This post was written by Cheryl Clemons, CEO of LearnerLab / StoryTagger.
What do diarist Samuel Pepys and internet celebrity Logan Paul have in common?
Apart from the rat connection – with Paul’s infamous Tasering of a dead rodent and Pepys’s descriptions of the Great Plague (spread by the fleas that lived on rats) – both tell us what’s happening around them. Pepys’s diary accounts of the Plague and the Great Fire of London, which reference the real people impacted by these events in 1665–6, give us an unparalleled insight and sense of what it was like to be there in a way that no regular historical account can successfully rival.
Diarists have been around since Antiquity, and from the Renaissance onwards it became increasingly common for people to record their personal thoughts and opinions, but just imagine what we might know now if the chroniclers of old had had access to YouTube and the kind of video-creation technology we have today … With the ready availability and ease of use of this technology, organisations are increasingly seeing personal video content as an essential strategy for communication, and we can point to three principal reasons for this.
First is the consumer demand for video – and lots of it. User-generated video is the most viewed, shareable and memorable online content – it’s no accident that Facebook announced their video-first policy last year, and Instagram and number of other platforms have put video at the centre of their strategies. But this is not just the preserve of digital-marketing and content teams; social video is poised to unblock some key challenges in the workplace from unlocking access to expertise to helping relate and adapt to change .
Then, we also have serious trust issues. Despite the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer showing a rise in trust in experts this year, many of us just don’t believe what we are told by traditional media and company boards. Instead, people are relying on their peers to help them learn and influence how they feel about things. They want to hear about real experiences.
And, third, organisations are trying to create more open, personal and less hierarchical cultures to innovate and compete in times of constant change. Check the brand values and behaviours of top companies right now, and you’ll see the same buzzwords repeated: ‘Open’, ‘Personal’, ‘Authentic’, ‘Honest’, ‘Real’, ‘Human’. Breaking down silos, feeling connected and sharing ideas underlie a number of business challenges.
In this context, user-generated social video ups the ante on what’s personal, authentic and essentially human. With these qualities, it’s having a big impact in the following three areas:
- Increasing sales capability
Video and sales training have been around since John Cleese suited up for Video Arts in the 1970s, but this no longer cuts it, with 70% of sales reps saying that instant access to real-time knowledge, best practices and coaching is more effective than traditional training. User-generated video of the best pitches can show nuances in language and tone in ways that other media cannot easily compete with.
By way of example, a large technology company we work with needed their account managers to spot opportunities earlier and base their conversations on business benefits – something accessible in the field; short and real. Sales and technical experts at that organisation are now making their own two-minute videos about market context, key sales steps and micro case studies for the account teams to use at point of need – they’ve even set up a competition for them to record their best elevator pitch.
- Personalising leadership
Employee-engagement data and Glassdoor reviews show that leaders struggle to earn trust and build personal relationships with their wider teams. We’re seeing improved leadership effectiveness from user-generated video content in two different ways. First, in structured leadership programmes, leaders reflect on what they’ve learned, how they’ve applied learning and the impact of this through a vlog to share with the rest of the group. The process of distilling thoughts and saying it out loud supports reflection and communication as well as benefiting others with lessons learned and success stories.
Another is the reinvention of the CEO video message. Here, the best examples are where leaders create and share stories about their own personal experience without too much scripting or corporate speak. One leader we know talked openly about his childhood to relate to a specific moment of transformation for his company. It’s harder to fake on video, and you get a 360-degree view of the person.
- Employee advocacy for careers and talent
In the consumer space, there is a shift from influencer marketing – where people with influence are encouraged to promote or advocate products – to putting promotion into the hands of employees. And this doesn’t just apply to product but also recruitment – after all, who better to secure the best talent than the employees that the new recruit is going to work with? In a number of forward-thinking companies, people are recording their own career stories, the reasons why they work there, what the company purpose means to them in their role and so on. This content is then shared internally as part of a campaign to support engagement and retention and externally through social channels to attract new talent. Using a structured interview framework can help people tell their stories in line with key values and the direction of the business, so it’s not only authentic but also a direct extension of the employer brand.
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