How Reddit keeps their workforce engaged & motivated

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AMA: Taking the pulse of Reddit’s workforce

Known for developing communities as “the front page of the internet,” how does Reddit keep its own internal communities engaged and motivated to grow its business of 52M+ daily active users? Anna Soellner, Reddit’s senior director of communications, sits down with our own Chuck Gose to discuss how her team interprets the signals from their workforce and uses catalyzing moments to bring the company together.

Video Transcript

Chuck Gose:

All right. Well, we’ve got three o’clock Eastern on the nose, so I’m going to stop sharing the screen so that we can immediately jump into our session here today. Thank you everybody for joining. I want to make sure that Patrick makes sure that Anna and I are both highlighted. I lost my view of just the two of us, so you can make sure that happens. But want to thank everybody for joining this breakout session. Hopefully you’ve had a great attune so far you’ve joined AMA, taking the pulse of Reddit’s workforce is a breakout session. Obviously if you have any questions or you attended the session earlier you know the chat is a very useful tool. Patrick is in there if you have any technical issues but if you have any questions for our guests or myself, please use that chat box, address them to who you want them to go to.

And my other big ask is if we hadn’t been in a pandemic, we can all fantasize what that would be like. We would normally be in an event, you’d be sitting at tables, you’d be meeting communicators from other businesses, other people from around the world, go into the chat and introduce yourself. Obviously we see your name, but introduce yourself who you are, where you work, anything about that you think others would find interesting. What I will find interesting, I want to share with each of you is add a little hashtag Gen X to your introduction if you identify as Gen X. In a previous session, I was stirring the pot a little bit based off of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s quotes. I felt like the Gen X generation was somewhat forgotten about in that. I joke with people, but it’s not really a joke, I feel like we are the glue that holds all these generations together, but are also often forgotten about. So I do not forget about you, so hashtag Gen X if you’re in there, introduce yourself. I see our guests has already come in there to do that.

And also if you’re here, great things that our guests is sharing, any takeaways, anything that resonated with you, don’t wait until after the session, go on LinkedIn, go on Twitter, use hashtag attune 2021. That just draws more attention in. Everybody’s able to learn more from each other. I see Shelly. Yes. Amen. Gen X. Thanks for joining. Now, let’s get started with our session today. I’m super happy to introduce Anna Soellner, Senior Director of Communications from Reddit. Anna, welcome to this attune breakout session.

Anna Soellner:

Thanks Chuck. It’s great to be here. Proud Gen X.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. As we were waiting to get the session started, Anna, you had pointed out that you often receive some, we’ll say criticism. I don’t know if maybe that’s right-

Anna Soellner:

Feedback, Chuck.

Chuck Gose:

Feedback from your peers about being Gen X. So what, what is some of this feedback?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a side part, which is an obvious tell for my generation. We also probably wear jeans a little bit too skinny potentially. Apparently those are totally out now. And I also use the wrong emojis. So I’m now a mom. So apparently I am like full on mom because I’ve got the wrong hair, the wrong jeans and the wrong emojis.

Chuck Gose:

Well, Anna, I don’t care where your part is. I don’t care what jeans you’re wearing. I’m glad you’re a part of the session. As I mentioned, you’re senior director of comms at Reddit, which I think is an organization that I would say most people are probably very familiar with and perhaps they’re a Reddit user are familiar with the communities that are on Reddit. But share with us more about what the culture is like inside of Reddit, along with a little more detail about your role there.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So I joined Reddit about four and a half years ago. And for some of you in the audience who maybe are new to the function or really helping to build out the function at your organization, I feel you because that is exactly what I did at Reddit. When I joined four and a half years ago, there really was no function, either external nor internal. And so during that journey, the company was under a hundred employees and really poised to take the next step mature tremendously as a company. And so that was part of my job, is to really help facilitate to do the kind of public education, if you will, within the company about the importance of communications and all of its different forms.

And so now there are a number of different functions that I lead at the company, including internal communications. We have different specialized external communications functions, including digital, which is our social presence. We also do a lot of, we’re an ad supported platform so trade communications is very important to us. Consumer communications, we have millions of people a month coming 52 million approximately million people coming to Reddit every month. And so telling those consumer-based stories is very important to us. So a number of different functions across the board policy and safety, you all are probably very familiar with the fact that there’s a lot of concerns around what is going on with technology and platforms and ensuring the integrity of our elections and making sure that there are areas online that are free of harassment, other problematic content. So, we have a very robust corporate communications, safety, et cetera group within the team as well.

I didn’t even get to your question about what it’s like at the company, but I did want to explain what we manage.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And dig into the culture, we experienced it that on the consumer side of Reddit, but what is the culture inside of Reddit like?

Anna Soellner:

So it’s funny because when I first got to Reddit and when people would ask me that question, they were like, “Are you trolls that are like under this bridge and that’s where you live and that’s where the company’s based or is it 10,000 people on an enormous campus?” And it is neither of those things. So Reddit is actually fairly small in comparison to many of our peers. We have about 800 employees. And both in the United States, as well as in a couple of key markets overseas, we just started our international expansion. And as such we try and instill a real sense of community because Reddit is all about as a mission and we’re very much a mission first company.

Our mission is to bring community and belonging to the world. And as a result, we need to have that feel, be part of the lived experience of our employees as well. So very much oriented around ensuring that people can meet each other where they are, COVID obviously has presented a lot of challenges around that but still with that sensibility of Reddit, you can find your home on Reddit, both as a user, but then also as an employee. So very warm, very engaging, quirky as all get out and that’s by design.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think if anything, we’ve all learned in the last year is that sense of community and belonging is important in all aspects of our life. So that’s certainly great to hear that that’s formed into the Reddit internal culture. I didn’t want to address some things I see going on in the chat. Some people are using this word Xennials, and I think what they’re trying to do, Anna is grab what they think is the best of both and then disregard the things that the other generations get crap for. I don’t know that I like that Xennial stuff, but let’s get back to the chat here. [crosstalk 00:08:38].

Anna Soellner:

They are comms professionals, they are working it. They’re comms professionals. They know what’s up.

Chuck Gose:

One of the things that I think communicators often get hung up on is this sense of planning. And when you and I had spoken earlier, you had shared something of a humbling experience that you had when it came to a planning exercise that you led in 2019. So walk us through again, that very humbling experience of doing that forecasting and planning.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. And I’d like to acknowledge [inaudible 00:09:14] just mentioned in the chat that being in between generations totally fair. I was just teasing the audience because communicators often try and position themselves in the best way possible. So yes, I mentioned the function around the org while now we’re mature, we were really trying to take it to the next level in preparation for 2020. And that meant doing a really rigorous process around thinking through, we already knew that 2020 was going to be an interesting year, particularly because the election, because of other challenges that had occurred, particularly on platforms during election seasons, et cetera. And so I thought I was being really clever in terms of mapping out all these different scenarios that I thought the company would confront and demonstrating that we were going to have a playbook and have a cross-functional discussions across all of these different issues.

But where I really fell short was I did not anticipate a global pandemic. I did not anticipate a reckoning around social justice in the country, at least in the United States. And that was just a demonstration of the fact that adaptability is key for success within communications across the board in terms of any type of communications that you’re doing. And so again, total lesson learned for me, you can try and game out every single type of scenario, but then a black swan event is just going to come and mess up any kind of sense of pride you might feel of trying to look around all the corners. Now, I still think as an intellectual exercise, it’s so important. And frankly, I think it’s also really important as a cross-functional exercise for communicators to gain out how the company broadly wants to deal with different scenarios that could be presented.

Particularly I would say on the internal communications side, particularly because it involves so many different potential teams across the company. So net, net, glad I did it. I’m totally embarrassed by the results.

Chuck Gose:

Well, I think again, if anybody was honest with themselves, nobody foresaw what was going to happen. There’s this neuroscientist named David Rock and he came out with this model called scarf, S-C-A-R-F. I think it’s a better model to event for employee engagement than one of the other models that are out there. And the C in scarf stands for certainty. And so the sea was obviously to your point, we knew there was going to be a presidential election happened in 2020, but we still didn’t know the outcome of what that election was going to be, depending on what side you were on. Certainly no one foresaw, as you said, domestic social justice issues and reform happening. Certainly not a pandemic, even though for years scientists out there have been saying, “Hey, this is going to happen. It’s going to happen.” But everybody likes pushing those things far off into the future.

So definitely for those, I recommend looking into that, into that scarf model, but I’m curious then living through that 2020, seeing your forecasting and planning, I wouldn’t say be a waste of time. Certainly a learning exercise to go through that. How did that impact your planning as we looked to 2021? What sort of things were you looking at or preparing for this year?

Anna Soellner:

That’s a great question because 2020, I think through a lot of people for a loop and really in terms of focusing on 2021 thinking through, okay, how are we adapting to the fact that A, we may still be in lockdown depending on how things go with vaccinations? What have you? B, we could be opening up. So what does that mean in terms of the consumer behaviors that are going to change; both in terms of the audiences that we’re trying to attract, but also our employee base too. So that really led to… If we bring it back to internal comms and how we connect with our employees, that really led to a lot of kind of research and employee engagement around, how did they feel about returning to work? What was their comfort level in terms of how they wanted to be part of the company, but maybe in a new way. And so actually Reddit engaged in some pretty and some novel aspects of this, which may not seem novel right now, but several months ago that was considered novel, in particularly one way, which was one, we were going to give employees the optionality of how they returned to work.

They could go fully remote, they could do a hybrid model, or they could come back full time. And while we have not announced when our return to work will happen, it’s certainly with that optionality in mind. And we also announced to our employees that if they decided to go fully remote, we would continue to compensate them the same way that they would be compensated if they were in a major market. So that is a point of differentiation between us and some of our counterpart companies who would change their salary bands, depending, for example, if they had lived in San Francisco, but then moved to Wyoming, for example.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think that I was disappointed when I saw some companies make that announcement of when people were looking out for their own wellbeing or their own family wellbeing, and they could be remote, but now wanted to live elsewhere, and then there was a threat from companies about adjusting their pay based on all of that. That’s certainly great to hear that Reddit believed in the employees and the employees making the choices that were right for them. Before we get into some of the next steps, you had shared with me in a story, I’d like to learn a little bit more to see how it prepared you, you were in Hong Kong during SARS, which I don’t think us in the US we really felt the impact that that had. So when the pandemic started to play out here in the US, did you feel more prepared based on that experience or did you have a greater sense of reality and maybe more fear around what this pandemic was going to do to, to the US and globally the world?

Anna Soellner:

Yes. I would say it was actually a little bit of both. And by that I mean, I knew it was something that we would be able to overcome. I also anticipated there would be a lot of devastation. I did not anticipate though how long would take. If folks recall, SARS happened in 2000 and basically Hong Kong and Guandong province were pretty much ground zero for it, at that period of time. It did spread to North America, South Canada, United States, and a number of countries within Asia, but for the most part stayed sequestered. Now there’s a whole number of scientific reasons for why that happened. But having that experience about being in Hong Kong during SARS, the city shut down in many ways, very similar to what we experienced in the United States, where the streets were empty, everything was shut down, theaters, restaurants, workplaces, et cetera.

And so that obviously was as disturbing as what we have experienced this past year. However, the way in which, and again, this is like a case study in how you manage pandemics, the way in which it was handled, and then subsequently the fact that they were able to really curtail the disease made the kind of recovery aspect of much swifter than I think we will experience unfortunately.

Chuck Gose:

Now we talked about some of the choices that Reddit’s leadership presented to employees around letting them choose the style of work that they had, talk about more around that, right when the pandemic hit, or even leading up to it, how did Reddit’s leadership respond? How did the leadership communicate and what other actions were taken to look after employee wellbeing?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So we took a number of different steps. We have a number of values as a company that I kind of mentioned at the top, but one of the really important values, particularly during this time was default open. And that means we have a spirit of transparency and a culture of transparency at the company. And by that, I mean, when we have answers to things, we’ll share that with our employees. That is part of the trust matrix that we think is really, really important is to really be forthcoming about what’s going on with the business and how we’re doing and set that in the context of what’s going on either globally with the economy or in this case, amidst a pandemic. And so we immediately put together a task force, a cross-functional task force across the company with key leaders. Obviously communications was an important component of that, but HR, our IT teams, different parts of leadership that really made sure that our employee base could move from being in offices to not being in offices. So setting up that taskforce, I think was an essential first step.

And then from there setting up very clear channels of employee communications, so that folks knew that every Monday they were going to get an email from our CEO, giving them a specific update on kind of where things stood, what we knew, what we didn’t know and then ways in which the company was going to adapt with the employees and this new normal that we were all in. Reddit has a pretty extensive suite of benefits for employees including different kinds of stipends. And so we altered those stipends so that people could use them for things like setting up a proper for themselves, buying a desk for example, or a proper ergonomic chair so that they didn’t have to use their dining room chair for X number of months. These are the kinds of kind of simple ways in which we could meet employees where they were, but then also we recognized that we didn’t want to lose that important cultural aspect to the company.

And so we actually, in the earlier days of COVID, and even now we kind of changed up all the kinds of employment engagement activities that we do, be it off-sites which are via computer now. But really trying to create an environment where employees could share of themselves, but do it in a way that was comfortable for them. So that might be a joint exercise class, because if you recall, everybody was shut in and kind of wanting to do some physical activity, but not totally feeling uncomfortable about it. So we still have them, we offer these kinds of group fitness type of of classes with the clear understanding that you do not have to have your camera on, this is your moment to get your sweat on. So that’s kind of a simple example, but then there are other ways.

People were also struggling, this was obviously a really hard time for a lot of people. And then you include the social justice aspect on top of that, which even today we are being confronted with. And so making sure that employees also understood that they had other benefits tied to their insurance around issues like counseling was very important. We have a colleague who is an incredible meditation lead. And this is not his day job by the way, he’s within the sales organization, but he would actually do these led… And he does to this day, led meditations with a number of employees once a week during the lunch hour. And so those kinds of moments where you could still connect with employees in a way that feel comfortable to you became very important.

Chuck Gose:

Now, you had mentioned that transparency has always been a big part of Reddit’s leadership communication. I saw with a lot of organizations, the cadence picked up dramatically, where employees maybe only hear from their CEO once a quarter, or maybe once a month. They’re now hearing from her every week or some even almost daily. And Reddit’s cadence also increased, or was it already in place to where this just became more still than normal mode of communication?

Anna Soellner:

So typically employees would hear from our CEO most weeks through our all hands meetings, which occur on a Thursday. And so we continue to do those and obviously the CEO was certainly a part of those. But we added on a couple of more vectors of communication, not just from him, but then also through other parts of the organization. And like I mentioned before getting that Monday email is something that continues to occur. So just a quick update on what’s going on with the company and expectations for the week. And then also this all hands in which we also through that all hands do a Q&A with our CEO. If you’re familiar with Reddit, it’s basically a constellation of different types of communities. We actually have an employee private Subreddit which is where we solicit questions for either the CEO or other executives or leaders across the company. And so that people could ask questions.

Chuck Gose:

I’ve got one question I’m going to go to one that was submitted from the chat, which I think is a good follow on to the one I’m going to ask, as much more detailed. But I want to talk about employee voice at Reddit and what have Reddit employees either said verbally, or I think sometimes you can look more at employees behavior, what have they said behaviorally about the pandemic, about social justice? What does it mean for them as employees? And then how does Reddit capture that feedback? I might’ve just been in that private community you talked about, but what are some of the ways you capture or solicit that feedback from employees?

