Attention all human resources professionals or others in charge of communicating with team members. I have an internal communications video idea for you. An idea that will have everyone in your organization buzzing.
What I propose is to start featuring employees… at random. Not the employee of the month, not someone working on the latest company product or initiative. No, I’m talking about selecting people at random, and I’ll layout my case for why this is an awesome idea.
I’ve blogged in the past about my TV news mentor, CBS feature reporter Steve Hartman. He’s just flat-out one of the best in the biz. Back when I was a cub reporter at my first real TV job in Kearney, NE, I called Steve out of the blue one day while he was working at KCBS-TV. As a USC student, I watched his stories and loved them. As a new working professional, I wanted to know how he got into features. Not only did he take my call, he spoke with me on the phone for more than 30-minutes. For the eight years that followed, I sent him tapes of my stories and he critiqued them… even after he moved on to work for the network.
I eventually landed a job in Cincinnati working at WLWT-TV. I was developing a feature segment for myself, so I called Steve to brainstorm. I wanted to do something like what he was doing at the time for CBS. His segment was called, “Everybody Has a Story.” The concept was simple. Throw a dart at the map and go there. Open the local phone book, start flipping pages and blindly throw a finger in to select someone to feature in a story. All of it done on-camera for the audience to see.
Had I been at a CBS affiliate we could have just followed suit, but WLWT is an NBC affiliate so we came up with a similar idea. I wrote down all of the city’s neighborhoods and suburbs on slips of paper and put them in a hat. We would select the place from the hat, go there, stop into a local business, then we’d ask people if they knew someone we should feature.
As a feature reporter, it was more fun than you could imagine. The photographer and I never knew what we would end-up with, and frankly, neither did the people who selected our subjects. I can’t tell you how many times someone would suggest a person for one reason, yet the story we told about them would end-up being something different.
What I learned along the way
It was a total blast and it taught me something. Something Steve already knew, which is why he encouraged me to do the series. Everyone really does have a story. Many times it takes a great storyteller to uncover it, but that’s part of the fun.
Steve’s stories were amazing. I recommend watching some of his best, which still live online. I like to think my stories were a success as well; I won an Emmy Award for the series.
Your internal communications video series
Which all leads me back to my idea for you. Businesses can do this type of series as well. Here’s how you do it:
- hire a professional storyteller. Okay, a bit self-serving, but if you really want to do this right you should hire someone who knows how to draw-out people’s stories. Storytelling is a skill honed over years, so it’s worthwhile finding an expert.
- use your company directory to randomly select the people you feature. A side note, I love the idea of asking the current person being featured to select the next person. Bring the company directory on the shoot and have them make the random selection.
- don’t go for the obvious story. It would be easy to pick out a story related to their job. That’s fine, but also ask them questions about their life outside of work. You’re bound to uncover some amazing stories.
- whatever their story is, look for a way to make it relateable. If they have an amazing collection, that’s only the start of the story. It’s that everyone has passion, or obsession, or something his or her spouse can’t understand. Look for universal truths the audience can relate to.
- this is an awesome internal communications idea, but don’t be afraid to let marketing have it. A series like this is a great way to help customers get to know your company.
Bold plan, good reason to do it
So… the big question… why? Why should you do this? The answer is it’s an incredible way to transform your company. People go about their jobs not knowing how much they have in common with one another. When they start to learn about their fellow team members, they develop a bond. They care more about each other. All of that comes back to the company. It fosters a positive culture.
Do this series right and you’ll have people looking forward to each and every video you send.