The Firstup by SocialChorus product reveal


Tim Christensen

Innovating Firstup: product reveal

As the pandemic has changed how we work, we’ve changed our platform in response, to better enable the front line and help companies build trust across their workforce. Find out how SocialChorus is reimagining the digital employee experience for 2021 and beyond.

Video Transcript

Hello, and welcome to Attune 2021. My name is Tim Christensen and I’m the CTO at SocialChorus. In 2020, we went from long lines at the airport, and congested highways during rush hour to a deafening silence of any social activity. Almost overnight, sports were canceled, businesses were closed, parks were closed, schools were closed, but our hospitals were open and full. It’s called a pandemic for a reason and has had a profound effect on all of our lives in ways we’re still trying to understand. And it is hard to comprehend on a global level, but what does it mean on a personal one?

I have a six year old daughter and being a parent is hard enough, but this last year has brought her to a whole new level. How do you help a six year old cope with the pandemic? No friends to play with, no schools to go to, no hugs for grandma because she’s a nurse and works in a hospital. As you can tell by that photo, hugging that snowman, she’s a hugger. Instead, you have virtual birthday parties, virtual play dates, virtual school, and from my experience none of these work. Playing my little pony with a friend over video, it’s just not a trend that’s going to catch on.

But as difficult as all of these challenges are, we also found opportunities, opportunities for more quality time, more family dinners, more board games, more weekend getaways, and like many extended families mine is dispersed. In the past physical distance has been an excuse to fall out of touch, the pandemic changed that to. Whether you’re on the other side of town or the country, it made no difference. So we started video chatting more, calling more, and today we are more connected than we’ve been in years, and you can always tell if a family is close based on the volume of gossip or drama encircling them. And I’m happy to say that today, we have our share of both.

I know my experience is not unique, because I hear inspiring stories of people finding different ways to stay connected every day. My neighbor has now started a movie in the front yard series, so the children in the neighborhood get to watch a movie together, but do so safely, social distance style. So the pandemic by any measure is a tragedy, and by no means can I overstate that, but there has to be poses we take from it and those are just a few I found. There’s a saying, no one likes change, but everyone likes progress. But sometimes the only way for real progress is to have change forced upon us. So how are we going to respond to the change in front of us?

The pandemic has given us an opportunity to reshape how we live, and improve our lives, and that also includes our work lives. Because as 2020 reaffirmed, we do not have a personal life and a work life, we only have one life. So it’s in these moments, these moments when we’ve faced drastic change, where we also find our greatest opportunity for progress. And it’s no secret, the way we work has already undergone immense change. It’s the reason this summit is virtual, it’s the reason you’re watching this on your laptop or your phone. Maybe even why your child is in the next room in their virtual classroom. But the question is, is this change short-lived or is it just a new reality?

A recent Gallagher study surveyed 800 companies, and found 40% of them see the pandemic as a chance to modernize how people work. They’re rethinking traditional working arrangements, they’re allowing for greater flexibility. They’re planning for it workforce that has greater autonomy over where to work, when to work, and how to work, because they also recognize choice equals greater productivity. These are the dominant companies of tomorrow, they’re the ones turning the pressures of today into an advantage. They’re driving digital adoption, creating an inclusive workplace, and hiring diverse talent.

So the transformation we’re seeing right now, it is incredible. And some studies say we’ve advanced the future work by as much as 10 to 20 years, which is absolutely amazing to say, but is it? Because there’s only one problem with this. The bulk of these changes benefit only the few of us who actually work at a desk, and desk workers only make up 20% of the workforce. So the real future work must include all work, not just the 20%. The 80% of the workforce are on the frontline, in the field, at the factory, the deskless cannot choose where to work or when to work, simply because it leads to greater productivity, that’s not how it works, because they keep society running.

As a nurse, my mother-in-law must start her shift on schedule or her patients suffer. The flight attendant must be on time, or her passengers are delayed, the utility worker ready at a moment’s notice, or you have no power. In 2020 these workers finally received the title they have earned, essential. Essential workers, kept food on our tables, deliver our mail, picked up our trash, and they worked tirelessly and sacrificed greatly to help our sick. But at the same time, companies struggled to safeguard them, to support them with critical information, and to implement the right safety procedures in a timely manner. So the situation shined a light on a reality the society can no longer ignore, that our deskless workers are grossly underserved, under supported and discounted. They deserve better, they require better, because as the pandemic has shown, they are essential.