Anna Soellner:

So there are a number of different vectors for that. So certainly on through the company Subreddit, we can do that. We have a very robust number of employee resource groups that are representative of different groups across the company. And so certainly most recently our Asian resource group was clearly impacted with all of the violence that was happening a month against the Asian community. And women, I actually am one of the leads for the women of Reddit resource group. The resources groups did become an important area of communication in two ways and I think that these are both very important to recognize. One, to really be a mechanism for channeling areas of concern for employees, particularly who are represented in those different kinds of designations.

But also I think particularly in the early days around social justice and Black Lives Matter, I think a lot of companies kind of turned to their Black resource groups for advice or for how they should react and all of that kind of thing, which it was kind of unfair to position those employees as to present answers on behalf of the company. And so it’s something that we certainly had to be very sensitive to and I think helped to really inform how we think about these things moving forward. But I also think it was important for us to communicate with those resource groups to check in, see how they’re doing, how the company can be supportive but also to make sure that they aren’t having to carry the weight that’s really the responsibility of the broader company.

Chuck Gose:

No, I absolutely think that’s a phenomenal point, Anna. I want to get to Shannon’s question, because I think it’s a great segue into this. Her question is, how do you grapple with some of the challenges posed by de platforming and free speech when it comes to balancing business performance risk, but also sociopolitical activism happening? We see a lot of that happening inside organizations. Do you feel like employees have an opportunity to be a part of the conversation around the topic and then how does this culture drive employees to respond? So a bit of twofold there. How do you begin nurturing that conversation inside the company and then how do you counsel employees if they want to share externally?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So this is an area that I think Reddit has made a lot of progress on during my tenure. And I think that it’s both an area where employees can get involved, but also it’s not the sole responsibility of employees to feel like they have the burden of that because these can be incredibly heavy, deep topics. And so the way in which we approach it, we do have a cross-functional group of employees who are responsible for ensuring that our platform values meet our corporate values. And in fact, it was a big lesson learned for us, I will say, over the course of 2020, because there was a gap for us in the sense that we were more permissive on our platform, than we were with how we would allow employees to engage with one another.

And so as a result of that, we actually did a major policy update in 2020 to address some of those concerns and to make sure that there was much better alignment between what our company values were and what the platform values represented. Because look, I think everybody who works at Reddit wants to be proud of where they work and they want to make sure that that values alignment is there. If anything has come out of how employers think about employee engagement, it’s making values based decision making. And so while it was definitely not simple decisions to be made and simple processes to put in place, I think the company feels like we made the right decisions there and are proud that we were able to make those decisions in conjunction with our broader community.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. Thank you, Shannon, for asking that question, you see in the chat, there’s some people giving you some accolades there. I think there is a big struggle, especially I see with so many communicators and internal communicators focused on employer advocacy, being a part of what they do or are responsible for. I don’t see a lot focusing on employee activism and there’ve been a lot of examples of employees taking the reins of the conversation if they don’t feel like the company is responding to them. And I think that’s certainly something that if you’re not researching or looking into, begin thinking about this employee activism, because your employees do have voices, they do have platforms. And if they don’t think the company is going to listen to them, they’ve got a place to go. There’s dozens of examples out there of organizations that have had to adjust because they didn’t listen to employees the first time and employees took those messages outside the organization.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. I think that’s a really important point regardless of what generation you’re in, but especially employees are incredibly tech savvy these days, they come to work already with sometimes with a platform of their own, be it their Twitter following or their Snapchat following, or what have you. They have LinkedIn followers and they can be very forthcoming in ways that can be wonderful but they can also really come at you straight. And being able to anticipate those kinds of moments and make sure that you can address them and address them in a way in which these employees feel like they’re being taken seriously. And that there is a plan for evolution or change. Again, another major value of ours is to evolve. We are still in some respects, a small company even though we have a large platform. And so we know that we have to be constantly adapting.

And so that’s something that I think it’s a very helpful guide star for me because if I’ve made a decision in the past, I don’t have to feel totally beholden to that because the circumstances may have changed. And so for me as an employee, it makes me feel more open to say like, “You know what, we got to evolve.” The way in which we may have positioned ourselves in the past or talked about things in the past just doesn’t make sense anymore and so that’s okay.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think what we’ve seen this happen time and time again, don’t listen to what companies say or watch what they do. And then that’s when you see that behavior take place. And we’re still working our way through this pandemic. I know everybody was feeling very good, at least from a news media standpoint and people getting vaccinated and making progress. And then this morning there was this JNJ announcement, and then people feel like, oh, no, are we taking a step back or not? But as a comms leader, Anna, what lessons did you learn during this pandemic? And hopefully we’ll all be out of it very soon and we can all attend events face to face again with each other, but as a comms leader, what have you learned about either the importance of being in communications or just being a leader in business?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I think one thing that we learned that it was a deep, deep respect for internal communications and employee communications. I think for a long time it was considered kind of secondary and that completely changed as a result of the past year and a half. And I think there’s two reasons for that. Obviously COVID is one, but the workforce is changing. And there’s a different expectation now, amongst employees about that relationship they have with their employer. You hear about it a lot around consumer choice, but you’re also seeing that reflected in employee choice and like, where do they feel comfortable working? Where do they want to spend a lot of time? I think Chuck, you and I were talking earlier about how the last year and a half has demonstrated that the professional has become personal and the personal has become professional. Those lines are now completely bled into one another because your professional life is at home or mostly at home for many people.

And as a result of that, people just are more sensitive around where they work and how they work and with whom they work. And so that means that people like all of us that are on this call are all the more essential for employers. And so that I think has been a huge game changer in terms of the level of respect accrued to internal communications and employee communications.

And I think obviously the second huge lesson here is just adaptability, is being able to be resilient to change. And I think that is something where maybe we’re in a new normal where things are going to kind of get to a more normal state but for a variety of different reasons, I anticipate that there will continue to be these “rogue waves” that will jostle people and how you handle it, how you show up as a leader really will impact how you can be positioned for the future.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. And right now we don’t really know the impact and we think about how 9/11 impacted us globally. Some things changed forever. Some things really didn’t change that much, same thing with the pandemic and public health. Certainly we are guessing now what these long-term effects will be. Something I know you had mentioned as we were joining, you’ve got a little one at home. You’ve got a dog that likes to bark when packages are delivered. You’ve got a husband at home working there as well. How has this last year been for you, Anna?

Anna Soellner:

I think for me, and I was actually reflecting on this after our first conversation, it’s changed, like how I want to think about both how I can have influence within my organization, particularly around working parents, but also how I engage externally maybe in what I do in terms of my own personal giving or what organizations that I support. That has been an important piece to meet for me. And then also access to quality information. That is another area of great importance to me personally and professionally. And so understanding fundamentally how important those are when these kinds of moments happen. I think I need to stay straight out of the [inaudible 00:38:55]. I come from a position of privilege because I work in an industry that was able to be adaptable to this moment.

There are a lot of people who didn’t have that option. I was able to make sure that our family was financially secure along with my husband, that we had access to being able to care for our daughter in a way that wasn’t going to totally curtail our capacity to continue to still thrive in our jobs. And that’s not the case for a lot of people. So those are areas that I have thought deeply about because I have been able to come from it of a place of where I didn’t feel the same level of pain as a lot of other people or a lot of other friends or family members who work in industries very different from mine, where it was really quite acute.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great point. Some of us have been very privileged during this time, and it’s important to recognize that and not take it for granted. Knowing others, I know that… As I’ve been interviewing people for the Culture Comms and Cocktails Podcast during this time, I began asking people like, oh how are you and your loved ones doing during this pandemic? And as I went to ask that question to somebody, they said, “Can you please not ask me that. It has not been good for the loved ones.” And it takes you back to remember that not everybody has had the same privilege type environment for it. Feel free to go on in, I know we just have about five minutes left, but there’s one final question I have for Anna. So if you have any questions, throw them into the chat, we’ll get to them.

And it’s a phrase Anna, that you used when we first chatted. I’m going to have you give the context, but I want to say the phrase you said, “We had to be rats in 2020.” So explain where this phrase comes from for you because I think that’s a great anecdote for all of us.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So my daughter was born in 2020 in addition to all the other things that were going on. And for the most part 2020 was the year of the rat and the Chinese Zodiac. And my husband at first was like, “Oh, a rat, that’s terrible.” And I said, “No, this is perfect. This is exactly what we want because rats are clever and they’re survivors and they have grit and they will figure out a way to overcome any kind of adversity.” And so in 2020, we all have to be rats. And I think that was actually quite true.

Chuck Gose:

Yes. I see Adam commented in there, “Yes survivors, they are survivors.” And I think those of us that have been fortunate enough to see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic and see a future out there, I would not have maybe classified myself as a rat during that time but certainly appreciate that sentiment. Now, there’s one other thing you mentioned and I meant to come back to it, we’ve got on the rest of the topic. Earlier on, you had talked about Reddit doing a global expansion during this time, that had to present an insane amount of extra challenges.

Anna Soellner:

Yes it did. The timeline certainly had to adapt and everybody is probably experiencing this where you’re trying to onboard employees either remotely or in a way that’s safe where you still are socially distant or behind PPE. And so it really created a whole lot of challenges, but similar to how we’re able to converse right now that we’re able to use technology to adapt and still try and successfully launch as best we could in these different markets. And so I’m very gratified that we were able to do that. We launched into international markets within the last several months. And so that’s been really exciting. We’ve got plans to continue to do so. And hopefully, as the months progress, we may actually get to do that IRL.

But it’s interesting, I say that and I think thinking through, and I’ve just been pondering this more and more, as leaders within internal comms, it’s also going to be really important for us to not try and overload the system. Because I think a lot of people they’ve just been shut out of this kind of social interaction and being in person again, I think it’s going to take a minute for people to feel really comfortable. It’s going to be a muscle that we’re going to have to train. And so if I can leave you all with the recommendation for something to think about for the future, it’s how do you want to think about that return to work if that’s something that you already haven’t engaged in and making sure you’re doing it at the right pace for your employees.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It’s one of those and I’ve seen where people have thrived in this environment. Others have struggled and I can see some organizations struggle with a bit of a culture clash of people who are just chomping at the bit to get back in the office and back in real life, as you said, in face to face with each other, versus some people they might excel in this virtual environment. So making sure that everybody is prepared. We are at a time and there was something you mentioned when we talked about lessons learned that you shared about how critical comms has been during this past year. I know as part of internal communications, we’ve always felt critical, but now we know that others are seeing that value.

So back in March and April and May, and I was telling communicators, hey, this is your time to shine not time to gloat. No one’s going to throw a parade for you at this point in time. But, so many of you have shown your value to organizations during this time. So keep delivering that value keeps standing up for employees, keep delivering that employee voice. Thank you, Anna so much for joining us for this session. You are going to be in person last year. And of course we couldn’t do that. So thank you for sticking with us for this one.

Anna Soellner:

Sure thing.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you to all of you who joined this session, throw into the chat, do some clapping emojis or something for Anna in there. Thank you for the time. I know after this there’s a brief break. There’s another yoga session happening Anna, I don’t know if you’re into yoga or not. I’ve only done it like once and I almost harmed somebody, one time doing yoga. It was at an event-

Anna Soellner:

Namaste Chuck, that’s all I’m going to say. Namaste.

Chuck Gose:

It was at an event and I’ve got a pretty wide wingspan, Anna and they didn’t space us out enough. So some lady caught a hand to the… It was not pretty, but this is where virtual is helpful, yoga. You can’t injure anybody in virtual yoga. So thanks everybody for sticking around, attend the yoga session. We’ve got one more closing keynote and then Gary, our CEO will be closing out the day. Thanks everybody for the time, attention and participation today.

Anna Soellner:

Appreciate it. Take care, everyone.

Chuck Gose:

And I think Patrick, whenever you want to close us out, we are good to go.

Patrick:

I’ll give it a minute or so, and then [crosstalk 00:46:57].

Chuck Gose:

Oh, okay. We can just keep catching up with Anna then. Let’s see if there’s any other questions that came in here.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah, definitely.

Chuck Gose:

Oh yeah, here’s a good one, about what if employees want to go back to work, but managers want to stay home? If it’s an environment where the people are there, but the managers are not, that’s an interesting situation.

Anna Soellner:

That is an interesting one. And I think look, you probably have that arrangement already where the managers we’re not in your line of sight and if the employees feel like that’s a more productive place for them to do their work, then I say, go for it. I think the hybrid model is with us, which I think is frankly a good thing. I think employees have proven themselves to be trustworthy, to do good work. In fact most of the studies say that employees were in fact more productive, more productive during this period. And so and so I think that there’s just a new level of trust around the fact that you didn’t have to have the eyes on you to make sure that your employees were doing what they needed to be doing.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think I saw somebody mentioned the same debate happens with introverts and extroverts. And it’s not about being outspoken or quiet. It’s more about where do you get your energy from and energy from people. And someone who’s worked remote for close to a decade, obviously I was very comfortable still working remote, but my challenge was I wasn’t used to only being remote. So I think even for people who were privileged enough to not have to go into an office or would describe as a first-line or frontline worker, you had that flexibility, but you still like seeing people. You still want to be able to hang out with people or go to events or go to an airport or something.

And it’s that next step that I’m so curious to see, I do see that comparison between 9/11 and the pandemic. And I talked about with my partner who’s also in communications that 9/11 was like a tornado. It hit and it was not over, but the damage was over and then it was the fallout. Whereas the pandemic was more like a flood because you don’t know what the damage has been until the flood is dissipated. So I think we’re just now starting to learn and seeing organizations like Reddit be responsible and look out for employee wellbeing. I think those are the organizations that are going to come out ahead in the long run, frankly.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. A hundred percent. And I think the flood analogy makes a lot of sense because we know, we know a lot of the statistical tolls that have been taken. But I anticipate too that there’s going to be a lot of residual emotion. I’m just going to use that word because it represent kind of the span of different feelings involved. And I think it’ll take some time for us to revert to “normal again.” And I think that in some areas, in some spaces, mask wearing might become more common. It was certainly the case in Asia, mask wearing is just normalized. Here, it’s kind of become the funny political act, which I don’t think is totally appropriate, so it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of [inaudible 00:50:43] continue and what don’t.

Is handshaking out? Sounds like a lot of people are not down with him shaking, but I think hugs are still something that people are going to crave. We’ll see how it goes.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It is interesting to see what habits we’ve developed, that we probably don’t need to acknowledge as habits over the past 12, 13, 14 months. And what will still stick around as a habit or what will be comfortable? I compare it to when I grew up, I don’t want to say like seat belts were optional, but some people wore it, some people did.

Anna Soellner:

A hundred percent. There were no car seats.

Chuck Gose:

Whereas my children freak out if I put the car in reverse and they don’t have a fully snapped in yet. So generally what will… We kicked this off talking about generations. How will this impact future generations? The ones that are around now will have one experience. The ones that are coming up with a completely different experience when it comes to public health. So who knows how that’ll shape policy? We’ve gotten way off track. We still got 43 people sticking around and talking to us, and we’ve gotten way off track here. So Patrick, feel free to kill this. Otherwise, we can just keep talking.

Patrick:

I mean, I can assign you as the host and then you will be responsible for [crosstalk 00:52:01].

