

Three years later, Academy Mobile is an established reality at Microsoft, hosting more than 19K videos and 800+ new uploads per month. 

Given the high interest by other organizations in our journey of creating our “internal YouTube”, Microsoft has written a detailed whitepaper about the ROI of such initiative. I’m not going to spoil the reading, but I’ll just say that the conclusions are quite positive and if you are seriously interested in this topic, you should spend the time to study this document.

ROI of Building a Company-wide, Video Podcasting Portal Using Microsoft® SharePoint® 2010 
(PDF - 1MB)

Our ‘Online Video done right’ workshop

Last week I had the pleasure to deliver with my colleague Drew Keller a full day workshop titled ‘Online Video done right’. The workshop was part of a larger event organized by Ragan Communications focused on Employee Communications, PR and Social Media.

Drew and I covered a wide array of topics, from shooting techniques to best practices about lighting, audio, storyboarding, publishing and social media. Our goal was to equip all participants with new, relevant and practical skills that could be immediately applied to their jobs. And based on the feedback we’ve received so far, we did accomplish our mission with success.

Is your company looking to train employees on effective ways to create and publish online video? If so, I’ll be happy to exchange some ideas with you. In the meantime, feel free to check out the workshop description on page 2 of the program below.

Ragan Communications Social Media Summit 2010 Microsoft Program