How internal communications teams use Firstup by SocialChorus


Gillian Clowes


Tahni Morrison

Product focus: Firstup for communicators

Workforce communications have become critically important during the last year. Companies are using it to manage crises, improve culture, engage employees and align teams on key initiatives. Learn how internal communication teams are doing it all with the SocialChorus Firstup platform, and delve into the newest features that will take your communications to the next level.  

Video Transcript

Gillian Clowes:

Hello, hello, hello everybody and welcome to our product focus session all about First Up for Communicators. I’m Gillian Clowes, lead product manager at Social Chorus. I’m super excited to be joined by Tahni Morrison, senior engagement manager on the team as well, and a communications pro.

We have a super packed agenda today. We’re going to start by looking at some of the key challenges that are facing communications in the digital employee experience world. We are going to take a quick high-level look at the First Up platform and then a deep dive into a product demo where we’re going to spend most of our time today.

We’ll hear some insights from Tahni about how customers are deploying and using First Up and then finally, we’re going to open it up to questions from you. Please feel free to drop your questions in the chat box throughout the session. We’ll try to answer some in the chat and then we’ll get to answer a few in real time at the end.

Looking at some of the top challenges facing communicators today a few things stand out. First, is the right time, right place problem. The number of comms tools has grown exponentially and no one tool works for reaching absolutely everyone. People are distributed across time zones and locations. Not to mention everyone has different preferences about where they want to consume content.

We also are dealing with competing priorities. There are more and more people who want a seat at the comms table. Leadership wants a direct line to talk to employees, which is fantastic and local, department, and team leaders want to get information out as well. Having more people in communications just means that there’s more to prioritize and more people who think that their information is the most important thing. While having more people communicating allows for more relevant targeted communications, it can also create noise.

Finally creating, engaging content that will actually capture employee’s attention, when they’ve come to expect consumer grade experiences that are available across any device, feels impossible. Most of us aren’t designers and we don’t have designers at our disposal. So creating something that is responsive and looks fantastic and is available anywhere can take time away from focusing on what’s really important, which is the message.

Let’s take a look at the 10,000 foot view of what our platform does for the folks here that aren’t already familiar. Our platform First Up, distributes any type of content like leadership communications, local and team information, user generated content, and does that across any endpoint where employees are reachable. From email, to desktop, to mobile, in your collaboration tools, your intranet, and it also integrates with your enterprise applications. So your employees have everything that they need in one single place.

On the employee side of things, what our anywhere approach looks like is that they’re able to access content on any system enabling you to reach and engage your employees wherever they are. You publish once to First Up Studio and your information gets delivered automatically to the right channel for every employee.

We’re going to take a look at what that actually looks like in practice, and we’re going to jump into our new First Up Studio. Let me get my right screen.

For the customers that are on the line, you probably had questions coming out of Tim Christiansen’s amazing keynote this morning, and you’ll also notice that there are some big visual updates happening here. You’ll notice a different navigation. All of that is part of this new experience, but don’t worry. You’ll still have access to things like calendar, analyze, audience segmentation that you know and love.

What we’re going to focus on today is the new smart publisher workflow. One of the things that we just touched on is making it easier to create content. The first way that we want to do that is with templates for your common use cases. Those templates are intended to help streamline your process for repeated communications.

If every time you send an executive update, you want to use the exact same audience, and settings, and just tweak the content a little bit. You can easily create a template for that and you’re in control of those templates. They can be customized to your organization or even to specific groups of communicators. So that everybody has an easy way to create communications that start from kind of a boiler plate template.

Today we’re going to go through the whole flow. We’re going to start from blank and let’s use a use case that we are all getting familiar with this year, which is announcing office reopenings. We’ll start from blank here.

The first thing that we’re going to do is choose our audience. We made a very intentional decision to put targeting front and center in this workflow. One of our long-held product philosophies is to be employee first and here we want to encourage people that are creating communications to think in the same way.

We talked about yesterday comms is really all about connecting with an audience and we want publishers to focus on the people that they’re connecting with before they even start building their content. Who do I need to see this? Is it really critical for everyone? Or can I choose a more audience for it?

Here, I can quickly select from popular audiences. Things like all employees, if that’s something I have access to, and I can also quickly choose from my frequently used audiences, which is personalized to me. Those are the people that I’m frequently communicating with.

If I get here and I don’t already have an audience created for the target of my communication, I can easily build a new one from scratch. This brings us to that powerful audience builder that we saw a preview of this morning.

This audience builder is pulling in the most up-to-date information from my [HRS 00:06:37] System. We’ve got things like department, work location, any attributes that you want to capture and segment employees by can be populated here. For this example, we’re going to use work location. We want to reach people who work in offices. We’ll pick some examples of that.