Chuck Gose:

I think we’re good. Thank you again, Anna, for being a part of this.

Anna Soellner:

Thank you everyone.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you.

Anna Soellner:

Take care.

Chuck Gose:

Bye.

Anna Soellner:

Bye.

 

Expand Transcript

Video Transcript

Chuck Gose:

All right. Well, we’ve got three o’clock Eastern on the nose, so I’m going to stop sharing the screen so that we can immediately jump into our session here today. Thank you everybody for joining. I want to make sure that Patrick makes sure that Anna and I are both highlighted. I lost my view of just the two of us, so you can make sure that happens. But want to thank everybody for joining this breakout session. Hopefully you’ve had a great attune so far you’ve joined AMA, taking the pulse of Reddit’s workforce is a breakout session. Obviously if you have any questions or you attended the session earlier you know the chat is a very useful tool. Patrick is in there if you have any technical issues but if you have any questions for our guests or myself, please use that chat box, address them to who you want them to go to.

And my other big ask is if we hadn’t been in a pandemic, we can all fantasize what that would be like. We would normally be in an event, you’d be sitting at tables, you’d be meeting communicators from other businesses, other people from around the world, go into the chat and introduce yourself. Obviously we see your name, but introduce yourself who you are, where you work, anything about that you think others would find interesting. What I will find interesting, I want to share with each of you is add a little hashtag Gen X to your introduction if you identify as Gen X. In a previous session, I was stirring the pot a little bit based off of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s quotes. I felt like the Gen X generation was somewhat forgotten about in that. I joke with people, but it’s not really a joke, I feel like we are the glue that holds all these generations together, but are also often forgotten about. So I do not forget about you, so hashtag Gen X if you’re in there, introduce yourself. I see our guests has already come in there to do that.

And also if you’re here, great things that our guests is sharing, any takeaways, anything that resonated with you, don’t wait until after the session, go on LinkedIn, go on Twitter, use hashtag attune 2021. That just draws more attention in. Everybody’s able to learn more from each other. I see Shelly. Yes. Amen. Gen X. Thanks for joining. Now, let’s get started with our session today. I’m super happy to introduce Anna Soellner, Senior Director of Communications from Reddit. Anna, welcome to this attune breakout session.

Anna Soellner:

Thanks Chuck. It’s great to be here. Proud Gen X.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. As we were waiting to get the session started, Anna, you had pointed out that you often receive some, we’ll say criticism. I don’t know if maybe that’s right-

Anna Soellner:

Feedback, Chuck.

Chuck Gose:

Feedback from your peers about being Gen X. So what, what is some of this feedback?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a side part, which is an obvious tell for my generation. We also probably wear jeans a little bit too skinny potentially. Apparently those are totally out now. And I also use the wrong emojis. So I’m now a mom. So apparently I am like full on mom because I’ve got the wrong hair, the wrong jeans and the wrong emojis.

Chuck Gose:

Well, Anna, I don’t care where your part is. I don’t care what jeans you’re wearing. I’m glad you’re a part of the session. As I mentioned, you’re senior director of comms at Reddit, which I think is an organization that I would say most people are probably very familiar with and perhaps they’re a Reddit user are familiar with the communities that are on Reddit. But share with us more about what the culture is like inside of Reddit, along with a little more detail about your role there.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So I joined Reddit about four and a half years ago. And for some of you in the audience who maybe are new to the function or really helping to build out the function at your organization, I feel you because that is exactly what I did at Reddit. When I joined four and a half years ago, there really was no function, either external nor internal. And so during that journey, the company was under a hundred employees and really poised to take the next step mature tremendously as a company. And so that was part of my job, is to really help facilitate to do the kind of public education, if you will, within the company about the importance of communications and all of its different forms.

And so now there are a number of different functions that I lead at the company, including internal communications. We have different specialized external communications functions, including digital, which is our social presence. We also do a lot of, we’re an ad supported platform so trade communications is very important to us. Consumer communications, we have millions of people a month coming 52 million approximately million people coming to Reddit every month. And so telling those consumer-based stories is very important to us. So a number of different functions across the board policy and safety, you all are probably very familiar with the fact that there’s a lot of concerns around what is going on with technology and platforms and ensuring the integrity of our elections and making sure that there are areas online that are free of harassment, other problematic content. So, we have a very robust corporate communications, safety, et cetera group within the team as well.

I didn’t even get to your question about what it’s like at the company, but I did want to explain what we manage.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And dig into the culture, we experienced it that on the consumer side of Reddit, but what is the culture inside of Reddit like?

Anna Soellner:

So it’s funny because when I first got to Reddit and when people would ask me that question, they were like, “Are you trolls that are like under this bridge and that’s where you live and that’s where the company’s based or is it 10,000 people on an enormous campus?” And it is neither of those things. So Reddit is actually fairly small in comparison to many of our peers. We have about 800 employees. And both in the United States, as well as in a couple of key markets overseas, we just started our international expansion. And as such we try and instill a real sense of community because Reddit is all about as a mission and we’re very much a mission first company.

Our mission is to bring community and belonging to the world. And as a result, we need to have that feel, be part of the lived experience of our employees as well. So very much oriented around ensuring that people can meet each other where they are, COVID obviously has presented a lot of challenges around that but still with that sensibility of Reddit, you can find your home on Reddit, both as a user, but then also as an employee. So very warm, very engaging, quirky as all get out and that’s by design.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think if anything, we’ve all learned in the last year is that sense of community and belonging is important in all aspects of our life. So that’s certainly great to hear that that’s formed into the Reddit internal culture. I didn’t want to address some things I see going on in the chat. Some people are using this word Xennials, and I think what they’re trying to do, Anna is grab what they think is the best of both and then disregard the things that the other generations get crap for. I don’t know that I like that Xennial stuff, but let’s get back to the chat here. [crosstalk 00:08:38].

Anna Soellner:

They are comms professionals, they are working it. They’re comms professionals. They know what’s up.

Chuck Gose:

One of the things that I think communicators often get hung up on is this sense of planning. And when you and I had spoken earlier, you had shared something of a humbling experience that you had when it came to a planning exercise that you led in 2019. So walk us through again, that very humbling experience of doing that forecasting and planning.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. And I’d like to acknowledge [inaudible 00:09:14] just mentioned in the chat that being in between generations totally fair. I was just teasing the audience because communicators often try and position themselves in the best way possible. So yes, I mentioned the function around the org while now we’re mature, we were really trying to take it to the next level in preparation for 2020. And that meant doing a really rigorous process around thinking through, we already knew that 2020 was going to be an interesting year, particularly because the election, because of other challenges that had occurred, particularly on platforms during election seasons, et cetera. And so I thought I was being really clever in terms of mapping out all these different scenarios that I thought the company would confront and demonstrating that we were going to have a playbook and have a cross-functional discussions across all of these different issues.

But where I really fell short was I did not anticipate a global pandemic. I did not anticipate a reckoning around social justice in the country, at least in the United States. And that was just a demonstration of the fact that adaptability is key for success within communications across the board in terms of any type of communications that you’re doing. And so again, total lesson learned for me, you can try and game out every single type of scenario, but then a black swan event is just going to come and mess up any kind of sense of pride you might feel of trying to look around all the corners. Now, I still think as an intellectual exercise, it’s so important. And frankly, I think it’s also really important as a cross-functional exercise for communicators to gain out how the company broadly wants to deal with different scenarios that could be presented.

Particularly I would say on the internal communications side, particularly because it involves so many different potential teams across the company. So net, net, glad I did it. I’m totally embarrassed by the results.

Chuck Gose:

Well, I think again, if anybody was honest with themselves, nobody foresaw what was going to happen. There’s this neuroscientist named David Rock and he came out with this model called scarf, S-C-A-R-F. I think it’s a better model to event for employee engagement than one of the other models that are out there. And the C in scarf stands for certainty. And so the sea was obviously to your point, we knew there was going to be a presidential election happened in 2020, but we still didn’t know the outcome of what that election was going to be, depending on what side you were on. Certainly no one foresaw, as you said, domestic social justice issues and reform happening. Certainly not a pandemic, even though for years scientists out there have been saying, “Hey, this is going to happen. It’s going to happen.” But everybody likes pushing those things far off into the future.

So definitely for those, I recommend looking into that, into that scarf model, but I’m curious then living through that 2020, seeing your forecasting and planning, I wouldn’t say be a waste of time. Certainly a learning exercise to go through that. How did that impact your planning as we looked to 2021? What sort of things were you looking at or preparing for this year?

Anna Soellner:

That’s a great question because 2020, I think through a lot of people for a loop and really in terms of focusing on 2021 thinking through, okay, how are we adapting to the fact that A, we may still be in lockdown depending on how things go with vaccinations? What have you? B, we could be opening up. So what does that mean in terms of the consumer behaviors that are going to change; both in terms of the audiences that we’re trying to attract, but also our employee base too. So that really led to… If we bring it back to internal comms and how we connect with our employees, that really led to a lot of kind of research and employee engagement around, how did they feel about returning to work? What was their comfort level in terms of how they wanted to be part of the company, but maybe in a new way. And so actually Reddit engaged in some pretty and some novel aspects of this, which may not seem novel right now, but several months ago that was considered novel, in particularly one way, which was one, we were going to give employees the optionality of how they returned to work.

They could go fully remote, they could do a hybrid model, or they could come back full time. And while we have not announced when our return to work will happen, it’s certainly with that optionality in mind. And we also announced to our employees that if they decided to go fully remote, we would continue to compensate them the same way that they would be compensated if they were in a major market. So that is a point of differentiation between us and some of our counterpart companies who would change their salary bands, depending, for example, if they had lived in San Francisco, but then moved to Wyoming, for example.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think that I was disappointed when I saw some companies make that announcement of when people were looking out for their own wellbeing or their own family wellbeing, and they could be remote, but now wanted to live elsewhere, and then there was a threat from companies about adjusting their pay based on all of that. That’s certainly great to hear that Reddit believed in the employees and the employees making the choices that were right for them. Before we get into some of the next steps, you had shared with me in a story, I’d like to learn a little bit more to see how it prepared you, you were in Hong Kong during SARS, which I don’t think us in the US we really felt the impact that that had. So when the pandemic started to play out here in the US, did you feel more prepared based on that experience or did you have a greater sense of reality and maybe more fear around what this pandemic was going to do to, to the US and globally the world?

Anna Soellner:

Yes. I would say it was actually a little bit of both. And by that I mean, I knew it was something that we would be able to overcome. I also anticipated there would be a lot of devastation. I did not anticipate though how long would take. If folks recall, SARS happened in 2000 and basically Hong Kong and Guandong province were pretty much ground zero for it, at that period of time. It did spread to North America, South Canada, United States, and a number of countries within Asia, but for the most part stayed sequestered. Now there’s a whole number of scientific reasons for why that happened. But having that experience about being in Hong Kong during SARS, the city shut down in many ways, very similar to what we experienced in the United States, where the streets were empty, everything was shut down, theaters, restaurants, workplaces, et cetera.

And so that obviously was as disturbing as what we have experienced this past year. However, the way in which, and again, this is like a case study in how you manage pandemics, the way in which it was handled, and then subsequently the fact that they were able to really curtail the disease made the kind of recovery aspect of much swifter than I think we will experience unfortunately.

Chuck Gose:

Now we talked about some of the choices that Reddit’s leadership presented to employees around letting them choose the style of work that they had, talk about more around that, right when the pandemic hit, or even leading up to it, how did Reddit’s leadership respond? How did the leadership communicate and what other actions were taken to look after employee wellbeing?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So we took a number of different steps. We have a number of values as a company that I kind of mentioned at the top, but one of the really important values, particularly during this time was default open. And that means we have a spirit of transparency and a culture of transparency at the company. And by that, I mean, when we have answers to things, we’ll share that with our employees. That is part of the trust matrix that we think is really, really important is to really be forthcoming about what’s going on with the business and how we’re doing and set that in the context of what’s going on either globally with the economy or in this case, amidst a pandemic. And so we immediately put together a task force, a cross-functional task force across the company with key leaders. Obviously communications was an important component of that, but HR, our IT teams, different parts of leadership that really made sure that our employee base could move from being in offices to not being in offices. So setting up that taskforce, I think was an essential first step.

And then from there setting up very clear channels of employee communications, so that folks knew that every Monday they were going to get an email from our CEO, giving them a specific update on kind of where things stood, what we knew, what we didn’t know and then ways in which the company was going to adapt with the employees and this new normal that we were all in. Reddit has a pretty extensive suite of benefits for employees including different kinds of stipends. And so we altered those stipends so that people could use them for things like setting up a proper for themselves, buying a desk for example, or a proper ergonomic chair so that they didn’t have to use their dining room chair for X number of months. These are the kinds of kind of simple ways in which we could meet employees where they were, but then also we recognized that we didn’t want to lose that important cultural aspect to the company.

And so we actually, in the earlier days of COVID, and even now we kind of changed up all the kinds of employment engagement activities that we do, be it off-sites which are via computer now. But really trying to create an environment where employees could share of themselves, but do it in a way that was comfortable for them. So that might be a joint exercise class, because if you recall, everybody was shut in and kind of wanting to do some physical activity, but not totally feeling uncomfortable about it. So we still have them, we offer these kinds of group fitness type of of classes with the clear understanding that you do not have to have your camera on, this is your moment to get your sweat on. So that’s kind of a simple example, but then there are other ways.

People were also struggling, this was obviously a really hard time for a lot of people. And then you include the social justice aspect on top of that, which even today we are being confronted with. And so making sure that employees also understood that they had other benefits tied to their insurance around issues like counseling was very important. We have a colleague who is an incredible meditation lead. And this is not his day job by the way, he’s within the sales organization, but he would actually do these led… And he does to this day, led meditations with a number of employees once a week during the lunch hour. And so those kinds of moments where you could still connect with employees in a way that feel comfortable to you became very important.

Chuck Gose:

Now, you had mentioned that transparency has always been a big part of Reddit’s leadership communication. I saw with a lot of organizations, the cadence picked up dramatically, where employees maybe only hear from their CEO once a quarter, or maybe once a month. They’re now hearing from her every week or some even almost daily. And Reddit’s cadence also increased, or was it already in place to where this just became more still than normal mode of communication?

Anna Soellner:

So typically employees would hear from our CEO most weeks through our all hands meetings, which occur on a Thursday. And so we continue to do those and obviously the CEO was certainly a part of those. But we added on a couple of more vectors of communication, not just from him, but then also through other parts of the organization. And like I mentioned before getting that Monday email is something that continues to occur. So just a quick update on what’s going on with the company and expectations for the week. And then also this all hands in which we also through that all hands do a Q&A with our CEO. If you’re familiar with Reddit, it’s basically a constellation of different types of communities. We actually have an employee private Subreddit which is where we solicit questions for either the CEO or other executives or leaders across the company. And so that people could ask questions.

Chuck Gose:

I’ve got one question I’m going to go to one that was submitted from the chat, which I think is a good follow on to the one I’m going to ask, as much more detailed. But I want to talk about employee voice at Reddit and what have Reddit employees either said verbally, or I think sometimes you can look more at employees behavior, what have they said behaviorally about the pandemic, about social justice? What does it mean for them as employees? And then how does Reddit capture that feedback? I might’ve just been in that private community you talked about, but what are some of the ways you capture or solicit that feedback from employees?

