Countdown to Christmas: Day 19

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Countdown to Christmas: Day 19

There’s only seven days left of my Countdown to Christmas series, which means the big day is getting ever nearer. Every day this month I’ve been highlighting a story from an internal communicator to share their thoughts, with the final one going live on Christmas Eve.

I’ll then be taking a break and be back in January. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to my blog this year, it’s always good to feature new voices and a variety of writers and highlight what’s working well – and what there is to learn from situations that don’t go quite as planned.

Today is Day 19, and has been written by Alex Bird and was originally published on my blog in May 2013.

Using video to inspire employees

How do you tell stories in your organisation? What tools and techniques do you use to demonstrate the journey you’re on as a company and how do you share successes?

Alex BirdLast week I read a comment in a LinkedIn group by internal communications specialist Alex Bird @BirdyAlex (pictured). She mentioned that Bromford, a leading social business offering housing and support services has been using video to bring people together and included a link to one of them.

I was intrigued and wanted to know more, so I got in touch with Alex, who agreed to give us an insight into what they have been doing internally to communicate by writing a guest post for my blog.

She has been at Bromford for ten years and in her internal comms role for eight months and says she is passionate about Bromford and strives to “give every colleague the opportunity to love it as much as I do.” I think the enthusiasm and cost-effectiveness of what they’ve been doing is evident and hope you enjoy her article as much as I did.

Do you have any examples of how you’ve been using video in your company? If so and you’d like to share your story via my blog, do check out my guidelines and get in touch to show other internal communication professionals what you’ve been doing.

Over to you Alex…

Using video to inspire employees

We do amazing things at Bromford. We change people’s lives by providing a home, supporting them to live independently and helping them with training, volunteering and finding work.

Bromford colleague eventBut for colleagues working ‘behind the scenes’ who don’t meet our customers it’s hard for them to see how they personally change lives and what they contribute to.

So when it comes to engagement, the importance of storytelling is crucial to bringing the front line to these colleagues and explaining the difference we make as one team.

Telling stories through film is powerful. It grabs your attention and can make you laugh or cry. It’s genuine and real.

Film is a fairly new thing at Bromford but, like all of our comms, we do it in-house. We’ve invested in the right equipment and have one full time videographer as well as other team members who have picked up the skills.

It’s difficult at first to get colleagues willing to be filmed but over the last year they’ve grown accustomed to our roving reporters and cameras springing up around the place. It has quickly become integral to both our internal and external comms.

At this year’s colleague event we wanted to kick the day off with a bang. We created an opening film featuring colleagues and were inundated by volunteers. And what a great (and value for money) way to, not only open the day but, build momentum in the run up.

Colleagues would Yammer when they’d finished filming with videographer Sam, who travelled the breadth of our geography to make sure as many teams as possible were included. Colleagues posted how they were looking forward to seeing the end result on the day.

Here’s our opening film:

In effect we’d given the power to colleagues before the day had even started. There was a buzz around waiting to see what they’d been talking about for weeks. Their reaction was brilliant, lots of laughs and appreciation. Now we’d got their attention we could move onto the more serious themes and focus of the day, with some fun along the way.

We used films and animation throughout the day. Of course, with a colleague event, there needs to be a balance.

An event that’s too film heavy will lose the need for bringing people together face to face, but too corporate and you lose the audience.

So the event included colleague presenters, live interviews, a keynote speaker and one customer telling their poignant story on stage to create a real mix of engaging content.

But using films didn’t end there, we even made some on the day.

In planning for the event, a number of colleagues requested a Harlem Shake. (There are plenty of examples on YouTube if it’s a new concept to you). We decided to surprise colleagues explaining only minutes before the end of the day what we were about to attempt, led by our CEO. We weren’t prepared for the response we got.

The WHOLE auditorium errupted into a freestyle shake and continued to ‘shake’ out of the room. It was the perfect close to the day and colleagues left in a real buzz. Here’s our, and the UK’s biggest, Harlem Shake:

We estimated that if we’d outsourced it could’ve cost over £60,000 for the films alone – our actual film production costs in colleague time was under £3000. Now that’s power in terms of value for money.

These films have created a legacy and something we continue to share when people come to visit. It’s an extension of our culture and something that will be remembered by everyone who was there.

So you could say the power of film can really change the way you engage people but for us it worked by also giving power to the people.

They engage and feel they belong. Then they shake.

Post author: Alex Bird.

Thank you again Alex for sharing your story with my blog readers. It looks like you had great fun and I love the reactions from employees and the big grins all round. If you want to find out even more, there’s a behind the scenes film of their colleague event  – you can view it below, Rachel.

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