The power of a staff video

Using video in internal communications is nothing new. But the days of stale videos, led only by a scripted speech from the chief executive, are over.

Companies are getting inventive with internal videos, trying everything from user-generated content to comedy sketches to connect with colleagues, but one issue persists: how to measure the impact of this work.

For Helen Ure, senior employee engagement consultant at Radley Yeldar, the solution is not to regard video as something out of the ordinary. ‘Measurement is a hot topic within internal communications anyway,’ she agrees. ‘I would look at video in the same way as any other channel. You’d look at three types of measure:

  • Output – are people watching it?
  • Outtake – are people understanding it?
  • Outcome – are they actually doing the thing we want them to do?

‘The first one in terms of output, you can measure if people are watching it. You can measure this with hits, but bear in mind that in some organisations, videos are shown on plasma screens so that it makes it a little bit more difficult. I prefer to use ‘reach’. How many people have you reached?

‘It’s a combination of how many hits you’ve had on the Intranet, as well as the amount of potential people the screens could have reached.

‘If you think about outtake, that’s harder to measure. You might look at how many people share a video or how many comments are made on it (although you can’t do that with screens). You might put a survey out or a poll, or you might start to use internal social networks like Yammer to start a conversation about it.

‘Impact is hard to measure. If you’re using video, you’re probably using a mix of communications channels so being able to show that the video itself has made an impact is quite difficult. If you’re watching a video on the Intranet or a personal device, you can potentially have a click-through on the video towards the particular action you want the viewer to take, and then you can just about measure impact, but it’s not an easy thing to do.’

Measuring success, however, is much simpler.

‘It’s something you really want to hear people talk about,’ says Ure. ‘I think the key goal is building that emotional connection and pride in people.’

It all depends on what you’re trying to achieve, according to Tim Turner, head of content at agency Wardour. ‘If the video is communicating some important news, or perhaps sharing case studies that show off what the company is doing, then you might be looking for positive comments on internal messaging systems and platforms like Slack.

‘If it’s more informational – explaining a new policy, say, or an organisational change – then success is seeing that people put the information conveyed in the video into practice.’

When it comes to more precise metrics, however, Turner says he looks for engagement where possible, meaning the percentage of the video that was watched. The reality is that, in many cases, employees will not view a complete video. But does that matter?

‘Again, it depends on whether the messaging is, broadly, inspirational or informational. Watching to the end is more important in the latter case,’ says Turner.

Making videos that employees want to watch is of the utmost importance. The question remains, if you can’t engage the people who work for you, how will you engage someone with no connection at all to your company? Staff can be an important litmus test as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to communicating a brand’s message.

‘Until a few years ago, you would tailor your message specifically to whether your audience was internal or external, and often internal audiences were regarded as secondary, or not as important, so content wasn’t as refined or polished,’ says Dagmar Mackett, head of video at creative agency drp.

‘However, these days I’d argue this doesn’t really happen anymore. Organisations have realised that communication must work from the inside out: your employees are your greatest brand ambassadors, so feed them first, and feed them well!’

‘Your own people are the most important audience,’ agrees Carol Whitworth, founder of internal communications agency Home. ‘If they understand why you’re in business, what your brand is about, they will then go and sell your brand for you. But if you tell them in a boring way, how are they going to be inspired to deliver your message?’

She continues: ‘Internal videos need to be as interesting and dynamic as external videos, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw a lot of money at it. If anything, it’s the opposite of that.’

Whitworth points to the example of a bank that had plans to create a flashy internal video around the same time that it had announced job cuts. A video, and an expensive one at that, was going to do little to help the bank’s brand and appease its staff, and would likely have ended up as a story in some media outlet.

But the remit of an internal video has changed in recent years as companies recognise that their employees have a life (and role) beyond the confines of corporate life.

Mackett points to the fact that internal messages are now being delivered in the same way to both internal and external audiences, but those audiences are not so different in the first place.

‘Sometimes this happens with a slight delay, so staff hear a story first before it goes public,’ she says. ‘Because employees are also consumers, they’re also customers and for a message to be effective, it needs to land in the same way with either audience.

Internal videos need to be as interesting and dynamic as external videos, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw a lot of money at it

‘For us, this means that when it comes to strategic or product pieces, very often the brief is to make a film that works for both audiences. It was a challenge when this shift first happened but now, it’s become the norm and makes good business and communications sense.’

‘Internal content is used externally now,’ says Kate Lines, account director at Home. ‘If you look at HSBC, it produces internal videos [with its award-winning HSBC NOW programme]; that’s how the team is set up. But that content is now shared on its YouTube page. It’s all about building those brand ambassadors, making them more authentic. Anyone can see it.

‘That’s the kind of thing that you see more and more. Brands want to reflect what makes them culturally tick internally and appealing to staff makes them appeal to customers as well. That’s how you build trust with your customers and your people.’

Though the approach towards internal video content should be like that of external video, however, shareability is not a necessity – that the primary audience is so targeted is an asset, not a flaw. ‘To be honest, most of the internal comms videos we produce aren’t designed for sharing,’ says Turner.

Your employees are your greatest brand ambassadors, so feed them first, and feed them well!’

‘By their nature, they’re not suitable for sharing on social media, and they’re distributed or publicised to the entire intended audience at the outset.’

So, what are the key ingredients that make an internal video worth its salt? There are myriad techniques. Turner suggests animation works well to engage an audience, especially when dealing with dry and complex subject matters, whilst Ure points to the advent of interactive video, which allows people to interact through touches and clicks. ‘There might be scenarios you can go through,’ Ure explains.

‘What we know users are looking for, not just from video but from their whole online experience, is being able to interact and choose their own online content. We think interactive video is going to be a real thing going forward. If you’ve got an interactive video, can you imagine the measurement can get out of that? I know someone understands something because they’ve chosen that scenario.’

As with all communications tools, of course, it all comes down to whether the outcome matches your goal. What is the video attempting to achieve? Video can be an incredible tool in internal communications, but is it always the answer?

‘Video is not going to be the silver bullet that solves everything,’ says Ure. ‘Generally, I think it fits within a communications mix. It also depends on how people watch the video, on a plasma screen or sat at their computer. It’s about what you’re trying to achieve and how it fits within a communications mix. If you try to make a video, and videos not the one, it can be as damaging as it can be brilliant. For Whitworth, it all comes down to authenticity.

‘Years and years of people putting out their corporate strategy and it’s usually the chief executive sitting at the end of a big table in his tie and his suit, telling the story of the business, which is not compelling at all,’ she says.

‘Wouldn’t you rather hear that in a compelling way that normal people can understand? You want people to get behind what you do, speaking the language they understand.’

‘Video is emotive; it creates a human connection,’ Turner concludes. ‘It can put a face to high-level messages and show that someone owns them, and it can enable leaders to get their personality across to people who will probably never meet them in person. Equally, case study videos and interviews with people on the ground can create a feeling of connectedness across the organisation, and of pride in being part of it.’

In the words of Whitworth: ‘Keep it brief, keep it simple and creative and keep on trucking.’