Anna Soellner:

So there are a number of different vectors for that. So certainly on through the company Subreddit, we can do that. We have a very robust number of employee resource groups that are representative of different groups across the company. And so certainly most recently our Asian resource group was clearly impacted with all of the violence that was happening a month against the Asian community. And women, I actually am one of the leads for the women of Reddit resource group. The resources groups did become an important area of communication in two ways and I think that these are both very important to recognize. One, to really be a mechanism for channeling areas of concern for employees, particularly who are represented in those different kinds of designations.

But also I think particularly in the early days around social justice and Black Lives Matter, I think a lot of companies kind of turned to their Black resource groups for advice or for how they should react and all of that kind of thing, which it was kind of unfair to position those employees as to present answers on behalf of the company. And so it’s something that we certainly had to be very sensitive to and I think helped to really inform how we think about these things moving forward. But I also think it was important for us to communicate with those resource groups to check in, see how they’re doing, how the company can be supportive but also to make sure that they aren’t having to carry the weight that’s really the responsibility of the broader company.

Chuck Gose:

No, I absolutely think that’s a phenomenal point, Anna. I want to get to Shannon’s question, because I think it’s a great segue into this. Her question is, how do you grapple with some of the challenges posed by de platforming and free speech when it comes to balancing business performance risk, but also sociopolitical activism happening? We see a lot of that happening inside organizations. Do you feel like employees have an opportunity to be a part of the conversation around the topic and then how does this culture drive employees to respond? So a bit of twofold there. How do you begin nurturing that conversation inside the company and then how do you counsel employees if they want to share externally?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So this is an area that I think Reddit has made a lot of progress on during my tenure. And I think that it’s both an area where employees can get involved, but also it’s not the sole responsibility of employees to feel like they have the burden of that because these can be incredibly heavy, deep topics. And so the way in which we approach it, we do have a cross-functional group of employees who are responsible for ensuring that our platform values meet our corporate values. And in fact, it was a big lesson learned for us, I will say, over the course of 2020, because there was a gap for us in the sense that we were more permissive on our platform, than we were with how we would allow employees to engage with one another.

And so as a result of that, we actually did a major policy update in 2020 to address some of those concerns and to make sure that there was much better alignment between what our company values were and what the platform values represented. Because look, I think everybody who works at Reddit wants to be proud of where they work and they want to make sure that that values alignment is there. If anything has come out of how employers think about employee engagement, it’s making values based decision making. And so while it was definitely not simple decisions to be made and simple processes to put in place, I think the company feels like we made the right decisions there and are proud that we were able to make those decisions in conjunction with our broader community.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. Thank you, Shannon, for asking that question, you see in the chat, there’s some people giving you some accolades there. I think there is a big struggle, especially I see with so many communicators and internal communicators focused on employer advocacy, being a part of what they do or are responsible for. I don’t see a lot focusing on employee activism and there’ve been a lot of examples of employees taking the reins of the conversation if they don’t feel like the company is responding to them. And I think that’s certainly something that if you’re not researching or looking into, begin thinking about this employee activism, because your employees do have voices, they do have platforms. And if they don’t think the company is going to listen to them, they’ve got a place to go. There’s dozens of examples out there of organizations that have had to adjust because they didn’t listen to employees the first time and employees took those messages outside the organization.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. I think that’s a really important point regardless of what generation you’re in, but especially employees are incredibly tech savvy these days, they come to work already with sometimes with a platform of their own, be it their Twitter following or their Snapchat following, or what have you. They have LinkedIn followers and they can be very forthcoming in ways that can be wonderful but they can also really come at you straight. And being able to anticipate those kinds of moments and make sure that you can address them and address them in a way in which these employees feel like they’re being taken seriously. And that there is a plan for evolution or change. Again, another major value of ours is to evolve. We are still in some respects, a small company even though we have a large platform. And so we know that we have to be constantly adapting.

And so that’s something that I think it’s a very helpful guide star for me because if I’ve made a decision in the past, I don’t have to feel totally beholden to that because the circumstances may have changed. And so for me as an employee, it makes me feel more open to say like, “You know what, we got to evolve.” The way in which we may have positioned ourselves in the past or talked about things in the past just doesn’t make sense anymore and so that’s okay.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think what we’ve seen this happen time and time again, don’t listen to what companies say or watch what they do. And then that’s when you see that behavior take place. And we’re still working our way through this pandemic. I know everybody was feeling very good, at least from a news media standpoint and people getting vaccinated and making progress. And then this morning there was this JNJ announcement, and then people feel like, oh, no, are we taking a step back or not? But as a comms leader, Anna, what lessons did you learn during this pandemic? And hopefully we’ll all be out of it very soon and we can all attend events face to face again with each other, but as a comms leader, what have you learned about either the importance of being in communications or just being a leader in business?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I think one thing that we learned that it was a deep, deep respect for internal communications and employee communications. I think for a long time it was considered kind of secondary and that completely changed as a result of the past year and a half. And I think there’s two reasons for that. Obviously COVID is one, but the workforce is changing. And there’s a different expectation now, amongst employees about that relationship they have with their employer. You hear about it a lot around consumer choice, but you’re also seeing that reflected in employee choice and like, where do they feel comfortable working? Where do they want to spend a lot of time? I think Chuck, you and I were talking earlier about how the last year and a half has demonstrated that the professional has become personal and the personal has become professional. Those lines are now completely bled into one another because your professional life is at home or mostly at home for many people.

And as a result of that, people just are more sensitive around where they work and how they work and with whom they work. And so that means that people like all of us that are on this call are all the more essential for employers. And so that I think has been a huge game changer in terms of the level of respect accrued to internal communications and employee communications.

And I think obviously the second huge lesson here is just adaptability, is being able to be resilient to change. And I think that is something where maybe we’re in a new normal where things are going to kind of get to a more normal state but for a variety of different reasons, I anticipate that there will continue to be these “rogue waves” that will jostle people and how you handle it, how you show up as a leader really will impact how you can be positioned for the future.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. And right now we don’t really know the impact and we think about how 9/11 impacted us globally. Some things changed forever. Some things really didn’t change that much, same thing with the pandemic and public health. Certainly we are guessing now what these long-term effects will be. Something I know you had mentioned as we were joining, you’ve got a little one at home. You’ve got a dog that likes to bark when packages are delivered. You’ve got a husband at home working there as well. How has this last year been for you, Anna?

Anna Soellner:

I think for me, and I was actually reflecting on this after our first conversation, it’s changed, like how I want to think about both how I can have influence within my organization, particularly around working parents, but also how I engage externally maybe in what I do in terms of my own personal giving or what organizations that I support. That has been an important piece to meet for me. And then also access to quality information. That is another area of great importance to me personally and professionally. And so understanding fundamentally how important those are when these kinds of moments happen. I think I need to stay straight out of the [inaudible 00:38:55]. I come from a position of privilege because I work in an industry that was able to be adaptable to this moment.

There are a lot of people who didn’t have that option. I was able to make sure that our family was financially secure along with my husband, that we had access to being able to care for our daughter in a way that wasn’t going to totally curtail our capacity to continue to still thrive in our jobs. And that’s not the case for a lot of people. So those are areas that I have thought deeply about because I have been able to come from it of a place of where I didn’t feel the same level of pain as a lot of other people or a lot of other friends or family members who work in industries very different from mine, where it was really quite acute.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great point. Some of us have been very privileged during this time, and it’s important to recognize that and not take it for granted. Knowing others, I know that… As I’ve been interviewing people for the Culture Comms and Cocktails Podcast during this time, I began asking people like, oh how are you and your loved ones doing during this pandemic? And as I went to ask that question to somebody, they said, “Can you please not ask me that. It has not been good for the loved ones.” And it takes you back to remember that not everybody has had the same privilege type environment for it. Feel free to go on in, I know we just have about five minutes left, but there’s one final question I have for Anna. So if you have any questions, throw them into the chat, we’ll get to them.

And it’s a phrase Anna, that you used when we first chatted. I’m going to have you give the context, but I want to say the phrase you said, “We had to be rats in 2020.” So explain where this phrase comes from for you because I think that’s a great anecdote for all of us.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So my daughter was born in 2020 in addition to all the other things that were going on. And for the most part 2020 was the year of the rat and the Chinese Zodiac. And my husband at first was like, “Oh, a rat, that’s terrible.” And I said, “No, this is perfect. This is exactly what we want because rats are clever and they’re survivors and they have grit and they will figure out a way to overcome any kind of adversity.” And so in 2020, we all have to be rats. And I think that was actually quite true.

Chuck Gose:

Yes. I see Adam commented in there, “Yes survivors, they are survivors.” And I think those of us that have been fortunate enough to see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic and see a future out there, I would not have maybe classified myself as a rat during that time but certainly appreciate that sentiment. Now, there’s one other thing you mentioned and I meant to come back to it, we’ve got on the rest of the topic. Earlier on, you had talked about Reddit doing a global expansion during this time, that had to present an insane amount of extra challenges.

Anna Soellner:

Yes it did. The timeline certainly had to adapt and everybody is probably experiencing this where you’re trying to onboard employees either remotely or in a way that’s safe where you still are socially distant or behind PPE. And so it really created a whole lot of challenges, but similar to how we’re able to converse right now that we’re able to use technology to adapt and still try and successfully launch as best we could in these different markets. And so I’m very gratified that we were able to do that. We launched into international markets within the last several months. And so that’s been really exciting. We’ve got plans to continue to do so. And hopefully, as the months progress, we may actually get to do that IRL.

But it’s interesting, I say that and I think thinking through, and I’ve just been pondering this more and more, as leaders within internal comms, it’s also going to be really important for us to not try and overload the system. Because I think a lot of people they’ve just been shut out of this kind of social interaction and being in person again, I think it’s going to take a minute for people to feel really comfortable. It’s going to be a muscle that we’re going to have to train. And so if I can leave you all with the recommendation for something to think about for the future, it’s how do you want to think about that return to work if that’s something that you already haven’t engaged in and making sure you’re doing it at the right pace for your employees.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It’s one of those and I’ve seen where people have thrived in this environment. Others have struggled and I can see some organizations struggle with a bit of a culture clash of people who are just chomping at the bit to get back in the office and back in real life, as you said, in face to face with each other, versus some people they might excel in this virtual environment. So making sure that everybody is prepared. We are at a time and there was something you mentioned when we talked about lessons learned that you shared about how critical comms has been during this past year. I know as part of internal communications, we’ve always felt critical, but now we know that others are seeing that value.

So back in March and April and May, and I was telling communicators, hey, this is your time to shine not time to gloat. No one’s going to throw a parade for you at this point in time. But, so many of you have shown your value to organizations during this time. So keep delivering that value keeps standing up for employees, keep delivering that employee voice. Thank you, Anna so much for joining us for this session. You are going to be in person last year. And of course we couldn’t do that. So thank you for sticking with us for this one.

Anna Soellner:

Sure thing.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you to all of you who joined this session, throw into the chat, do some clapping emojis or something for Anna in there. Thank you for the time. I know after this there’s a brief break. There’s another yoga session happening Anna, I don’t know if you’re into yoga or not. I’ve only done it like once and I almost harmed somebody, one time doing yoga. It was at an event-

Anna Soellner:

Namaste Chuck, that’s all I’m going to say. Namaste.

Chuck Gose:

It was at an event and I’ve got a pretty wide wingspan, Anna and they didn’t space us out enough. So some lady caught a hand to the… It was not pretty, but this is where virtual is helpful, yoga. You can’t injure anybody in virtual yoga. So thanks everybody for sticking around, attend the yoga session. We’ve got one more closing keynote and then Gary, our CEO will be closing out the day. Thanks everybody for the time, attention and participation today.

Anna Soellner:

Appreciate it. Take care, everyone.

Chuck Gose:

And I think Patrick, whenever you want to close us out, we are good to go.

Patrick:

I’ll give it a minute or so, and then [crosstalk 00:46:57].

Chuck Gose:

Oh, okay. We can just keep catching up with Anna then. Let’s see if there’s any other questions that came in here.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah, definitely.

Chuck Gose:

Oh yeah, here’s a good one, about what if employees want to go back to work, but managers want to stay home? If it’s an environment where the people are there, but the managers are not, that’s an interesting situation.

Anna Soellner:

That is an interesting one. And I think look, you probably have that arrangement already where the managers we’re not in your line of sight and if the employees feel like that’s a more productive place for them to do their work, then I say, go for it. I think the hybrid model is with us, which I think is frankly a good thing. I think employees have proven themselves to be trustworthy, to do good work. In fact most of the studies say that employees were in fact more productive, more productive during this period. And so and so I think that there’s just a new level of trust around the fact that you didn’t have to have the eyes on you to make sure that your employees were doing what they needed to be doing.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think I saw somebody mentioned the same debate happens with introverts and extroverts. And it’s not about being outspoken or quiet. It’s more about where do you get your energy from and energy from people. And someone who’s worked remote for close to a decade, obviously I was very comfortable still working remote, but my challenge was I wasn’t used to only being remote. So I think even for people who were privileged enough to not have to go into an office or would describe as a first-line or frontline worker, you had that flexibility, but you still like seeing people. You still want to be able to hang out with people or go to events or go to an airport or something.

And it’s that next step that I’m so curious to see, I do see that comparison between 9/11 and the pandemic. And I talked about with my partner who’s also in communications that 9/11 was like a tornado. It hit and it was not over, but the damage was over and then it was the fallout. Whereas the pandemic was more like a flood because you don’t know what the damage has been until the flood is dissipated. So I think we’re just now starting to learn and seeing organizations like Reddit be responsible and look out for employee wellbeing. I think those are the organizations that are going to come out ahead in the long run, frankly.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. A hundred percent. And I think the flood analogy makes a lot of sense because we know, we know a lot of the statistical tolls that have been taken. But I anticipate too that there’s going to be a lot of residual emotion. I’m just going to use that word because it represent kind of the span of different feelings involved. And I think it’ll take some time for us to revert to “normal again.” And I think that in some areas, in some spaces, mask wearing might become more common. It was certainly the case in Asia, mask wearing is just normalized. Here, it’s kind of become the funny political act, which I don’t think is totally appropriate, so it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of [inaudible 00:50:43] continue and what don’t.

Is handshaking out? Sounds like a lot of people are not down with him shaking, but I think hugs are still something that people are going to crave. We’ll see how it goes.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It is interesting to see what habits we’ve developed, that we probably don’t need to acknowledge as habits over the past 12, 13, 14 months. And what will still stick around as a habit or what will be comfortable? I compare it to when I grew up, I don’t want to say like seat belts were optional, but some people wore it, some people did.

Anna Soellner:

A hundred percent. There were no car seats.

Chuck Gose:

Whereas my children freak out if I put the car in reverse and they don’t have a fully snapped in yet. So generally what will… We kicked this off talking about generations. How will this impact future generations? The ones that are around now will have one experience. The ones that are coming up with a completely different experience when it comes to public health. So who knows how that’ll shape policy? We’ve gotten way off track. We still got 43 people sticking around and talking to us, and we’ve gotten way off track here. So Patrick, feel free to kill this. Otherwise, we can just keep talking.

Patrick:

I mean, I can assign you as the host and then you will be responsible for [crosstalk 00:52:01].

Chuck Gose:

I think we’re good. Thank you again, Anna, for being a part of this.

Anna Soellner:

Thank you everyone.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you.

Anna Soellner:

Take care.