You can see as I’m building this audience, I’m getting a real time look and real-time feedback into who’s actually part of it. That kind of serves two purposes. One is a check for me. If I know that I should be communicating with around 2000 office employees, but I’m seeing a different number here, I know that I need to tweak something with my audience.

It’s also reinforcing those people that I’m communicating with. I can see the locations, and the departments, and the job roles that are represented in this audience that serves as a reminder to me about who I’m actually communicating with here. I can save my audience for later here if it’s one that I want to reuse. Let’s give it a title and then head back.

Now I’ve got my audience in place and I’m going to start building out my content. That brings us to compose. One of the things that as we started to think about re-imagining our publishing experience, we wanted to keep in mind was that our product is not just for power communicators. We also support what we like to call little C communicators. Those people who aren’t in communications by trade, but still have information they need to get out. Those people like local, department, or team leaders, or executives, even.

When we set out to re-imagine this publishing experience, we knew we needed to create something that would empower every communicator, no matter their experience level. This publisher really takes the guesswork out of creating content. That’s going to look great on every end point. You don’t need to be a designer or an HTML expert to build something that’s creative and engaging.

We’ve done this with a simple drag and drop editor and a library full of mobile responsive blocks that can be mixed and matched to suit whatever your communications use case is. We’ve also got simple design controls in here that allow you to create something that’s streamlined, and consistent, and always on brand. You don’t need to worry too much about the design and you can just focus on your message.

We’re going to build out our communication here. First thing I’m going to do is drop in an image and I can go ahead and replace the image that’s on this block if I want to with something that’s already on my computer. Oftentimes it’s kind of hard to find that perfect image for your communication. What we did was built out a library of curated imagery that’s available to everyone on the First Up platform.

This provides you with royalty free images. Thousands of images that you can use in your communication, but very importantly, also allows you to build out a library for your communicators. If you have assets that people want to reuse frequently, or you have brand approved imagery logos that you want everybody to have available for all of their communications, those can be populated into your library and used by every communicator.

Here we’re going to look for image of an office and I can scroll through and find the one that I want to use in my post here. I’ll pick that and then head back and I can keep building out my content.

Next, I’m going to put in a headline, kind of a title for my post. Bear with me while I type. I won’t make you sit through too much of that. Then I can drag in a rich text block to add my body here.

Now, if I wanted to have every article that I post look something like this with an image, and a title, and text, I could quickly save this as a template and allow other people to use this as boiler plate when they’re creating new communication. It doesn’t have to be that every time somebody is creating something from scratch, but with the blocks and the drag and drop editor, we want to provide people with flexibility to have that design creativity when they want to. Again, I won’t make you bear with me as I type. I’m going to just pop some content in here that I already have.

Then lastly, I want to provide some resources here about the CDC guidelines. Instead of just hyperlinking some of this text, which I could go in and I could do, I’m going to drop in a little link block here. This would allow me to highlight some existing links. If I wanted to, I could also highlight content that I’d already created. If I wanted to link to something that I’d posted a week ago, I could do so as well.

Here, I’m going to drop in a few links and that’ll automatically populate from the link preview. If I wanted to go in and customize this, I could totally do that, but I’ll just leave it as is for today. We’ll add another one in here so we have a nice little list and then we’ll head back.

Now my content as I want it. Again, if I wanted to add in some additional interactive elements, some more visual elements, I’ve got a bunch of blocks that are accessible to me. If I want to add an image gallery, something that’s a little bit more interactive and highlights many images. If I wanted to drag in a video or a poll, I have the flexibility to mix and match all of these components to create something that’s really dynamic.

The last thing I’ll do you here is just apply a little bit of a design to it. I just want to use some of my brand colors, apply some styles here. I’m going to make this bold, and then I’m going to give it my brand background color. Quickly apply that, and then I’ll make the text white. So that it stands out here and you can see on the sidebar that I’ve got a ton of different options.

Again, if I don’t want to touch any of these, I don’t have to. They could be pre templated for me, but you’ve got some flexibility in all of the styles that are applied here. Including all the colors, the sizes, and the fonts that are used as well. You can create something that really aligns with your brand identity.

Last thing I’ll do here is just give these a more branded color and I’ve got my content ready to go. I’m going to quickly just set my card preview. If I wanted to just leave this as is, have it pull in the default image from my content and the default title, I could do that. If I want to modify that, give it a different image for the cover and a different title, I can also customize it as well. So you’ve got flexibility there.