So what does this mean for the future work? There’s still a lot to be worked out, but here’s what we know, for desk workers the lines between home and work are blurring. Some of us may never return to our traditional office, so we need to establish new balance for work and life to preserve the wellbeing despite the constant connectivity. For deskless workers, they need better support. They’re sacrificing to keep society moving, but they’re also experiencing new security, safety, and health risks at work. To support them, we need to enable them with more humanistic work policies, we need to enable them with technology designed for them, not just the desk worker.

And we also know the role of business is shifting. A 2021 Edelman Trust report found 76% of people look to their company more than any other source for trusted news and information, more than government, NGO, or media organizations, think about that. Three out of four people look to their business leaders as a stabilizing force, not only at work, but also at home. So if this is our new reality, then business leaders need to learn to lean into it, because we also know that business benefits when they do.

A recent McKinsey study found that companies with the most effective pandemic response achieved an average of 20% higher business performance compared with their peers, and up to six times higher engagement. So if someone asked, “Does connecting with your workers matter to the bottom line?” The answer is yes, yes it does. So here’s what we know. We know that digital transformation has accelerated by decade, but that the digital experience for every worker has not, especially not for the deskless, that supporting the needs of every worker is good for business but also the bottom line, that opening lines of communication between leaders and every worker is good for business and also the bottom line. These lessons and the actions we take from them is what real progress looks like. This is the real future work for every worker.

So what does SocialChorus have to do with any of this? We have a manifesto which represents our truth, and drives our strategy. We believe every worker should be able to access the information, resources and people they need to do their best work, which is why we’ve made it our mission to create a digital employee experience that works for every worker, because that digital experience is what empowers companies to stay connected, to support their people and ultimately to thrive. And the pandemic has greatly advanced our progress on this mission, because almost overnight our customers went into crisis response mode, working around the clock to ensure there’s safety, support, and security of their workers.

Southern Company Gas, updated safety protocols for field technicians, because they need to do service homes and check gas lines for our safety. Lincoln Financial Group, transitioned it employees to work from home, updating their policies and their protocols to ensure their people could continue to support those impacted by the pandemic. And Providence Health Systems rolled out new safety and work policies to better support their employees, while they supported COVID-19 patients. These are just a few of the examples that pose challenges like never before, and at SocialChorus, these challenges provided us new opportunities, to listen, to learn and to respond. So what did we learn?

First, reaching the right audience is critical, especially in times of change. Selecting the right audience is hard, it’s complex, and it’s highly variable for every communication. So if you cannot target the right audience with precision at a moment’s notice, then your organization suffers. And well-designed, well-crafted content is key to engagement, but it takes too much time today. If you cannot design engaging content under urgent conditions, then you fail your audience, when they need you the most. And time sensitive, urgent communications is stressful. Coordination between communications is slow and fighting information overload for your employees, is impossible. Fortunately, these are all best problems solved by software. And we’ve always known of these challenges, what’s changed is the magnitude of them.

This change forced upon us a moment, that enabled us to see great opportunities for progress now. So on behalf of SocialChorus, I’m thrilled to introduce, the new and improved re-imagined FirstUp Studio, powering a better digital employee experience for every worker. So, as you can see, we think New Studio is a game changer, and that’s not hyperbole. Yeah, it’s easy on the eyes, it’s also easy to use, but that’s not what makes it a game changer. What does?

Let’s start with the signal. The average desk worker receives 87 emails and 46 smartphone notifications each day. That’s on top of other collaboration, project management, and work tool pings. The life of a desk worker is one of constant distraction and overwhelming noise, and all of this math adds up to one big productivity drain. Desk workers need help to cut through the noise, Studio delivers that, but what about the desk less? They need help too, in fact, I’d argue they needed even more, more relevant information, more timely information because they have less time to spare. They’re the ones in the field, in the factory with the customers, not on their phone, but right now, technology does not help them cut through the noise.

