Rule No. 1 about employee communications videos: No one really has to watch them.
“Chances are that watching corporate video isn’t something on a performance review,” says Mark Kraynak, lead manager of global employee communications for PayPal. “Your employees are busy—they have work to do. So that’s what you’re up against.”
The keys to getting employees to watch your video are in how you promote it and in creating videos that command attention. How you distribute videos and the ways you build your reputation for valuable content play a role in boosting viewership over the long term—although content may have the edge over distribution.
“Content is the biggest driver, in my opinion,” Kraynak says. “You’re competing for employees’ discretionary time. Your videos should feature the same characteristics of videos that they watch outside of work.”
Consider these ideas for creating and promoting highly watchable video before you embark on your next employee communications campaign:
When New York utility Con Ed develops videos for employees, the creative team also develops a short “commercial” or teaser, says Ann Cameron, Con Ed’s director of creative services.
“We’ll cut a 15-second version of a 90-second video,” she says, “and we’ll run those clips on our electronic screens around the company.” These clips draw employees to videos that interest them and give them a quick-heads up that the rest of the video is worth watching.
Lisa Arney, internal communications video program manager at SAS, the business analytics software company, also takes advantage of digital signage at the company to encourage employees to watch the latest videos.
“We have screens throughout our buildings, and we’ll highlight new content every day,” Arney says. She and her colleagues will write teasers for the screens that entice employees to watch—such as, “What’s everyone saying about the new building? Tune in to find out.”
Plain and simple emails
When sending notices about new videos by email, it’s important to keep messages concise, says PayPal’s Kraynak. “We send simple text emails with a bolded link,” he says. “There’s no mystery about where you should click, and no colorful graphics to sift through.” Beneath the link, employees will see a list of three or four bullet points about what’s in the video.
“We also send our emails about video from an email alias labeled ‘Mark from Employee Communications.’ so there’s an actual named attached to it—it makes it more personal,” Kraynak says. “People know there’s an actual person behind it all.”
As is true with the “most emailed” articles lists you see on news media websites, employees will be more likely to watch videos if they know their colleagues are viewing them as well.
At Mayo Clinic, popular employee videos are promoted on its intranet site’s front page, and in sidebars on every page. Popularity is gauged by the “thumbs up” votes received for each video by employee viewers. Once internal communications professionals tally up the votes, “we’ll make sure to highlight the most recommended videos,” says senior communications specialist Hoyt Finnamore.
Promotion within social networks
At SAS, Arney and her colleagues promote videos on the company’s internal social media platform, called The Hub.
“There are interest groups within The Hub, so we can promote the videos in each group—if it’s a technology-related video, we can post a notice in the technology group,” Arney says.
Watching while on the go
If your videos are difficult to find and watch via employees’ mobile devices, viewing rates may decline. More and more people are switching to mobile devices for their online content consumption.
“Making your video available on mobile is a core necessity, no longer just a nice-to-have feature,” says PayPal’s Kraynak.
If your intranet or internal social network has a mobile version, then videos have to be as easily accessed as any other material, such as news articles or social content. Because every company’s intranet and email infrastructure is different, there’s no single way to ensure that your employee videos are mobile-friendly. You should continually test the ease of watching your videos on various mobile platforms and devices to make sure they can be viewed to full effect.
Whether you’re pushing videos out by email, social networks or intranets, you have to assure employees that you’re making good use of their limited time. SAS’s “60-Second Scoop” videos run just one minute and feature a “countdown” timer at upper right so that employees know how long they’ve got left. The videos usually highlight SAS products, explaining what they do and who uses them.
The “PayPal in 90 Seconds” weekly video series from the payments company takes a similar approach. Each video covers three to five stories involving employees across the company’s global offices, featuring video chats with employees who weigh in via Skype or FaceTime. The name of the series, Kraynak says, tells employees that their time commitment will be minimal.
“We’re telling people right away that the videos are going to be short and won’t require a huge investment of their time,” he says.
Funny takes on office life
Lighthearted looks at corporate life are more fun to watch than dry-as-toast talking heads, and they can drive home messages in ways that standard videos can’t.
At Paris-based Schneider Electric, employee communicators deployed a fictional supervisor named Philip to show off the worst ways to encourage communication among employees. In the “My Life As a Manager” video series, Philip ignores underlings’ questions and blows off colleagues who want him to explain company priorities.
“We’re kind of teasing employees to get them to watch,” says Marie Le Men, an internal communication director for Schneider Electric.
SAS, likewise, uses a humorous approach for its “Mr. Smarty Pants” videos, in which a know-it-all employee offers workplace etiquette tips, such as asking people not to swipe towels from the office gym or flatware from the cafeteria.
“It’s our most-watched video series,” Arney says. “In fact, for Halloween, a group of employees came to work dressed as Mr. Smarty Pants.”
Creating a video series with a recurring style or subject builds a habit among employee viewers, and they may eagerly anticipate the next installment.
Mayo Clinic’s Finnamore hosts the “Roving Reporter” video series. He’s provided tours of new facilities in the Mayo Clinic system, interviewed employees about their contributions to United Way campaigns, and showed off equipment at a Mayo gym. His “regular guy” persona comes off as friendly and approachable, attracting viewers who don’t see Finnamore as just another corporate talking head.
“Our goal is to keep the videos from looking too polished,” Finnamore says. Funny flubs are added to the end of the videos as outtakes, and Finnamore says the goofy clips increase the likelihood that employees will share the videos with their colleagues.
In Schneider Electric’s “My Life As a Manager” videos, employees see funny examples of poor communication, but Schneider wanted viewers to get more out of the videos than just a good laugh. At the end of each video are reminders about where to find messaging documents about corporate initiatives, or training guides on how to communicate well with colleagues.
“We need to give people the tools to make change happen,” says Schneider’s Le Men. When employees see that videos can lead them to practical guidance for improving their performance, they’re more likely to watch such videos in the future.
Employees like to see each other in the spotlight, which can be a major incentive to watch company videos. Arney says, “All of the actors in our videos are employees”—even Mr. Smarty Pants.
“We keep a list of employees who are good on camera and are animated,” Arney says. “People like to watch videos to see who they know, and the more people they know in a video, the more they’ll share it.”
This article is presented in partnership with Kontiki.