Lastly, we’ll head to orchestrate and this is really where things get kind of magical. Right now, as communicators, we have to think about a lot about when and where something is going to be delivered? What time do I want to publish this? Is it going to be an email, a post on the intranet, a push notification, what’s the best place? But the reality is that there’s not an easy answer to those questions. Our audience is fragmented and dispersed, and there’s no one right time or place to reach everyone. Not to mention a message that’s critical for one employee, may be less important for another.

Your employees in finance may prefer to get their news on desktop, where your field sales employees prefer mobile and so on. We really want to meet employees where they are, but how do we actually do that? Enter the orchestration engine.

Instead of making all of those decisions manually, which really isn’t possible. What if you just set your priority and your schedule when, and how long is this information relevant for? With that in mind, the orchestration engine could create a personalized communication plan for every single employee in your audience. That is exactly what’s happening here.

I can choose my priority. This is probably a must know for this audience and you can see that as I’m changing the settings here, I’m actually getting real-time feedback about what’s going to happen and about my predicted performance. The idea of automation can be a little bit intimidating. How can I trust this? What exactly is going to happen? And am I going to get the outcome that I want?

As you’re making updates, you’re actually getting feedback. You have some visibility into what’s going to happen here. For example, my resonance score lets me know how likely I am to get through to my audience. Are people going to see this? Are they going to engage with it? Then my noise score is giving me feedback about whether I’m at risk of spamming my audience.

With those two things, you’re also getting recommendations about how you can adapt to them. If I have a super high noise score here, it may be worthwhile to extend my duration or lower the priority if it’s not something that’s absolutely critical. This engine’s actually giving you a little bit of feedback about how you can make better decisions for your communications.

You’ve also got visibility into what exactly is going to happen. If I make this a critical post, what that means is that it’s probably going to perform pretty well, but I may be creating some noise. In this case, that may be okay, but in some cases you may want to reconsider that decision and change some of your settings.

If I make something critical, what that means is that the engine’s going to be a little bit more forceful about trying to reach people. We can see here that 100% of people are going to get an email about it because it’s that important that we reach them today. If I lower my priority, then we’re probably just going to send an update to the feed and allow people to sort of possibly engage with it because it’s not quite as important.

This plan is actually creating that personalized communication for every single employee. It’s taking into account the other communications that are competing for their individual attention, taking into account where they’re most likely to be reached, and what times when they’re in so that we can deliver it at a time when they’re most likely to see it. Some of these people may have a more time-sensitive communication that they need to receive first. The delivery of this content can wait until after that. That is what truly personalized communication looks like.

Now, if my CEO comes to me and says that I need to get an email out to all employees immediately, I can choose to override this intelligence and schedule a delivery for a specific channel and a specific time. We know that that is a reality that we face as communicators, but the default here is to enable automation because the potential that it unlocks for more powerful, more personalized, and effective communication is so great. In order to achieve that, we need to have buy-in from everyone that’s communicating.

Now that I’ve got my audience, my content, and all my settings ready, I can head to review and think of this page, sort of as your purchase confirmation page, where you want to double check that you have all your ducks in a row. Did I get my audience right? Do I have a typo in my title? So that I can hit publish and then breathe easy that this is going to do what I want it to do and reach the people that I want.

Now that I’ve published, we’re going to take a look at what that actually looks like for employees.

Again, we had to just build that content one time and it’s going to be delivered everywhere that employees are reachable. That means that if I’m a person that likes to work at my desktop, I can see this on our desktop experience. If I am typically engaging from the intranet, I may see that through an embedded micro app. I can actually read that content in line and not have to open up the web experience, or I could get it in email. If that’s where I like to consume my content. Could also be found on mobile. If that’s where I typically go or on digital signage. Truly publishing once and reaching everyone wherever they are.

The last thing I want to quickly touch on is the analytics piece. To round that all out, it’s of course critically important that we’re also getting analytics back about how this is performing, which content is performing well, which of my initiatives is performing well. If I’m aligning these communications to initiatives, and of course, analyze provides all of that information and allows you to filter and segment all of the analytics by any of those attributes that we talked about earlier. If I’m sending work location or department, I can come in and I can see my reporting segmented by which employees I’m actually reaching most effectively.

Now we’re going to talk with Tahni a little bit about how our customers are actually leveraging the First Up Platform.

Tahni, first up in your experience, what are comms leaders looking to solve for with the First Up Platform?

Tahni Morrison:

Yeah. Before I dive into that, I do just want to say a quick, wow. I mean, as someone who is a communicator by trade, seeing functionality like this in the internal comms space just blows my mind every single time. I never got bored of seeing it. I hope that everybody on this call who’s a communicator feels the same way because this is game changing stuff guys. You’re bringing that consumer experience into the in-house world, which you’re never going to be the same again. Let’s just put it like that.

Going back to your question, Gillian, so what are communicators looking for when they do look at investing in First Up? Really most comms leaders come to us initially trying to solve one of three problems.