In many cases, it doesn’t even provide enough value for them to engage, Studio changes that too. Studios scores communications by relevance and urgency for each individual. Throttles the excessive pings and collates multiple communications together, to save people time. The result, Studio puts the needs of your people first and in return, your people get more value out of every moment, which creates a more productive and more connected workforce. With all of this talk about right information, right person, it starts with targeting.

Organizations are complex, but selecting the right audience should not be. Every year, organizations are going through a major flux and 2021 is no different. Roles will come and go, locations will close and reopen, but to manage this, you need precise, real-time segmentation, to effectively target and reach the right audience. Studio stays in sync with your existing enterprise systems, like identity management and HR to enable this accuracy.

Now you’ve always had the power with SocialChorus to select the right audience, by demographic, organizational data, and user behavior. But we’ve also heard you loud and clear, it’s just not that easy to use. Which is why we’ve re-imagined the audience builder with one primary goal, no training required. We’ve taken the best that marketing automation platforms have, and brought that same experience to you. The new experience is more interactive and more visual, the controls are more intuitive, and they’re designed to decrease cognitive load. You receive audience count feedback on various criteria. You receive audience dimension counts to help you verify the completeness and the accuracy of your audience. But it’s so much more than just a better user experience, we’ve also expanded segmentation capabilities, adding more fine-grained controls, we’ve enhanced grouping capabilities to allow more sophisticated queries and expanded the criteria set to our new ways, to unlock new ways, to target the right audience. The end result, it’s an easy to use powerful audience builder capable of constructing the most sophisticated audience rules in minutes.

Which brings us to you. You have a story to tell, a message to share, desire to connect with your workforce, if for no other reason than to inform them, but your people expect a rich content experience before they engage. Research shows the level of engagement is relative to the quality of the content experience. We know that engagement can be improved by as much as 90% when the content is well structured, visually appealing and easy to consume. Creating this experience is not easy, it often requires the talents of a designer, until now. With Studio, we make it incredibly simple for anyone to create stunning, rich, professional grade content that pops. With the publisher, you can drag and drop content blocks to compose your message. Each of these blocks can be customized to fit your needs, while also ensuring a responsive experience for every worker on any channel.

We’ve also provided a rich library to help you find inspiration while saving time. The new composure enables more creative content experiences. You can mix polls with videos, you can add long form articles to albums and polls, these are no problem. You’re now able to push the boundaries, design any combination of content block to tell your story. And with this new world of content experiences, we not only make it fun, we allow it to benefit your company, your people, and your culture. So we’re excited just to see how far you’re willing to push this new creative process.

So now you’ve selected the right audience and you’ve composed the right message, how do you deliver it? For those of you from marketing and it backgrounds, orchestration as a familiar term, but for everyone else, it may not be clear, so let’s describe it. We have a saying at SocialChorus, simplicity scales. Which means can we make the hard things simple and the simple things invisible, this is how you scale. But the current internal process does not, coordination costs increase as communities grow. We cannot expect communicators to coordinate with hundreds of other communications across the globe for tens and thousands employees, and on top of that, follow up to ensure every worker received the information they needed. The idea is feudal, at worst it’s impossible, and at best, it’s too expensive and it’s slow.

This is why we built the orchestration engine. The engine coordinates all communications across the organization. It finds the ideal moment to reach each person based on their needs, select the preferred channel based on their behavior, digest excessive communications to reduce distractions, and it provides feedback to publishers to show how your communications relate to others. It also provides feedback on which users are suffering from too much, and others are suffering from too little.

The orchestration engine increases the impact of every communication, enables every communicator to be more productive, and improves the employee experience for every worker. And all this from a simple selection of a priority and a schedule. That’s the spirit of simplicity scales. So you have target, you have compose, orchestrate and review. Together, we call it Smart Publisher. The Smart Publisher is designed with every communicator in mind, whether you’re the CEO or a plant manager, a professional communicator or a novice. It enables every person to tell a story, to deliver effective communications that inspire, connect, and drive action. And it does all of this by putting the needs of your people first.

