For the final interview of Show 35 [starting at 30:35] of the csuitepodcast, having seen my next two guests present at both Quadriga’s Internal Comms conference in Berlin and the SMILE London event, I made a trip to the offices of HSBC in Canary Wharf to speak with Jenny Varley, Global Head of Content & Employee Digital Platforms and Dee Gosney, the team’s Senior Editor, about their multi-award winning internal comms video platform, HSBC Now.
HSBC Now was introduced to the organisation in 2012 and, as Jenny explained, is employee led content, or as Jenny called it, a ‘boss free TV project’, that essentially flipped the traditional top down communication model on its head. She said that it is a platform to tell the stories of employees (of which HSBC has over 250,000 across 71 countries), celebrate their achievements, magnify their strengths and cover topics that are important to them with radical honesty, such as mental health, LGBT, how war zones and disaster recovery can impact on employees, living through illness, and celebrating personal achievements inside and outside of work.
Jenny is clearly proud of its success, with some episodes achieving over 80,000 views.
In 2013, to keep it relevant, and responding to demands from employees who wanted to share the content with family and friends or watch the content outside of office hours, HSBC made the decision to make the channel public via YouTube and Twitter. This also worked for HSBC from a cultural perspective as taking time out to watch video during offices hours is not always seen as a good thing, although Jenny said they’ve done a lot to change the culture within the organisation and video is now seen as an important currency for content. At the time of writing this post, the channel has now received almost 2m views on YouTube with 4,100 subscribers, and has over 52,000 followers on Twitter.
Dee talked through the type of content that’s uploaded to the channel, which naturally includes short form videos. However, the team has also produced a few series and long form documentaries too, but always told from an employee perspective.
Having the right cultural environment in the company is crucial for a project like this to work as far as Jenny is concerned. She said that you need to ensure it’s not designed by committee or that you do not have a multi-led approval process, because that would introduce a huge barrier in keeping it relevant and consistent and getting the content out in real time.
Initially the content was uploaded fortnightly and then they switched to weekly but now they are experimenting with content length and whether they should have a schedule with an appointment to view, or upload content on an ad-hoc basis driven by story.
Whilst all the stories that have been uploaded since 2012 were about employees, Jenny explained that they had, essentially, been created by professional film crews. Therefore, to keep the content relevant, and allow the employees to take the filming into their own hands, and therefore have more UGC content on the channel, the team launched a platform to enable this to happen and partnered up with Seenit, who provide a video crowdsourcing mobile app, to achieve it.
Dee explained that firstly, HSBC have branded Seenit’s white label product so that it can be used internally. Secondly, it’s used purely for crowdsourcing the content, not for distribution, which was a key challenge when they launched the app internally. Dee said that, being a highly regulated, complex and risk averse organisation, there were obviously quite a few concerns raised about the prospect of launching a ‘selfie’ YouTube channel. She therefore had to educate people to help them understand that this was a video crowdsourcing tool that would be aiming at an already engaged audience of employees, inviting them to, not only take part in the company’s storytelling, but to become part of the storytelling production process. Employees film the stories themselves, in their own words and their own way, and then allow the production team to take that content down from an online virtual studio, and incorporate it into their programming, communications campaigns and their other production projects.
Dee confirmed that nothing is live and that her team curates the content that they make visible. However, they were really encouraged that 99% of the content uploaded to the app was shot outside of the office and outside of office hours too.
Dee said that the app was initially only accessibly to employees via an internal enterprise site because of the concerns that, as a non customer facing app, HSBC wouldn’t want to make it public and then have customers stumble across it and then become disgruntled because they didn’t know what it was and couldn’t use it. However, this lead to a nine-step download process for employees to access the app and so the decision was eventually made to make the app available on the public app stores.
To finish off the interview, Jenny shared her top tips to any organisation looking to launch a channel and app like HSBC have done, which were:
- Manage upwards and persuade people at the top to take a risk with you – Jenny’s team lobbied and achieved their aims by throwing a spotlight on the fact that soon, 75% of the organisation’s workforce will be millennials (and younger) and that if the digital experience inside the organisation remains out of touch with how they communicate and engage with their networks, then employees would find it more difficult to do their jobs and interact with colleagues.
- Learning to fail – when you manage a team, people need to feel safe to fail, to try new things and experiment, which is important to an environment that is fuelling innovation and creativity
- Keep moving – at no point can you sit back and think you’ve nailed it as the environment and content is constantly changing and so you have to keep checking that you are relevant to the audience
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