Chuck Gose:

Bye.

Anna Soellner:

Bye.

 

Video Transcript

Chuck Gose:

All right. Well, we’ve got three o’clock Eastern on the nose, so I’m going to stop sharing the screen so that we can immediately jump into our session here today. Thank you everybody for joining. I want to make sure that Patrick makes sure that Anna and I are both highlighted. I lost my view of just the two of us, so you can make sure that happens. But want to thank everybody for joining this breakout session. Hopefully you’ve had a great attune so far you’ve joined AMA, taking the pulse of Reddit’s workforce is a breakout session. Obviously if you have any questions or you attended the session earlier you know the chat is a very useful tool. Patrick is in there if you have any technical issues but if you have any questions for our guests or myself, please use that chat box, address them to who you want them to go to.

And my other big ask is if we hadn’t been in a pandemic, we can all fantasize what that would be like. We would normally be in an event, you’d be sitting at tables, you’d be meeting communicators from other businesses, other people from around the world, go into the chat and introduce yourself. Obviously we see your name, but introduce yourself who you are, where you work, anything about that you think others would find interesting. What I will find interesting, I want to share with each of you is add a little hashtag Gen X to your introduction if you identify as Gen X. In a previous session, I was stirring the pot a little bit based off of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s quotes. I felt like the Gen X generation was somewhat forgotten about in that. I joke with people, but it’s not really a joke, I feel like we are the glue that holds all these generations together, but are also often forgotten about. So I do not forget about you, so hashtag Gen X if you’re in there, introduce yourself. I see our guests has already come in there to do that.

And also if you’re here, great things that our guests is sharing, any takeaways, anything that resonated with you, don’t wait until after the session, go on LinkedIn, go on Twitter, use hashtag attune 2021. That just draws more attention in. Everybody’s able to learn more from each other. I see Shelly. Yes. Amen. Gen X. Thanks for joining. Now, let’s get started with our session today. I’m super happy to introduce Anna Soellner, Senior Director of Communications from Reddit. Anna, welcome to this attune breakout session.

Anna Soellner:

Thanks Chuck. It’s great to be here. Proud Gen X.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. As we were waiting to get the session started, Anna, you had pointed out that you often receive some, we’ll say criticism. I don’t know if maybe that’s right-

Anna Soellner:

Feedback, Chuck.

Chuck Gose:

Feedback from your peers about being Gen X. So what, what is some of this feedback?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a side part, which is an obvious tell for my generation. We also probably wear jeans a little bit too skinny potentially. Apparently those are totally out now. And I also use the wrong emojis. So I’m now a mom. So apparently I am like full on mom because I’ve got the wrong hair, the wrong jeans and the wrong emojis.

Chuck Gose:

Well, Anna, I don’t care where your part is. I don’t care what jeans you’re wearing. I’m glad you’re a part of the session. As I mentioned, you’re senior director of comms at Reddit, which I think is an organization that I would say most people are probably very familiar with and perhaps they’re a Reddit user are familiar with the communities that are on Reddit. But share with us more about what the culture is like inside of Reddit, along with a little more detail about your role there.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So I joined Reddit about four and a half years ago. And for some of you in the audience who maybe are new to the function or really helping to build out the function at your organization, I feel you because that is exactly what I did at Reddit. When I joined four and a half years ago, there really was no function, either external nor internal. And so during that journey, the company was under a hundred employees and really poised to take the next step mature tremendously as a company. And so that was part of my job, is to really help facilitate to do the kind of public education, if you will, within the company about the importance of communications and all of its different forms.

And so now there are a number of different functions that I lead at the company, including internal communications. We have different specialized external communications functions, including digital, which is our social presence. We also do a lot of, we’re an ad supported platform so trade communications is very important to us. Consumer communications, we have millions of people a month coming 52 million approximately million people coming to Reddit every month. And so telling those consumer-based stories is very important to us. So a number of different functions across the board policy and safety, you all are probably very familiar with the fact that there’s a lot of concerns around what is going on with technology and platforms and ensuring the integrity of our elections and making sure that there are areas online that are free of harassment, other problematic content. So, we have a very robust corporate communications, safety, et cetera group within the team as well.

I didn’t even get to your question about what it’s like at the company, but I did want to explain what we manage.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And dig into the culture, we experienced it that on the consumer side of Reddit, but what is the culture inside of Reddit like?

Anna Soellner:

So it’s funny because when I first got to Reddit and when people would ask me that question, they were like, “Are you trolls that are like under this bridge and that’s where you live and that’s where the company’s based or is it 10,000 people on an enormous campus?” And it is neither of those things. So Reddit is actually fairly small in comparison to many of our peers. We have about 800 employees. And both in the United States, as well as in a couple of key markets overseas, we just started our international expansion. And as such we try and instill a real sense of community because Reddit is all about as a mission and we’re very much a mission first company.

Our mission is to bring community and belonging to the world. And as a result, we need to have that feel, be part of the lived experience of our employees as well. So very much oriented around ensuring that people can meet each other where they are, COVID obviously has presented a lot of challenges around that but still with that sensibility of Reddit, you can find your home on Reddit, both as a user, but then also as an employee. So very warm, very engaging, quirky as all get out and that’s by design.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think if anything, we’ve all learned in the last year is that sense of community and belonging is important in all aspects of our life. So that’s certainly great to hear that that’s formed into the Reddit internal culture. I didn’t want to address some things I see going on in the chat. Some people are using this word Xennials, and I think what they’re trying to do, Anna is grab what they think is the best of both and then disregard the things that the other generations get crap for. I don’t know that I like that Xennial stuff, but let’s get back to the chat here. [crosstalk 00:08:38].

Anna Soellner:

They are comms professionals, they are working it. They’re comms professionals. They know what’s up.

Chuck Gose:

One of the things that I think communicators often get hung up on is this sense of planning. And when you and I had spoken earlier, you had shared something of a humbling experience that you had when it came to a planning exercise that you led in 2019. So walk us through again, that very humbling experience of doing that forecasting and planning.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. And I’d like to acknowledge [inaudible 00:09:14] just mentioned in the chat that being in between generations totally fair. I was just teasing the audience because communicators often try and position themselves in the best way possible. So yes, I mentioned the function around the org while now we’re mature, we were really trying to take it to the next level in preparation for 2020. And that meant doing a really rigorous process around thinking through, we already knew that 2020 was going to be an interesting year, particularly because the election, because of other challenges that had occurred, particularly on platforms during election seasons, et cetera. And so I thought I was being really clever in terms of mapping out all these different scenarios that I thought the company would confront and demonstrating that we were going to have a playbook and have a cross-functional discussions across all of these different issues.

But where I really fell short was I did not anticipate a global pandemic. I did not anticipate a reckoning around social justice in the country, at least in the United States. And that was just a demonstration of the fact that adaptability is key for success within communications across the board in terms of any type of communications that you’re doing. And so again, total lesson learned for me, you can try and game out every single type of scenario, but then a black swan event is just going to come and mess up any kind of sense of pride you might feel of trying to look around all the corners. Now, I still think as an intellectual exercise, it’s so important. And frankly, I think it’s also really important as a cross-functional exercise for communicators to gain out how the company broadly wants to deal with different scenarios that could be presented.

Particularly I would say on the internal communications side, particularly because it involves so many different potential teams across the company. So net, net, glad I did it. I’m totally embarrassed by the results.

Chuck Gose:

Well, I think again, if anybody was honest with themselves, nobody foresaw what was going to happen. There’s this neuroscientist named David Rock and he came out with this model called scarf, S-C-A-R-F. I think it’s a better model to event for employee engagement than one of the other models that are out there. And the C in scarf stands for certainty. And so the sea was obviously to your point, we knew there was going to be a presidential election happened in 2020, but we still didn’t know the outcome of what that election was going to be, depending on what side you were on. Certainly no one foresaw, as you said, domestic social justice issues and reform happening. Certainly not a pandemic, even though for years scientists out there have been saying, “Hey, this is going to happen. It’s going to happen.” But everybody likes pushing those things far off into the future.

So definitely for those, I recommend looking into that, into that scarf model, but I’m curious then living through that 2020, seeing your forecasting and planning, I wouldn’t say be a waste of time. Certainly a learning exercise to go through that. How did that impact your planning as we looked to 2021? What sort of things were you looking at or preparing for this year?

Anna Soellner:

That’s a great question because 2020, I think through a lot of people for a loop and really in terms of focusing on 2021 thinking through, okay, how are we adapting to the fact that A, we may still be in lockdown depending on how things go with vaccinations? What have you? B, we could be opening up. So what does that mean in terms of the consumer behaviors that are going to change; both in terms of the audiences that we’re trying to attract, but also our employee base too. So that really led to… If we bring it back to internal comms and how we connect with our employees, that really led to a lot of kind of research and employee engagement around, how did they feel about returning to work? What was their comfort level in terms of how they wanted to be part of the company, but maybe in a new way. And so actually Reddit engaged in some pretty and some novel aspects of this, which may not seem novel right now, but several months ago that was considered novel, in particularly one way, which was one, we were going to give employees the optionality of how they returned to work.

They could go fully remote, they could do a hybrid model, or they could come back full time. And while we have not announced when our return to work will happen, it’s certainly with that optionality in mind. And we also announced to our employees that if they decided to go fully remote, we would continue to compensate them the same way that they would be compensated if they were in a major market. So that is a point of differentiation between us and some of our counterpart companies who would change their salary bands, depending, for example, if they had lived in San Francisco, but then moved to Wyoming, for example.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think that I was disappointed when I saw some companies make that announcement of when people were looking out for their own wellbeing or their own family wellbeing, and they could be remote, but now wanted to live elsewhere, and then there was a threat from companies about adjusting their pay based on all of that. That’s certainly great to hear that Reddit believed in the employees and the employees making the choices that were right for them. Before we get into some of the next steps, you had shared with me in a story, I’d like to learn a little bit more to see how it prepared you, you were in Hong Kong during SARS, which I don’t think us in the US we really felt the impact that that had. So when the pandemic started to play out here in the US, did you feel more prepared based on that experience or did you have a greater sense of reality and maybe more fear around what this pandemic was going to do to, to the US and globally the world?

Anna Soellner:

Yes. I would say it was actually a little bit of both. And by that I mean, I knew it was something that we would be able to overcome. I also anticipated there would be a lot of devastation. I did not anticipate though how long would take. If folks recall, SARS happened in 2000 and basically Hong Kong and Guandong province were pretty much ground zero for it, at that period of time. It did spread to North America, South Canada, United States, and a number of countries within Asia, but for the most part stayed sequestered. Now there’s a whole number of scientific reasons for why that happened. But having that experience about being in Hong Kong during SARS, the city shut down in many ways, very similar to what we experienced in the United States, where the streets were empty, everything was shut down, theaters, restaurants, workplaces, et cetera.

And so that obviously was as disturbing as what we have experienced this past year. However, the way in which, and again, this is like a case study in how you manage pandemics, the way in which it was handled, and then subsequently the fact that they were able to really curtail the disease made the kind of recovery aspect of much swifter than I think we will experience unfortunately.

Chuck Gose:

Now we talked about some of the choices that Reddit’s leadership presented to employees around letting them choose the style of work that they had, talk about more around that, right when the pandemic hit, or even leading up to it, how did Reddit’s leadership respond? How did the leadership communicate and what other actions were taken to look after employee wellbeing?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So we took a number of different steps. We have a number of values as a company that I kind of mentioned at the top, but one of the really important values, particularly during this time was default open. And that means we have a spirit of transparency and a culture of transparency at the company. And by that, I mean, when we have answers to things, we’ll share that with our employees. That is part of the trust matrix that we think is really, really important is to really be forthcoming about what’s going on with the business and how we’re doing and set that in the context of what’s going on either globally with the economy or in this case, amidst a pandemic. And so we immediately put together a task force, a cross-functional task force across the company with key leaders. Obviously communications was an important component of that, but HR, our IT teams, different parts of leadership that really made sure that our employee base could move from being in offices to not being in offices. So setting up that taskforce, I think was an essential first step.

And then from there setting up very clear channels of employee communications, so that folks knew that every Monday they were going to get an email from our CEO, giving them a specific update on kind of where things stood, what we knew, what we didn’t know and then ways in which the company was going to adapt with the employees and this new normal that we were all in. Reddit has a pretty extensive suite of benefits for employees including different kinds of stipends. And so we altered those stipends so that people could use them for things like setting up a proper for themselves, buying a desk for example, or a proper ergonomic chair so that they didn’t have to use their dining room chair for X number of months. These are the kinds of kind of simple ways in which we could meet employees where they were, but then also we recognized that we didn’t want to lose that important cultural aspect to the company.

And so we actually, in the earlier days of COVID, and even now we kind of changed up all the kinds of employment engagement activities that we do, be it off-sites which are via computer now. But really trying to create an environment where employees could share of themselves, but do it in a way that was comfortable for them. So that might be a joint exercise class, because if you recall, everybody was shut in and kind of wanting to do some physical activity, but not totally feeling uncomfortable about it. So we still have them, we offer these kinds of group fitness type of of classes with the clear understanding that you do not have to have your camera on, this is your moment to get your sweat on. So that’s kind of a simple example, but then there are other ways.

People were also struggling, this was obviously a really hard time for a lot of people. And then you include the social justice aspect on top of that, which even today we are being confronted with. And so making sure that employees also understood that they had other benefits tied to their insurance around issues like counseling was very important. We have a colleague who is an incredible meditation lead. And this is not his day job by the way, he’s within the sales organization, but he would actually do these led… And he does to this day, led meditations with a number of employees once a week during the lunch hour. And so those kinds of moments where you could still connect with employees in a way that feel comfortable to you became very important.

Chuck Gose:

Now, you had mentioned that transparency has always been a big part of Reddit’s leadership communication. I saw with a lot of organizations, the cadence picked up dramatically, where employees maybe only hear from their CEO once a quarter, or maybe once a month. They’re now hearing from her every week or some even almost daily. And Reddit’s cadence also increased, or was it already in place to where this just became more still than normal mode of communication?

Anna Soellner:

So typically employees would hear from our CEO most weeks through our all hands meetings, which occur on a Thursday. And so we continue to do those and obviously the CEO was certainly a part of those. But we added on a couple of more vectors of communication, not just from him, but then also through other parts of the organization. And like I mentioned before getting that Monday email is something that continues to occur. So just a quick update on what’s going on with the company and expectations for the week. And then also this all hands in which we also through that all hands do a Q&A with our CEO. If you’re familiar with Reddit, it’s basically a constellation of different types of communities. We actually have an employee private Subreddit which is where we solicit questions for either the CEO or other executives or leaders across the company. And so that people could ask questions.

Chuck Gose:

I’ve got one question I’m going to go to one that was submitted from the chat, which I think is a good follow on to the one I’m going to ask, as much more detailed. But I want to talk about employee voice at Reddit and what have Reddit employees either said verbally, or I think sometimes you can look more at employees behavior, what have they said behaviorally about the pandemic, about social justice? What does it mean for them as employees? And then how does Reddit capture that feedback? I might’ve just been in that private community you talked about, but what are some of the ways you capture or solicit that feedback from employees?