This is why we believe New Studio is a game changer. So let’s take a few examples to see it in action. First, let’s imagine you’re a senior leader in a large globally dispersed company, and you’re suddenly notified of a security breach. The breach affects all employees, from headquarters to the frontline. Employee data has been stolen and their private user information is vulnerable. You need to enable every employee to be informed and take action to protect their data, and this is time consuming and stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. So to get started, select new from the menu, from there you’ll see a list of templates. These templates are designed to save you time, reduce errors, and improve quality. There’re a collection of settings from audience, content, schedule and priority, but it’s much more. And it’s also important to know that you’re able to change these settings, because they’re designed to enable you, not constrain you.

So once you see a fitting campaign, you select security alert and you notice that, the audience is already set to all users, and you can change that too. But given the nature of this communication, we will advance you to compose out of expediency. Now, once on composed, you’ll see that the canvas is pre-populated with a set of blocks. You’ll see a header, some texts, and acknowledge. The design is bold, due to the nature of this information.

You now need to compose the message regarding the details of the breach, and the actions you desire your people to take. So now once you’re happy with your message select continue and advance to orchestrate. And since you selected the critical template, meaning settings come pre-selected, the publish time is now, the duration is one day, and the priority is critical. But perhaps you decide the duration for this communication could be seven days, maybe it’s still important on Friday as it is on Monday. You also notice the change in the duration changes the performance, and the performance on the right is designed to help you select the right outcome for this communication. And for this scenario, the performance chart shows that your users will find the content more relevant by extending the time period, which is great because it allows the orchestrator to find more moments throughout the week to reach them when it’s right for them.

You also test the must have priority and notice that the engine tells you that you’re going to generate less noise. So you make that change as well. You also consider adding a topic to this post, but decide, given the temporal nature of the content publishing to a target audience, doesn’t really fit. Which brings me to one more point. Yes, you’re now able to send communications to audiences without sending it to a topic. So now that you’re satisfied with the performance, click advanced and verify the other communication details.

You’ll notice acknowledge has been selected, which is common for critical announcements, but because it allows your people to take intentional action on a communication. And from that action, you can use that data to decide on proper follow-up communications. That’s it, orchestrate is ready. So you might be asking, “What’s audience insights? What is that all about?”

Audience insights is there to help you understand how orchestration will achieve the desired outcome. It explains which employees have competing communications, it explains where you will reach them and when you will reach them. This feedback is designed to help you achieve your outcome, while keeping your employees, front and center. So once you’ve completed orchestrate, advanced your review, confirm your audience, confirm your content, your settings, hit publish. You can relax knowing your message was delivered, and when the day is over, come back, see the results, see who read it, see who acknowledged it, and based on this information, decide on next steps. This is orchestration, this is personalization. This is what we mean by a better digital employee experience.

So that’s great for urgent messages, but most communications are not emergencies, which is why we also make it easy to celebrate, to share and to drive culture with that nice to have information. So I now want you to imagine another scenario, with an entirely different kind of communication.

Picture of you’re manufacturing plant manager and you want to send a message to all employees to celebrate an important milestone, 365 days accident-free. You’re not a communicator by trade, but this is a proud moment and something worth celebrating, so you want to personally express your gratitude and allow others to share in the moment. So you get started, record a short video on your phone, thank your employees for taking their safety seriously. So now you’re ready to go. Open up Studio, click on new. Let’s say you don’t find the template this time, that’s not a problem, start from blank. And with the fresh start, you’re directed to the target page. From the target page, we’ve also aimed to make it easy to select the right audience, by providing popular, favorite, or recently selected audience. And in this scenario, let’s say you find a few audiences that you regularly engage with. But perhaps for this communication, you want to expand your audience a bit, add maybe a few colleagues and executives from other plants and headquarters, that’s not a problem.

From Studio, we now give you a new audience button, which allows you to create a new audience on the fly, right in line with smart publisher. So we give you all the power of the audience builder within smart publisher. You decide to add a few individuals to this audience, and once finished click done, there you’ve completed your audience, and as expected, the panel on the right will provide feedback. It gives you the confidence that you’ve got an accurate, complete audience for your communication. Now click continue to proceed to compose.

