Last July, a video went viral that showcased how content involving employees can work very effectively. NET-A-PORTER CEO Mark Sebba, who had recently announced he was retiring, turned up at the office for what he expected to be a typical day.
His employees, however, had other ideas.
They staged a tribute to celebrate his 11 years at the helm, with a gospel choir and mariachi band in the central London office, accompanied by a widescreen live Skype feed with offices in New York, New Jersey, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and the distribution center in Charlton Gate Business Park, London.
The six-minute video was shot with minor interruption to most employees’ days, though a few people took significant time to manage the project. However, the time vs. benefit ratio definitely swung in NET-A-PORTER’s favor.
The CEO is visibly surprised, overwhelmed, and moved by his staff, adding a touching native element. In terms of brand exposure, the official video has been viewed over 1.1 million times, and has been shared by thousands and covered in both print and online PR articles. Also, since they were hailing him as the “World’s Most Loved CEO,” it likely helped NET-A-PORTER’s recruitment pipeline.
Though the investment and planning required for this production are not an option for the majority, the video is a great example not just of employee-generated content but of employee-engaged content. What can we learn from it and how can we all involve employees in creating engaging content for our video channels?
1. It all starts with an idea
As marketing professionals, we always need to retain a solid understanding of the wider business strategy. When involving employees, we need to get to a more granular level of understanding of the grassroots of the organization.
Employee-engaged content doesn’t have to be stunt-oriented. You can apply the tactics that NET-A-PORTER used without orchestrating on that scale. Find out what makes your employees tick, what they are doing, what charities they support, what team-building days are coming up, what corporate social responsibility programs are in the pipeline, etc.
Sit in on team meetings or ask team managers to email you regularly about initiatives they have coming up. These activities can help to foster a pipeline of video content ideas that can be scheduled throughout the calendar year to allow adequate exposure to all business functions. When introducing the employee-engaged content internally, communicate the message to everyone to make sure they understand the purpose of this type of content and allow everyone in the enterprise to come forward with suggestions.
Depending on the suggestions, the video content likely will vary. For internal events and business milestones you may want to create short-form, montage-style videos. For more inspirational individual achievements, you may want to produce longer-form video content that allows for the story to build.
In consideration of the latter example, videos over 10 minutes average a 50% viewed threshold (compared with over 80% for videos less than 30 seconds). To keep people engaged, keep these timing thresholds in mind, and incorporate calls to action and key points throughout the video. NET-A-PORTER cleverly used text overlay in its video to achieve this effect, so as not to affect the overall flow of the piece. Also make sure you add a video description when uploading to third-party sites for further context and searchabiliy.
Some of the best videos are like NET-A-PORTER’s – they tell a human-interest story. Given that CEOs often are portrayed as unapproachable individuals, this CEO’s genuine and emotional reaction adds an element of the unexpected. Never overlook an opportunity to tell a story that may challenge perceptions. The purpose of this type of employee-engaged content is not to include a corporate message or share knowledge, but to portray the brand’s values through its empathy and understanding of its people.
2. Preparation is everything
When you select an idea, plan all the deliverables that need to be approved and in place in time for the video shoot. Answer questions such as:
- When will the event happen?
- Who needs to be there? Are they available? Do we need their supervisor’s permission?
- Who will shoot the video? Do they need training?
- Do you need any special equipment?
Make sure everyone involved is briefed in advance on what will be involved and what you expect them to do. Try not to be too prescriptive to allow employees a certain element of creative freedom.
Employee-engaged content is about not being scripted or prescribed. In the NET-A-PORTER example, the employee’s actions and reactions are all genuine, which adds to the sincerity of the piece.
Unlike the NET-A-PORTER team, you’re unlikely to have access to expensive video equipment that looks like this:
If you don’t have a standalone recording device and plan to shoot the video on a smartphone or tablet, I strongly recommend purchasing a dedicated external microphone, a mobile tripod with a grip, and an external flash. These add-ons dramatically improve the quality for a nominal cost.
Always test their compatibility with the device (and the operator) before using them on shoot day. If possible, go to the proposed venue to record sound bites to check the sound quality and lighting. There’s nothing worse than uploading the video at the office to find it’s inaudible or too dark.
These types of videos capture a moment and aren’t repeatable. Plan to have at least two devices charged and ready to roll to ensure you have the proper backup.
3. Tell the story internally first
- Consider bringing employees together for an exclusive preview.
- Share the video link.
- Discuss where it will be promoted.
- Provide a brand-specific hashtag and encourage employees to use it.
Be completely transparent about what you’re doing and ensure as many employees are involved as possible before the external launch. Employees who are engaged in the process are more likely to extend that engagement externally.
While some employees are cautious about talking about their employer on social media, they can be huge advocates on these channels. You can’t force them to share your content, but if the content offers a rich and interesting user experience – and you provide clear direction – they are more likely to consider sharing with their friends.
If you don’t have a formal employee social media policy, make sure employees are aware that derogatory or defamatory comments are not acceptable and ask them to provide specific feedback to you directly.
On the official YouTube posting for the NET-A-PORTER video, three employees featured in the shoot responded to negative nonemployee comments, reinforcing their advocacy for the company.
Don’t just communicate pre-launch. Keep your employees notified on the metrics – how many people have viewed and shared the video, where it’s been republished, etc. Track how many colleagues link to it through your staff newsletters and other communication tools. You also may want to embed the video in the “careers” section of your website to inspire prospective candidates.
Imagine if the NET-A-PORTER CEO salute was a blog post. It would never have had the same impact – internally or externally – as the video, which engaged hundreds of employees to create a visual showcase for the company.
Have you had success with employee-engaged video content? I’d love to hear your thoughts on how we can all integrate this approach into our content strategies.
Engage your employees in content marketing by bringing them to Content Marketing World 2015. Use code CMI100 and save $100 on registration by May 31.
Cover image by SplitShire via pixabay.com