Anna Soellner:

So there are a number of different vectors for that. So certainly on through the company Subreddit, we can do that. We have a very robust number of employee resource groups that are representative of different groups across the company. And so certainly most recently our Asian resource group was clearly impacted with all of the violence that was happening a month against the Asian community. And women, I actually am one of the leads for the women of Reddit resource group. The resources groups did become an important area of communication in two ways and I think that these are both very important to recognize. One, to really be a mechanism for channeling areas of concern for employees, particularly who are represented in those different kinds of designations.

But also I think particularly in the early days around social justice and Black Lives Matter, I think a lot of companies kind of turned to their Black resource groups for advice or for how they should react and all of that kind of thing, which it was kind of unfair to position those employees as to present answers on behalf of the company. And so it’s something that we certainly had to be very sensitive to and I think helped to really inform how we think about these things moving forward. But I also think it was important for us to communicate with those resource groups to check in, see how they’re doing, how the company can be supportive but also to make sure that they aren’t having to carry the weight that’s really the responsibility of the broader company.

Chuck Gose:

No, I absolutely think that’s a phenomenal point, Anna. I want to get to Shannon’s question, because I think it’s a great segue into this. Her question is, how do you grapple with some of the challenges posed by de platforming and free speech when it comes to balancing business performance risk, but also sociopolitical activism happening? We see a lot of that happening inside organizations. Do you feel like employees have an opportunity to be a part of the conversation around the topic and then how does this culture drive employees to respond? So a bit of twofold there. How do you begin nurturing that conversation inside the company and then how do you counsel employees if they want to share externally?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So this is an area that I think Reddit has made a lot of progress on during my tenure. And I think that it’s both an area where employees can get involved, but also it’s not the sole responsibility of employees to feel like they have the burden of that because these can be incredibly heavy, deep topics. And so the way in which we approach it, we do have a cross-functional group of employees who are responsible for ensuring that our platform values meet our corporate values. And in fact, it was a big lesson learned for us, I will say, over the course of 2020, because there was a gap for us in the sense that we were more permissive on our platform, than we were with how we would allow employees to engage with one another.

And so as a result of that, we actually did a major policy update in 2020 to address some of those concerns and to make sure that there was much better alignment between what our company values were and what the platform values represented. Because look, I think everybody who works at Reddit wants to be proud of where they work and they want to make sure that that values alignment is there. If anything has come out of how employers think about employee engagement, it’s making values based decision making. And so while it was definitely not simple decisions to be made and simple processes to put in place, I think the company feels like we made the right decisions there and are proud that we were able to make those decisions in conjunction with our broader community.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. Thank you, Shannon, for asking that question, you see in the chat, there’s some people giving you some accolades there. I think there is a big struggle, especially I see with so many communicators and internal communicators focused on employer advocacy, being a part of what they do or are responsible for. I don’t see a lot focusing on employee activism and there’ve been a lot of examples of employees taking the reins of the conversation if they don’t feel like the company is responding to them. And I think that’s certainly something that if you’re not researching or looking into, begin thinking about this employee activism, because your employees do have voices, they do have platforms. And if they don’t think the company is going to listen to them, they’ve got a place to go. There’s dozens of examples out there of organizations that have had to adjust because they didn’t listen to employees the first time and employees took those messages outside the organization.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. I think that’s a really important point regardless of what generation you’re in, but especially employees are incredibly tech savvy these days, they come to work already with sometimes with a platform of their own, be it their Twitter following or their Snapchat following, or what have you. They have LinkedIn followers and they can be very forthcoming in ways that can be wonderful but they can also really come at you straight. And being able to anticipate those kinds of moments and make sure that you can address them and address them in a way in which these employees feel like they’re being taken seriously. And that there is a plan for evolution or change. Again, another major value of ours is to evolve. We are still in some respects, a small company even though we have a large platform. And so we know that we have to be constantly adapting.

And so that’s something that I think it’s a very helpful guide star for me because if I’ve made a decision in the past, I don’t have to feel totally beholden to that because the circumstances may have changed. And so for me as an employee, it makes me feel more open to say like, “You know what, we got to evolve.” The way in which we may have positioned ourselves in the past or talked about things in the past just doesn’t make sense anymore and so that’s okay.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think what we’ve seen this happen time and time again, don’t listen to what companies say or watch what they do. And then that’s when you see that behavior take place. And we’re still working our way through this pandemic. I know everybody was feeling very good, at least from a news media standpoint and people getting vaccinated and making progress. And then this morning there was this JNJ announcement, and then people feel like, oh, no, are we taking a step back or not? But as a comms leader, Anna, what lessons did you learn during this pandemic? And hopefully we’ll all be out of it very soon and we can all attend events face to face again with each other, but as a comms leader, what have you learned about either the importance of being in communications or just being a leader in business?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I think one thing that we learned that it was a deep, deep respect for internal communications and employee communications. I think for a long time it was considered kind of secondary and that completely changed as a result of the past year and a half. And I think there’s two reasons for that. Obviously COVID is one, but the workforce is changing. And there’s a different expectation now, amongst employees about that relationship they have with their employer. You hear about it a lot around consumer choice, but you’re also seeing that reflected in employee choice and like, where do they feel comfortable working? Where do they want to spend a lot of time? I think Chuck, you and I were talking earlier about how the last year and a half has demonstrated that the professional has become personal and the personal has become professional. Those lines are now completely bled into one another because your professional life is at home or mostly at home for many people.

And as a result of that, people just are more sensitive around where they work and how they work and with whom they work. And so that means that people like all of us that are on this call are all the more essential for employers. And so that I think has been a huge game changer in terms of the level of respect accrued to internal communications and employee communications.

And I think obviously the second huge lesson here is just adaptability, is being able to be resilient to change. And I think that is something where maybe we’re in a new normal where things are going to kind of get to a more normal state but for a variety of different reasons, I anticipate that there will continue to be these “rogue waves” that will jostle people and how you handle it, how you show up as a leader really will impact how you can be positioned for the future.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. And right now we don’t really know the impact and we think about how 9/11 impacted us globally. Some things changed forever. Some things really didn’t change that much, same thing with the pandemic and public health. Certainly we are guessing now what these long-term effects will be. Something I know you had mentioned as we were joining, you’ve got a little one at home. You’ve got a dog that likes to bark when packages are delivered. You’ve got a husband at home working there as well. How has this last year been for you, Anna?

Anna Soellner:

I think for me, and I was actually reflecting on this after our first conversation, it’s changed, like how I want to think about both how I can have influence within my organization, particularly around working parents, but also how I engage externally maybe in what I do in terms of my own personal giving or what organizations that I support. That has been an important piece to meet for me. And then also access to quality information. That is another area of great importance to me personally and professionally. And so understanding fundamentally how important those are when these kinds of moments happen. I think I need to stay straight out of the [inaudible 00:38:55]. I come from a position of privilege because I work in an industry that was able to be adaptable to this moment.

There are a lot of people who didn’t have that option. I was able to make sure that our family was financially secure along with my husband, that we had access to being able to care for our daughter in a way that wasn’t going to totally curtail our capacity to continue to still thrive in our jobs. And that’s not the case for a lot of people. So those are areas that I have thought deeply about because I have been able to come from it of a place of where I didn’t feel the same level of pain as a lot of other people or a lot of other friends or family members who work in industries very different from mine, where it was really quite acute.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great point. Some of us have been very privileged during this time, and it’s important to recognize that and not take it for granted. Knowing others, I know that… As I’ve been interviewing people for the Culture Comms and Cocktails Podcast during this time, I began asking people like, oh how are you and your loved ones doing during this pandemic? And as I went to ask that question to somebody, they said, “Can you please not ask me that. It has not been good for the loved ones.” And it takes you back to remember that not everybody has had the same privilege type environment for it. Feel free to go on in, I know we just have about five minutes left, but there’s one final question I have for Anna. So if you have any questions, throw them into the chat, we’ll get to them.

And it’s a phrase Anna, that you used when we first chatted. I’m going to have you give the context, but I want to say the phrase you said, “We had to be rats in 2020.” So explain where this phrase comes from for you because I think that’s a great anecdote for all of us.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So my daughter was born in 2020 in addition to all the other things that were going on. And for the most part 2020 was the year of the rat and the Chinese Zodiac. And my husband at first was like, “Oh, a rat, that’s terrible.” And I said, “No, this is perfect. This is exactly what we want because rats are clever and they’re survivors and they have grit and they will figure out a way to overcome any kind of adversity.” And so in 2020, we all have to be rats. And I think that was actually quite true.

Chuck Gose:

Yes. I see Adam commented in there, “Yes survivors, they are survivors.” And I think those of us that have been fortunate enough to see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic and see a future out there, I would not have maybe classified myself as a rat during that time but certainly appreciate that sentiment. Now, there’s one other thing you mentioned and I meant to come back to it, we’ve got on the rest of the topic. Earlier on, you had talked about Reddit doing a global expansion during this time, that had to present an insane amount of extra challenges.

Anna Soellner:

Yes it did. The timeline certainly had to adapt and everybody is probably experiencing this where you’re trying to onboard employees either remotely or in a way that’s safe where you still are socially distant or behind PPE. And so it really created a whole lot of challenges, but similar to how we’re able to converse right now that we’re able to use technology to adapt and still try and successfully launch as best we could in these different markets. And so I’m very gratified that we were able to do that. We launched into international markets within the last several months. And so that’s been really exciting. We’ve got plans to continue to do so. And hopefully, as the months progress, we may actually get to do that IRL.

But it’s interesting, I say that and I think thinking through, and I’ve just been pondering this more and more, as leaders within internal comms, it’s also going to be really important for us to not try and overload the system. Because I think a lot of people they’ve just been shut out of this kind of social interaction and being in person again, I think it’s going to take a minute for people to feel really comfortable. It’s going to be a muscle that we’re going to have to train. And so if I can leave you all with the recommendation for something to think about for the future, it’s how do you want to think about that return to work if that’s something that you already haven’t engaged in and making sure you’re doing it at the right pace for your employees.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It’s one of those and I’ve seen where people have thrived in this environment. Others have struggled and I can see some organizations struggle with a bit of a culture clash of people who are just chomping at the bit to get back in the office and back in real life, as you said, in face to face with each other, versus some people they might excel in this virtual environment. So making sure that everybody is prepared. We are at a time and there was something you mentioned when we talked about lessons learned that you shared about how critical comms has been during this past year. I know as part of internal communications, we’ve always felt critical, but now we know that others are seeing that value.

So back in March and April and May, and I was telling communicators, hey, this is your time to shine not time to gloat. No one’s going to throw a parade for you at this point in time. But, so many of you have shown your value to organizations during this time. So keep delivering that value keeps standing up for employees, keep delivering that employee voice. Thank you, Anna so much for joining us for this session. You are going to be in person last year. And of course we couldn’t do that. So thank you for sticking with us for this one.

Anna Soellner:

Sure thing.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you to all of you who joined this session, throw into the chat, do some clapping emojis or something for Anna in there. Thank you for the time. I know after this there’s a brief break. There’s another yoga session happening Anna, I don’t know if you’re into yoga or not. I’ve only done it like once and I almost harmed somebody, one time doing yoga. It was at an event-

Anna Soellner:

Namaste Chuck, that’s all I’m going to say. Namaste.

Chuck Gose:

It was at an event and I’ve got a pretty wide wingspan, Anna and they didn’t space us out enough. So some lady caught a hand to the… It was not pretty, but this is where virtual is helpful, yoga. You can’t injure anybody in virtual yoga. So thanks everybody for sticking around, attend the yoga session. We’ve got one more closing keynote and then Gary, our CEO will be closing out the day. Thanks everybody for the time, attention and participation today.

Anna Soellner:

Appreciate it. Take care, everyone.

Chuck Gose:

And I think Patrick, whenever you want to close us out, we are good to go.

Patrick:

I’ll give it a minute or so, and then [crosstalk 00:46:57].

Chuck Gose:

Oh, okay. We can just keep catching up with Anna then. Let’s see if there’s any other questions that came in here.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah, definitely.

Chuck Gose:

Oh yeah, here’s a good one, about what if employees want to go back to work, but managers want to stay home? If it’s an environment where the people are there, but the managers are not, that’s an interesting situation.

Anna Soellner:

That is an interesting one. And I think look, you probably have that arrangement already where the managers we’re not in your line of sight and if the employees feel like that’s a more productive place for them to do their work, then I say, go for it. I think the hybrid model is with us, which I think is frankly a good thing. I think employees have proven themselves to be trustworthy, to do good work. In fact most of the studies say that employees were in fact more productive, more productive during this period. And so and so I think that there’s just a new level of trust around the fact that you didn’t have to have the eyes on you to make sure that your employees were doing what they needed to be doing.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think I saw somebody mentioned the same debate happens with introverts and extroverts. And it’s not about being outspoken or quiet. It’s more about where do you get your energy from and energy from people. And someone who’s worked remote for close to a decade, obviously I was very comfortable still working remote, but my challenge was I wasn’t used to only being remote. So I think even for people who were privileged enough to not have to go into an office or would describe as a first-line or frontline worker, you had that flexibility, but you still like seeing people. You still want to be able to hang out with people or go to events or go to an airport or something.

And it’s that next step that I’m so curious to see, I do see that comparison between 9/11 and the pandemic. And I talked about with my partner who’s also in communications that 9/11 was like a tornado. It hit and it was not over, but the damage was over and then it was the fallout. Whereas the pandemic was more like a flood because you don’t know what the damage has been until the flood is dissipated. So I think we’re just now starting to learn and seeing organizations like Reddit be responsible and look out for employee wellbeing. I think those are the organizations that are going to come out ahead in the long run, frankly.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. A hundred percent. And I think the flood analogy makes a lot of sense because we know, we know a lot of the statistical tolls that have been taken. But I anticipate too that there’s going to be a lot of residual emotion. I’m just going to use that word because it represent kind of the span of different feelings involved. And I think it’ll take some time for us to revert to “normal again.” And I think that in some areas, in some spaces, mask wearing might become more common. It was certainly the case in Asia, mask wearing is just normalized. Here, it’s kind of become the funny political act, which I don’t think is totally appropriate, so it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of [inaudible 00:50:43] continue and what don’t.

Is handshaking out? Sounds like a lot of people are not down with him shaking, but I think hugs are still something that people are going to crave. We’ll see how it goes.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It is interesting to see what habits we’ve developed, that we probably don’t need to acknowledge as habits over the past 12, 13, 14 months. And what will still stick around as a habit or what will be comfortable? I compare it to when I grew up, I don’t want to say like seat belts were optional, but some people wore it, some people did.

Anna Soellner:

A hundred percent. There were no car seats.

Chuck Gose:

Whereas my children freak out if I put the car in reverse and they don’t have a fully snapped in yet. So generally what will… We kicked this off talking about generations. How will this impact future generations? The ones that are around now will have one experience. The ones that are coming up with a completely different experience when it comes to public health. So who knows how that’ll shape policy? We’ve gotten way off track. We still got 43 people sticking around and talking to us, and we’ve gotten way off track here. So Patrick, feel free to kill this. Otherwise, we can just keep talking.

Patrick:

I mean, I can assign you as the host and then you will be responsible for [crosstalk 00:52:01].

Chuck Gose:

I think we’re good. Thank you again, Anna, for being a part of this.

Anna Soellner:

Thank you everyone.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you.

Anna Soellner:

Take care.

Chuck Gose:

Bye.

Anna Soellner:

Bye.

