We’ve come a long way, baby!

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How Internal Communications got into the video business.

Everybody loves video. Well, maybe not everybody, but judging by the popularity of YouTube and the ubiquity of Web videos in general, I’d have to conclude that a mighty large chunk of the population loves – or at least likes – it. This is true of the SAS employee population, so Internal Communications produces a number of video projects for our intranet, the SAS Wide Web. The variety and quality of these short videos has certainly evolved since we began.

So how did we get to where we are now? It wasn’t overnight, that’s for sure, but it worked for us and could work for you as well.

Once upon a time – maybe 2006 or so – we didn’t do internal video; our content consisted of text, photos and the occasional podcast. Of course, SAS’ Video Communications & New Media department, consisting of true professionals who produce very high-quality videos, executive webcasts, event coverage and so on, has been doing it for external use for many years. You can see their work on SAS' external website and the SAS You Tube channel, including their award-winning Big Data Guy series.  But they are constantly busy with externally-focused requests.

Suffice it to say, once video started really taking off, Internal Comms knew we had to get on board, but we didn’t have the experience or the equipment to make it a primary focus. So we started small, using inexpensive Flip Video cameras (remember those?) to do simple “talking head” videos on which we did very rudimentary editing. We quickly got more comfortable, combining multiple interviews and adding b-roll and voice-overs to produce videos that resembled TV-news packages. These mostly accompanied text articles.

The better we got – and the more we noticed employees tuning in to view – the more we wanted to do, but our ambitions exceeded the capabilities of our equipment and the level of our expertise. So we started adding things a little at a time.

First, we upgraded our cameras. We replaced our old still cameras with a couple of lower-end DSLRs that we could use for both photo and video. We’d borrow things like lights and microphones as we needed them for shoots, purchasing a piece here and a piece there whenever our budget would allow. We eventually got a dedicated computer and software for editing, using an empty office as a combination studio and post-production room. We continue to add to our equipment, knowledge and skills slowly, but surely.

Along the way, we got a great deal of expert advice and assistance from a couple of very generous SAS colleagues: one from the aforementioned video department, and one who is a professional photographer outside of SAS.

We now produce a wide range of videos and video series ­– complete with effects, animations, original scripts, actors (recruited via casting call from among our fellow employees), etc. – on SAS products, business and industry topics, corporate information, employee tips, and more. And they’re hugely popular with employees. Last year, we posted nearly 100 internal videos, several of which have garnered a gaggle of views totaling more than half of the employee population.

Plus, we’ve found that video draws a much larger audience than online text articles for some topics. For example, for 2012 benefits open enrollment we switched from a text article to a video announcement, resulting in a 69-percent increase in unique hits.  During the 2013 open enrollment period, a pair of videos that explained terms and concepts garnered more than 16,000 hits combined!

 

On the set of a “Help Me Understand” video shoot. Gone are the days of simply sticking a Flip camera in someone's face!

On the set of a “Help Me Understand” video shoot. Gone are the days of simply sticking a Flip camera in someone's face!

As for our recurring series, they include:

Help me understand: Explains, in layman’s terms, company or industry hot topics.

The 60-second scoop: Describes a SAS product or solution within a minute.

3 things that stick: Using sticky notes as props, presents three important points employees should know about a policy, procedure, call to action, etc.

Mr. Smarty Pants: In these lighthearted vignettes, Mr. Smarty Pants (an original character) stops to offer workplace tips and etiquette advice to employees he encounters, thus making palatable what otherwise might come across as a preachy or dull lecture.

There are others, and we continue to pursue new ideas. The popularity and demand for our productions has become so great that last year we divided our team into “editorial” and “video” sub-teams. Other departments are now seeking our help in producing videos for their groups.

And now we’ve hit the big time, with some of our internal videos making it to the external SAS YouTube channel. The following examples include two different ways of treating similar topics, and one that was shot on the Demo Floor at SAS® Global Forum:

We’ve come a long way, baby, indeed. How about you internal communicators out there? Do you do a lot of video? Are you just starting out or are you seasoned pros? We’d like to hear about it. Use the comments section below to tell us how you approach internal video in your organization.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Author

Karen Lee

Senior Director Internal Communications, SAS

Karen Lee joined SAS in 1984 as a technical marketing representative. In the past 28 years, Karen has successfully merged her technical savvy with her communications know-how to foster a sense of trust and engagement among SAS’ 13,000 global employees. In her current role as Senior Director of Internal Communications, Karen has embraced social media to find new ways to connect employees with one another and with company leadership. She has done this by challenging SAS executives to communicate with employees via individual blogs and live, virtual “chats.” In 2011, her team spearheaded the effort to create an internal social media network known as the Hub, which has created virtual communities for best practice sharing, idea generation and work/life balance. Within two weeks of its launch, the site had more than 3,000 registrants and continues to grow. Karen modeled her team’s structure around a 24/7 news cycle, covering company events with real-time updates on the global intranet site. Gone are the days of “holding the news” until the next day’s publication. SAS employees hear news as it happens. Even with a wired employee base, however, traditional communication channels are not overlooked. Karen established regular “coffee with the CEO” sessions several years ago in which front-line employees are able to interact with and hear about the direction of the company from its CEO in an informal setting. Before being named Senior Director of Internal Communications, Karen was Director of Communications Support for SAS' Research & Development Division. In this role, she found innovative ways to communicate with a traditionally introverted employee population. Using a variety of communications vehicles, such as podcasts and employee expos, she improved information sharing among customers, management and developers. Before becoming a SAS employee, Karen was a SAS customer, using the software for capacity planning in her job at Official Airline Guides. Karen has a bachelor's degree in computer science from Eastern Illinois University. Originally from Westchester, Ill., Karen currently lives in Holly Springs, N.C. Outside of SAS, she enjoys spending time with her family, enjoying the outdoors biking, running and traveling to find new adventures.

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