And since you started with that blank template, we land on composed with the blank canvas. And from here we make it easy to get started. So we provided fast access to simple content blocks, things you’re already familiar with like article and video, albums and links, but there’s more. But since this is a moment of celebration, you’re looking for something unique, something to stand out, well that’s great because we’ve also given you a new library, something to unlock your creativity, but also save you time. So you click search and go to the full library, begin your discovery. You’ll notice there’s categories on the left and there’s a celebration one, so you click that, which will filter down and you’ll be able to see all of the inspiration, things like single blocks, multiplex, themes, and other assets. But after a little discovery, you find a perfect experience, select done.

Back on compose, now you have your structure. So it’s time to add your content. You can upload your video and once that’s complete, you can decide, this is also a great opportunity to learn from your team. So you can scroll down and edit your poll, customize the questions, ask what made this achievement possible. Now you completed the substance, but what about the style? From compose you also have a rich design system, you can modify fonts and colors, layouts, assets. And from here, you want to style the title just just a bit to match the header. So you go in modify the color, but otherwise everything else looks good. And it’s important to note at any time you can jump on over to preview, test the experience across multiple channels just to make sure it’s right. So you can see with a little help from a library, with a few content blocks, and a flexible design system you’ve created a content experience that assure to capture the attention of your audience, without a designer. Now let’s get it delivered.

So your first goal on orchestrate is to decide on the right priority for this message. You want to encourage viewership, but allow people to see it on their own time. So we know that deciding on the right priority is subjective and difficult, which is why we provided performance feedback and audience insights. And with a little help from predictive modeling, we help you land on the optimal results. And in this scenario, you land on should know priority and a 14 day duration. And although you do not have to publish this to a topic, there’s no reason not to, it’s an important moment and people should be able to discover this in their feed on their own time, even if they weren’t in the original target audience, so you select Plant Announcement topic and continue.

So after a quick review of Advanced, turn on comments, encourage a little team conversation, otherwise everything looks good. And we know that too many options can be overwhelming, so we’ve prioritized three must have decisions for every communication in basics and included everything else in advanced. This allows a streamlined experience for every user while unlocking the power for those that need a little bit more control. So now we’re done, let’s review it. On the review page, you’ve confirmed the audience, the content, you’re pleased with the performance and the delivery mechanisms, so now press publish.

That’s it, you’ve shared the moment to celebrate with those that made it happen. With Smart Publisher, creating engaging content experiences is easy, which as we’ve already said is really important because content is what builds connections. Now over the last few months, we’ve been working with our customers to get this experience just right and here’s a few things they have to say about it.

So I also want to take this moment to say thank you, for all of our customers for their help in creating this experience, because we’re here to serve you and we know we cannot create a product that delights without your help. So as you can see, FirstUp Studio is a revolutionary leap forward in creating a digital employee experience for every worker. This is our version, the SocialChorus version of, that drastic change which can lead to real progress. But we’re not done yet, we have one more thing to share. We didn’t really talk about what happens after you hit publish.

As we know, FirstUp already sends information out to mobile experiences, desktop experiences, email, our Content Amplifiers broadcast content to other digital end points, but they’re largely one directional with limited design flexibility. But what if they weren’t? What if you could customize, design, configure and embed interactive widgets into any of these digital systems?

With our new content Microapps, now you can. Content Microapps is a new way to drive engagement anywhere. It enables targeted customizable content, customizable content experiences in any system. This is the next level of reaching and engaging every worker, wherever they are and here are a few highlights. First you can customize the look and feel, control format, colors, fonts, even your transitions, and much more. Without the need of a designer, allows you to seamlessly run the experience into any of your digital systems, which also enhances investments you’ve already made there. You can also configure the experience for your employees, select what content to automatically show, choose how they engage with it, whether it’s inline or within the desktop, whether it shows, whether it… whether it allows them to consume content within the app itself, which also reduces context switching and improves focus for the employees.

Finally, Microapps are designed to get feedback and drive action. So you can comment, like, translate, share, all within the app. So if you’re asking, “When can I get my hands on it?” Well, we’ll be releasing New Studio this summer. If you’re interested to learn more, please check out our product breakout sessions at Attune. But to close, I’d like to bring us back to why, why is this important? Why does this even matter? Because at SocialChorus, we believe every worker should be able to access the information, the resources, and the people they need to do their best work. This is how companies stay connected, and this is how companies thrive. Thank you.


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