 

Expand Transcript

Video Transcript

Chuck Gose:

All right. Well, we’ve got three o’clock Eastern on the nose, so I’m going to stop sharing the screen so that we can immediately jump into our session here today. Thank you everybody for joining. I want to make sure that Patrick makes sure that Anna and I are both highlighted. I lost my view of just the two of us, so you can make sure that happens. But want to thank everybody for joining this breakout session. Hopefully you’ve had a great attune so far you’ve joined AMA, taking the pulse of Reddit’s workforce is a breakout session. Obviously if you have any questions or you attended the session earlier you know the chat is a very useful tool. Patrick is in there if you have any technical issues but if you have any questions for our guests or myself, please use that chat box, address them to who you want them to go to.

And my other big ask is if we hadn’t been in a pandemic, we can all fantasize what that would be like. We would normally be in an event, you’d be sitting at tables, you’d be meeting communicators from other businesses, other people from around the world, go into the chat and introduce yourself. Obviously we see your name, but introduce yourself who you are, where you work, anything about that you think others would find interesting. What I will find interesting, I want to share with each of you is add a little hashtag Gen X to your introduction if you identify as Gen X. In a previous session, I was stirring the pot a little bit based off of one of Malcolm Gladwell’s quotes. I felt like the Gen X generation was somewhat forgotten about in that. I joke with people, but it’s not really a joke, I feel like we are the glue that holds all these generations together, but are also often forgotten about. So I do not forget about you, so hashtag Gen X if you’re in there, introduce yourself. I see our guests has already come in there to do that.

And also if you’re here, great things that our guests is sharing, any takeaways, anything that resonated with you, don’t wait until after the session, go on LinkedIn, go on Twitter, use hashtag attune 2021. That just draws more attention in. Everybody’s able to learn more from each other. I see Shelly. Yes. Amen. Gen X. Thanks for joining. Now, let’s get started with our session today. I’m super happy to introduce Anna Soellner, Senior Director of Communications from Reddit. Anna, welcome to this attune breakout session.

Anna Soellner:

Thanks Chuck. It’s great to be here. Proud Gen X.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. As we were waiting to get the session started, Anna, you had pointed out that you often receive some, we’ll say criticism. I don’t know if maybe that’s right-

Anna Soellner:

Feedback, Chuck.

Chuck Gose:

Feedback from your peers about being Gen X. So what, what is some of this feedback?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I don’t know if you noticed, but I have a side part, which is an obvious tell for my generation. We also probably wear jeans a little bit too skinny potentially. Apparently those are totally out now. And I also use the wrong emojis. So I’m now a mom. So apparently I am like full on mom because I’ve got the wrong hair, the wrong jeans and the wrong emojis.

Chuck Gose:

Well, Anna, I don’t care where your part is. I don’t care what jeans you’re wearing. I’m glad you’re a part of the session. As I mentioned, you’re senior director of comms at Reddit, which I think is an organization that I would say most people are probably very familiar with and perhaps they’re a Reddit user are familiar with the communities that are on Reddit. But share with us more about what the culture is like inside of Reddit, along with a little more detail about your role there.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So I joined Reddit about four and a half years ago. And for some of you in the audience who maybe are new to the function or really helping to build out the function at your organization, I feel you because that is exactly what I did at Reddit. When I joined four and a half years ago, there really was no function, either external nor internal. And so during that journey, the company was under a hundred employees and really poised to take the next step mature tremendously as a company. And so that was part of my job, is to really help facilitate to do the kind of public education, if you will, within the company about the importance of communications and all of its different forms.

And so now there are a number of different functions that I lead at the company, including internal communications. We have different specialized external communications functions, including digital, which is our social presence. We also do a lot of, we’re an ad supported platform so trade communications is very important to us. Consumer communications, we have millions of people a month coming 52 million approximately million people coming to Reddit every month. And so telling those consumer-based stories is very important to us. So a number of different functions across the board policy and safety, you all are probably very familiar with the fact that there’s a lot of concerns around what is going on with technology and platforms and ensuring the integrity of our elections and making sure that there are areas online that are free of harassment, other problematic content. So, we have a very robust corporate communications, safety, et cetera group within the team as well.

I didn’t even get to your question about what it’s like at the company, but I did want to explain what we manage.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And dig into the culture, we experienced it that on the consumer side of Reddit, but what is the culture inside of Reddit like?

Anna Soellner:

So it’s funny because when I first got to Reddit and when people would ask me that question, they were like, “Are you trolls that are like under this bridge and that’s where you live and that’s where the company’s based or is it 10,000 people on an enormous campus?” And it is neither of those things. So Reddit is actually fairly small in comparison to many of our peers. We have about 800 employees. And both in the United States, as well as in a couple of key markets overseas, we just started our international expansion. And as such we try and instill a real sense of community because Reddit is all about as a mission and we’re very much a mission first company.

Our mission is to bring community and belonging to the world. And as a result, we need to have that feel, be part of the lived experience of our employees as well. So very much oriented around ensuring that people can meet each other where they are, COVID obviously has presented a lot of challenges around that but still with that sensibility of Reddit, you can find your home on Reddit, both as a user, but then also as an employee. So very warm, very engaging, quirky as all get out and that’s by design.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think if anything, we’ve all learned in the last year is that sense of community and belonging is important in all aspects of our life. So that’s certainly great to hear that that’s formed into the Reddit internal culture. I didn’t want to address some things I see going on in the chat. Some people are using this word Xennials, and I think what they’re trying to do, Anna is grab what they think is the best of both and then disregard the things that the other generations get crap for. I don’t know that I like that Xennial stuff, but let’s get back to the chat here. [crosstalk 00:08:38].

Anna Soellner:

They are comms professionals, they are working it. They’re comms professionals. They know what’s up.

Chuck Gose:

One of the things that I think communicators often get hung up on is this sense of planning. And when you and I had spoken earlier, you had shared something of a humbling experience that you had when it came to a planning exercise that you led in 2019. So walk us through again, that very humbling experience of doing that forecasting and planning.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. And I’d like to acknowledge [inaudible 00:09:14] just mentioned in the chat that being in between generations totally fair. I was just teasing the audience because communicators often try and position themselves in the best way possible. So yes, I mentioned the function around the org while now we’re mature, we were really trying to take it to the next level in preparation for 2020. And that meant doing a really rigorous process around thinking through, we already knew that 2020 was going to be an interesting year, particularly because the election, because of other challenges that had occurred, particularly on platforms during election seasons, et cetera. And so I thought I was being really clever in terms of mapping out all these different scenarios that I thought the company would confront and demonstrating that we were going to have a playbook and have a cross-functional discussions across all of these different issues.

But where I really fell short was I did not anticipate a global pandemic. I did not anticipate a reckoning around social justice in the country, at least in the United States. And that was just a demonstration of the fact that adaptability is key for success within communications across the board in terms of any type of communications that you’re doing. And so again, total lesson learned for me, you can try and game out every single type of scenario, but then a black swan event is just going to come and mess up any kind of sense of pride you might feel of trying to look around all the corners. Now, I still think as an intellectual exercise, it’s so important. And frankly, I think it’s also really important as a cross-functional exercise for communicators to gain out how the company broadly wants to deal with different scenarios that could be presented.

Particularly I would say on the internal communications side, particularly because it involves so many different potential teams across the company. So net, net, glad I did it. I’m totally embarrassed by the results.

Chuck Gose:

Well, I think again, if anybody was honest with themselves, nobody foresaw what was going to happen. There’s this neuroscientist named David Rock and he came out with this model called scarf, S-C-A-R-F. I think it’s a better model to event for employee engagement than one of the other models that are out there. And the C in scarf stands for certainty. And so the sea was obviously to your point, we knew there was going to be a presidential election happened in 2020, but we still didn’t know the outcome of what that election was going to be, depending on what side you were on. Certainly no one foresaw, as you said, domestic social justice issues and reform happening. Certainly not a pandemic, even though for years scientists out there have been saying, “Hey, this is going to happen. It’s going to happen.” But everybody likes pushing those things far off into the future.

So definitely for those, I recommend looking into that, into that scarf model, but I’m curious then living through that 2020, seeing your forecasting and planning, I wouldn’t say be a waste of time. Certainly a learning exercise to go through that. How did that impact your planning as we looked to 2021? What sort of things were you looking at or preparing for this year?

Anna Soellner:

That’s a great question because 2020, I think through a lot of people for a loop and really in terms of focusing on 2021 thinking through, okay, how are we adapting to the fact that A, we may still be in lockdown depending on how things go with vaccinations? What have you? B, we could be opening up. So what does that mean in terms of the consumer behaviors that are going to change; both in terms of the audiences that we’re trying to attract, but also our employee base too. So that really led to… If we bring it back to internal comms and how we connect with our employees, that really led to a lot of kind of research and employee engagement around, how did they feel about returning to work? What was their comfort level in terms of how they wanted to be part of the company, but maybe in a new way. And so actually Reddit engaged in some pretty and some novel aspects of this, which may not seem novel right now, but several months ago that was considered novel, in particularly one way, which was one, we were going to give employees the optionality of how they returned to work.

They could go fully remote, they could do a hybrid model, or they could come back full time. And while we have not announced when our return to work will happen, it’s certainly with that optionality in mind. And we also announced to our employees that if they decided to go fully remote, we would continue to compensate them the same way that they would be compensated if they were in a major market. So that is a point of differentiation between us and some of our counterpart companies who would change their salary bands, depending, for example, if they had lived in San Francisco, but then moved to Wyoming, for example.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah, I think that I was disappointed when I saw some companies make that announcement of when people were looking out for their own wellbeing or their own family wellbeing, and they could be remote, but now wanted to live elsewhere, and then there was a threat from companies about adjusting their pay based on all of that. That’s certainly great to hear that Reddit believed in the employees and the employees making the choices that were right for them. Before we get into some of the next steps, you had shared with me in a story, I’d like to learn a little bit more to see how it prepared you, you were in Hong Kong during SARS, which I don’t think us in the US we really felt the impact that that had. So when the pandemic started to play out here in the US, did you feel more prepared based on that experience or did you have a greater sense of reality and maybe more fear around what this pandemic was going to do to, to the US and globally the world?

Anna Soellner:

Yes. I would say it was actually a little bit of both. And by that I mean, I knew it was something that we would be able to overcome. I also anticipated there would be a lot of devastation. I did not anticipate though how long would take. If folks recall, SARS happened in 2000 and basically Hong Kong and Guandong province were pretty much ground zero for it, at that period of time. It did spread to North America, South Canada, United States, and a number of countries within Asia, but for the most part stayed sequestered. Now there’s a whole number of scientific reasons for why that happened. But having that experience about being in Hong Kong during SARS, the city shut down in many ways, very similar to what we experienced in the United States, where the streets were empty, everything was shut down, theaters, restaurants, workplaces, et cetera.

And so that obviously was as disturbing as what we have experienced this past year. However, the way in which, and again, this is like a case study in how you manage pandemics, the way in which it was handled, and then subsequently the fact that they were able to really curtail the disease made the kind of recovery aspect of much swifter than I think we will experience unfortunately.

Chuck Gose:

Now we talked about some of the choices that Reddit’s leadership presented to employees around letting them choose the style of work that they had, talk about more around that, right when the pandemic hit, or even leading up to it, how did Reddit’s leadership respond? How did the leadership communicate and what other actions were taken to look after employee wellbeing?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So we took a number of different steps. We have a number of values as a company that I kind of mentioned at the top, but one of the really important values, particularly during this time was default open. And that means we have a spirit of transparency and a culture of transparency at the company. And by that, I mean, when we have answers to things, we’ll share that with our employees. That is part of the trust matrix that we think is really, really important is to really be forthcoming about what’s going on with the business and how we’re doing and set that in the context of what’s going on either globally with the economy or in this case, amidst a pandemic. And so we immediately put together a task force, a cross-functional task force across the company with key leaders. Obviously communications was an important component of that, but HR, our IT teams, different parts of leadership that really made sure that our employee base could move from being in offices to not being in offices. So setting up that taskforce, I think was an essential first step.

And then from there setting up very clear channels of employee communications, so that folks knew that every Monday they were going to get an email from our CEO, giving them a specific update on kind of where things stood, what we knew, what we didn’t know and then ways in which the company was going to adapt with the employees and this new normal that we were all in. Reddit has a pretty extensive suite of benefits for employees including different kinds of stipends. And so we altered those stipends so that people could use them for things like setting up a proper for themselves, buying a desk for example, or a proper ergonomic chair so that they didn’t have to use their dining room chair for X number of months. These are the kinds of kind of simple ways in which we could meet employees where they were, but then also we recognized that we didn’t want to lose that important cultural aspect to the company.

And so we actually, in the earlier days of COVID, and even now we kind of changed up all the kinds of employment engagement activities that we do, be it off-sites which are via computer now. But really trying to create an environment where employees could share of themselves, but do it in a way that was comfortable for them. So that might be a joint exercise class, because if you recall, everybody was shut in and kind of wanting to do some physical activity, but not totally feeling uncomfortable about it. So we still have them, we offer these kinds of group fitness type of of classes with the clear understanding that you do not have to have your camera on, this is your moment to get your sweat on. So that’s kind of a simple example, but then there are other ways.

People were also struggling, this was obviously a really hard time for a lot of people. And then you include the social justice aspect on top of that, which even today we are being confronted with. And so making sure that employees also understood that they had other benefits tied to their insurance around issues like counseling was very important. We have a colleague who is an incredible meditation lead. And this is not his day job by the way, he’s within the sales organization, but he would actually do these led… And he does to this day, led meditations with a number of employees once a week during the lunch hour. And so those kinds of moments where you could still connect with employees in a way that feel comfortable to you became very important.

Chuck Gose:

Now, you had mentioned that transparency has always been a big part of Reddit’s leadership communication. I saw with a lot of organizations, the cadence picked up dramatically, where employees maybe only hear from their CEO once a quarter, or maybe once a month. They’re now hearing from her every week or some even almost daily. And Reddit’s cadence also increased, or was it already in place to where this just became more still than normal mode of communication?

Anna Soellner:

So typically employees would hear from our CEO most weeks through our all hands meetings, which occur on a Thursday. And so we continue to do those and obviously the CEO was certainly a part of those. But we added on a couple of more vectors of communication, not just from him, but then also through other parts of the organization. And like I mentioned before getting that Monday email is something that continues to occur. So just a quick update on what’s going on with the company and expectations for the week. And then also this all hands in which we also through that all hands do a Q&A with our CEO. If you’re familiar with Reddit, it’s basically a constellation of different types of communities. We actually have an employee private Subreddit which is where we solicit questions for either the CEO or other executives or leaders across the company. And so that people could ask questions.

Chuck Gose:

I’ve got one question I’m going to go to one that was submitted from the chat, which I think is a good follow on to the one I’m going to ask, as much more detailed. But I want to talk about employee voice at Reddit and what have Reddit employees either said verbally, or I think sometimes you can look more at employees behavior, what have they said behaviorally about the pandemic, about social justice? What does it mean for them as employees? And then how does Reddit capture that feedback? I might’ve just been in that private community you talked about, but what are some of the ways you capture or solicit that feedback from employees?

Anna Soellner:

So there are a number of different vectors for that. So certainly on through the company Subreddit, we can do that. We have a very robust number of employee resource groups that are representative of different groups across the company. And so certainly most recently our Asian resource group was clearly impacted with all of the violence that was happening a month against the Asian community. And women, I actually am one of the leads for the women of Reddit resource group. The resources groups did become an important area of communication in two ways and I think that these are both very important to recognize. One, to really be a mechanism for channeling areas of concern for employees, particularly who are represented in those different kinds of designations.

But also I think particularly in the early days around social justice and Black Lives Matter, I think a lot of companies kind of turned to their Black resource groups for advice or for how they should react and all of that kind of thing, which it was kind of unfair to position those employees as to present answers on behalf of the company. And so it’s something that we certainly had to be very sensitive to and I think helped to really inform how we think about these things moving forward. But I also think it was important for us to communicate with those resource groups to check in, see how they’re doing, how the company can be supportive but also to make sure that they aren’t having to carry the weight that’s really the responsibility of the broader company.

Chuck Gose:

No, I absolutely think that’s a phenomenal point, Anna. I want to get to Shannon’s question, because I think it’s a great segue into this. Her question is, how do you grapple with some of the challenges posed by de platforming and free speech when it comes to balancing business performance risk, but also sociopolitical activism happening? We see a lot of that happening inside organizations. Do you feel like employees have an opportunity to be a part of the conversation around the topic and then how does this culture drive employees to respond? So a bit of twofold there. How do you begin nurturing that conversation inside the company and then how do you counsel employees if they want to share externally?

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So this is an area that I think Reddit has made a lot of progress on during my tenure. And I think that it’s both an area where employees can get involved, but also it’s not the sole responsibility of employees to feel like they have the burden of that because these can be incredibly heavy, deep topics. And so the way in which we approach it, we do have a cross-functional group of employees who are responsible for ensuring that our platform values meet our corporate values. And in fact, it was a big lesson learned for us, I will say, over the course of 2020, because there was a gap for us in the sense that we were more permissive on our platform, than we were with how we would allow employees to engage with one another.

And so as a result of that, we actually did a major policy update in 2020 to address some of those concerns and to make sure that there was much better alignment between what our company values were and what the platform values represented. Because look, I think everybody who works at Reddit wants to be proud of where they work and they want to make sure that that values alignment is there. If anything has come out of how employers think about employee engagement, it’s making values based decision making. And so while it was definitely not simple decisions to be made and simple processes to put in place, I think the company feels like we made the right decisions there and are proud that we were able to make those decisions in conjunction with our broader community.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. Thank you, Shannon, for asking that question, you see in the chat, there’s some people giving you some accolades there. I think there is a big struggle, especially I see with so many communicators and internal communicators focused on employer advocacy, being a part of what they do or are responsible for. I don’t see a lot focusing on employee activism and there’ve been a lot of examples of employees taking the reins of the conversation if they don’t feel like the company is responding to them. And I think that’s certainly something that if you’re not researching or looking into, begin thinking about this employee activism, because your employees do have voices, they do have platforms. And if they don’t think the company is going to listen to them, they’ve got a place to go. There’s dozens of examples out there of organizations that have had to adjust because they didn’t listen to employees the first time and employees took those messages outside the organization.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. I think that’s a really important point regardless of what generation you’re in, but especially employees are incredibly tech savvy these days, they come to work already with sometimes with a platform of their own, be it their Twitter following or their Snapchat following, or what have you. They have LinkedIn followers and they can be very forthcoming in ways that can be wonderful but they can also really come at you straight. And being able to anticipate those kinds of moments and make sure that you can address them and address them in a way in which these employees feel like they’re being taken seriously. And that there is a plan for evolution or change. Again, another major value of ours is to evolve. We are still in some respects, a small company even though we have a large platform. And so we know that we have to be constantly adapting.

And so that’s something that I think it’s a very helpful guide star for me because if I’ve made a decision in the past, I don’t have to feel totally beholden to that because the circumstances may have changed. And so for me as an employee, it makes me feel more open to say like, “You know what, we got to evolve.” The way in which we may have positioned ourselves in the past or talked about things in the past just doesn’t make sense anymore and so that’s okay.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think what we’ve seen this happen time and time again, don’t listen to what companies say or watch what they do. And then that’s when you see that behavior take place. And we’re still working our way through this pandemic. I know everybody was feeling very good, at least from a news media standpoint and people getting vaccinated and making progress. And then this morning there was this JNJ announcement, and then people feel like, oh, no, are we taking a step back or not? But as a comms leader, Anna, what lessons did you learn during this pandemic? And hopefully we’ll all be out of it very soon and we can all attend events face to face again with each other, but as a comms leader, what have you learned about either the importance of being in communications or just being a leader in business?

Anna Soellner:

Well, I think one thing that we learned that it was a deep, deep respect for internal communications and employee communications. I think for a long time it was considered kind of secondary and that completely changed as a result of the past year and a half. And I think there’s two reasons for that. Obviously COVID is one, but the workforce is changing. And there’s a different expectation now, amongst employees about that relationship they have with their employer. You hear about it a lot around consumer choice, but you’re also seeing that reflected in employee choice and like, where do they feel comfortable working? Where do they want to spend a lot of time? I think Chuck, you and I were talking earlier about how the last year and a half has demonstrated that the professional has become personal and the personal has become professional. Those lines are now completely bled into one another because your professional life is at home or mostly at home for many people.

And as a result of that, people just are more sensitive around where they work and how they work and with whom they work. And so that means that people like all of us that are on this call are all the more essential for employers. And so that I think has been a huge game changer in terms of the level of respect accrued to internal communications and employee communications.

And I think obviously the second huge lesson here is just adaptability, is being able to be resilient to change. And I think that is something where maybe we’re in a new normal where things are going to kind of get to a more normal state but for a variety of different reasons, I anticipate that there will continue to be these “rogue waves” that will jostle people and how you handle it, how you show up as a leader really will impact how you can be positioned for the future.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. And right now we don’t really know the impact and we think about how 9/11 impacted us globally. Some things changed forever. Some things really didn’t change that much, same thing with the pandemic and public health. Certainly we are guessing now what these long-term effects will be. Something I know you had mentioned as we were joining, you’ve got a little one at home. You’ve got a dog that likes to bark when packages are delivered. You’ve got a husband at home working there as well. How has this last year been for you, Anna?

Anna Soellner:

I think for me, and I was actually reflecting on this after our first conversation, it’s changed, like how I want to think about both how I can have influence within my organization, particularly around working parents, but also how I engage externally maybe in what I do in terms of my own personal giving or what organizations that I support. That has been an important piece to meet for me. And then also access to quality information. That is another area of great importance to me personally and professionally. And so understanding fundamentally how important those are when these kinds of moments happen. I think I need to stay straight out of the [inaudible 00:38:55]. I come from a position of privilege because I work in an industry that was able to be adaptable to this moment.

There are a lot of people who didn’t have that option. I was able to make sure that our family was financially secure along with my husband, that we had access to being able to care for our daughter in a way that wasn’t going to totally curtail our capacity to continue to still thrive in our jobs. And that’s not the case for a lot of people. So those are areas that I have thought deeply about because I have been able to come from it of a place of where I didn’t feel the same level of pain as a lot of other people or a lot of other friends or family members who work in industries very different from mine, where it was really quite acute.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. And I think that’s a great point. Some of us have been very privileged during this time, and it’s important to recognize that and not take it for granted. Knowing others, I know that… As I’ve been interviewing people for the Culture Comms and Cocktails Podcast during this time, I began asking people like, oh how are you and your loved ones doing during this pandemic? And as I went to ask that question to somebody, they said, “Can you please not ask me that. It has not been good for the loved ones.” And it takes you back to remember that not everybody has had the same privilege type environment for it. Feel free to go on in, I know we just have about five minutes left, but there’s one final question I have for Anna. So if you have any questions, throw them into the chat, we’ll get to them.

And it’s a phrase Anna, that you used when we first chatted. I’m going to have you give the context, but I want to say the phrase you said, “We had to be rats in 2020.” So explain where this phrase comes from for you because I think that’s a great anecdote for all of us.

Anna Soellner:

Sure. So my daughter was born in 2020 in addition to all the other things that were going on. And for the most part 2020 was the year of the rat and the Chinese Zodiac. And my husband at first was like, “Oh, a rat, that’s terrible.” And I said, “No, this is perfect. This is exactly what we want because rats are clever and they’re survivors and they have grit and they will figure out a way to overcome any kind of adversity.” And so in 2020, we all have to be rats. And I think that was actually quite true.

Chuck Gose:

Yes. I see Adam commented in there, “Yes survivors, they are survivors.” And I think those of us that have been fortunate enough to see light at the end of the tunnel with this pandemic and see a future out there, I would not have maybe classified myself as a rat during that time but certainly appreciate that sentiment. Now, there’s one other thing you mentioned and I meant to come back to it, we’ve got on the rest of the topic. Earlier on, you had talked about Reddit doing a global expansion during this time, that had to present an insane amount of extra challenges.

Anna Soellner:

Yes it did. The timeline certainly had to adapt and everybody is probably experiencing this where you’re trying to onboard employees either remotely or in a way that’s safe where you still are socially distant or behind PPE. And so it really created a whole lot of challenges, but similar to how we’re able to converse right now that we’re able to use technology to adapt and still try and successfully launch as best we could in these different markets. And so I’m very gratified that we were able to do that. We launched into international markets within the last several months. And so that’s been really exciting. We’ve got plans to continue to do so. And hopefully, as the months progress, we may actually get to do that IRL.

But it’s interesting, I say that and I think thinking through, and I’ve just been pondering this more and more, as leaders within internal comms, it’s also going to be really important for us to not try and overload the system. Because I think a lot of people they’ve just been shut out of this kind of social interaction and being in person again, I think it’s going to take a minute for people to feel really comfortable. It’s going to be a muscle that we’re going to have to train. And so if I can leave you all with the recommendation for something to think about for the future, it’s how do you want to think about that return to work if that’s something that you already haven’t engaged in and making sure you’re doing it at the right pace for your employees.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It’s one of those and I’ve seen where people have thrived in this environment. Others have struggled and I can see some organizations struggle with a bit of a culture clash of people who are just chomping at the bit to get back in the office and back in real life, as you said, in face to face with each other, versus some people they might excel in this virtual environment. So making sure that everybody is prepared. We are at a time and there was something you mentioned when we talked about lessons learned that you shared about how critical comms has been during this past year. I know as part of internal communications, we’ve always felt critical, but now we know that others are seeing that value.

So back in March and April and May, and I was telling communicators, hey, this is your time to shine not time to gloat. No one’s going to throw a parade for you at this point in time. But, so many of you have shown your value to organizations during this time. So keep delivering that value keeps standing up for employees, keep delivering that employee voice. Thank you, Anna so much for joining us for this session. You are going to be in person last year. And of course we couldn’t do that. So thank you for sticking with us for this one.

Anna Soellner:

Sure thing.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you to all of you who joined this session, throw into the chat, do some clapping emojis or something for Anna in there. Thank you for the time. I know after this there’s a brief break. There’s another yoga session happening Anna, I don’t know if you’re into yoga or not. I’ve only done it like once and I almost harmed somebody, one time doing yoga. It was at an event-

Anna Soellner:

Namaste Chuck, that’s all I’m going to say. Namaste.

Chuck Gose:

It was at an event and I’ve got a pretty wide wingspan, Anna and they didn’t space us out enough. So some lady caught a hand to the… It was not pretty, but this is where virtual is helpful, yoga. You can’t injure anybody in virtual yoga. So thanks everybody for sticking around, attend the yoga session. We’ve got one more closing keynote and then Gary, our CEO will be closing out the day. Thanks everybody for the time, attention and participation today.

Anna Soellner:

Appreciate it. Take care, everyone.

Chuck Gose:

And I think Patrick, whenever you want to close us out, we are good to go.

Patrick:

I’ll give it a minute or so, and then [crosstalk 00:46:57].

Chuck Gose:

Oh, okay. We can just keep catching up with Anna then. Let’s see if there’s any other questions that came in here.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah, definitely.

Chuck Gose:

Oh yeah, here’s a good one, about what if employees want to go back to work, but managers want to stay home? If it’s an environment where the people are there, but the managers are not, that’s an interesting situation.

Anna Soellner:

That is an interesting one. And I think look, you probably have that arrangement already where the managers we’re not in your line of sight and if the employees feel like that’s a more productive place for them to do their work, then I say, go for it. I think the hybrid model is with us, which I think is frankly a good thing. I think employees have proven themselves to be trustworthy, to do good work. In fact most of the studies say that employees were in fact more productive, more productive during this period. And so and so I think that there’s just a new level of trust around the fact that you didn’t have to have the eyes on you to make sure that your employees were doing what they needed to be doing.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. I think I saw somebody mentioned the same debate happens with introverts and extroverts. And it’s not about being outspoken or quiet. It’s more about where do you get your energy from and energy from people. And someone who’s worked remote for close to a decade, obviously I was very comfortable still working remote, but my challenge was I wasn’t used to only being remote. So I think even for people who were privileged enough to not have to go into an office or would describe as a first-line or frontline worker, you had that flexibility, but you still like seeing people. You still want to be able to hang out with people or go to events or go to an airport or something.

And it’s that next step that I’m so curious to see, I do see that comparison between 9/11 and the pandemic. And I talked about with my partner who’s also in communications that 9/11 was like a tornado. It hit and it was not over, but the damage was over and then it was the fallout. Whereas the pandemic was more like a flood because you don’t know what the damage has been until the flood is dissipated. So I think we’re just now starting to learn and seeing organizations like Reddit be responsible and look out for employee wellbeing. I think those are the organizations that are going to come out ahead in the long run, frankly.

Anna Soellner:

Yeah. A hundred percent. And I think the flood analogy makes a lot of sense because we know, we know a lot of the statistical tolls that have been taken. But I anticipate too that there’s going to be a lot of residual emotion. I’m just going to use that word because it represent kind of the span of different feelings involved. And I think it’ll take some time for us to revert to “normal again.” And I think that in some areas, in some spaces, mask wearing might become more common. It was certainly the case in Asia, mask wearing is just normalized. Here, it’s kind of become the funny political act, which I don’t think is totally appropriate, so it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of [inaudible 00:50:43] continue and what don’t.

Is handshaking out? Sounds like a lot of people are not down with him shaking, but I think hugs are still something that people are going to crave. We’ll see how it goes.

Chuck Gose:

Yeah. It is interesting to see what habits we’ve developed, that we probably don’t need to acknowledge as habits over the past 12, 13, 14 months. And what will still stick around as a habit or what will be comfortable? I compare it to when I grew up, I don’t want to say like seat belts were optional, but some people wore it, some people did.

Anna Soellner:

A hundred percent. There were no car seats.

Chuck Gose:

Whereas my children freak out if I put the car in reverse and they don’t have a fully snapped in yet. So generally what will… We kicked this off talking about generations. How will this impact future generations? The ones that are around now will have one experience. The ones that are coming up with a completely different experience when it comes to public health. So who knows how that’ll shape policy? We’ve gotten way off track. We still got 43 people sticking around and talking to us, and we’ve gotten way off track here. So Patrick, feel free to kill this. Otherwise, we can just keep talking.

Patrick:

I mean, I can assign you as the host and then you will be responsible for [crosstalk 00:52:01].

Chuck Gose:

I think we’re good. Thank you again, Anna, for being a part of this.

Anna Soellner:

Thank you everyone.

Chuck Gose:

Thank you.

Anna Soellner:

Take care.

Chuck Gose:

Bye.

Anna Soellner:

Bye.

 

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