The first problem could be that they want to easily reach all of their employees, but aren’t able to with their existing tools or they’re publishing content multiple times in multiple places. Sometimes taking hours and just hoping that it reaches as many people as possible.

The second is that they’re wanting to modernize communications in their company and provide tools that employees actually want to use and content the employees actually want to read and engage with.

Then the third one, is that they want to be able to provide C-suite with tangible insights about how employees across the company are feeling at a point in time. Since the pandemic began, communicators have become the internal heroes. Really responsible for keeping the remote workforce feeling connected and engaged.

With a spotlight on communicators, they want to be able to continue to show value by providing quantitative and qualitative insight to leaders across the organization that helps shape the employee experience strategy and ultimately impact productivity and profitability.

Gillian Clowes:

Thank you. That’s great. On the flip side of things, what does this look like in terms of its impact on the employee experience for these organizations?

Tahni Morrison:

Yeah. For many years, employee experience, same to have been a problem that organizations have really been shooting in the dark trying to understand and so forth. Really not until the pandemic did companies actually grasp what employee experience meant for them and what they were trying to achieve in that space.

Most of the time when communicators come to us to solve one of these three initial problems, they actually realize in the process that they’re looking to solve all three of the problems because that’s what truly makes a good employee experience. Reach the employees where they are, providing high quality and engaging content, and then being able to understand what makes their employees tick by using those data and insights to really get a holistic picture of what’s going on in the organization.

Communicators also understand that employees expect that consumer grade experience in their personal life and this is directly related to their expectations of their company’s employee experience. Employees want their employee experience to be as good as what doing when they’re at home, scrolling on their phones or engaging in their personal time. To be able to provide our customers with a tool that meets the expectations of their employees, but also the needs of communicators is a massive win for employee experience overall.

Gillian Clowes:

Amazing. Thank you.

Finally, in what ways are you seeing customers use and deploy First Up to solve these challenges?

Tahni Morrison:

There’s so many different ways. I mean, I could sit here and talk for hours about all the different ways that our customers are using First Up, but there are a few things I really wanted to sort of shout about because I think they’re so fantastic.

One is that any communicator knows that the best way to get attention from employees is by speaking to them on a personal level. Best in class internal communication should feel like a conversation with a friend. With First Up, we have the capability to provide local leaders, managers, communicators with access to publishing our tools so they can speak to their colleagues directly.

We call them channel contributors. For those of you who aren’t aware of the tool. Our biggest customers, such as Amazon, GSK, and Hyatt have hundreds of these channel contributors, communicating with their smaller audiences every day. That could be a manager to a small team. Speaking to them about things that they need to know as they start their shift. It could be local organizations speaking with themselves. It could just be teams to sharing things like shout outs for their colleagues who are doing a great job.

Really by empowering more people to be communicators, it’s it also ensures critical company messages are seen because employees are going back to First Up to hear from their teammates and leaders and are getting that important company information at the same time, which provides real value for global and central communications teams who are trying to get that message out.

Now with the new features that you’ve just seen around compose, we’re really empowering these casual communicators to have best in class, beautiful content inside the First Up platform. You don’t need to be a designer or a communicator by trade to make something that looks incredible.

Then another thing that customers are using us for is really to reach the pockets of their employees that they’ve never been able to connect with before. So many of our customers have frontline populations, organizations such as 7-Eleven, Ford, Southern Company Gas, and all of them have been flocking to our product and to First Up to finally have a way to communicate with employees who are on the frontline in manufacturing plants and places like healthcare facilities.

Having a mobile app provides a channel to communicate directly with these groups, but there’s also options such as digital signage that you can have on manufacturing sites or in health facilities. We call it surround sound style communication. Really making sure that message is being received and you’re really reaching employees wherever they are.

Then finally, if you’re looking at our orchestration that you’ve just shown Gillian, that orchestration engine really makes sure that you’re delivering content messages to employees where they are. This could be via that push notification we mentioned. Via on their phone, by email, also integrating with internal tools, such as Salesforce or another internal intranet style page and even digital screens or kiosks.

Our customers know that when they’re publishing, they’re only publishing a piece of content once. We’ve taken away. We had a great quote yesterday of a customer saying, “Before it took 10 hours to publish a piece of content and now it takes 30 minutes.” That in itself is creating resources for communicators to do so much more important work.

Also knowing that our orchestration engine continues to ensure that that content is reaching everybody it needs to reach through a series of those nudges and reminders in that campaign period. It’s really just, our customers love it for the first time ever. They’re no longer just sending emails and just hoping that people have read them. They actually have the data to prove that piece of content has been received and it’s been engaged with. It’s actually giving us the power to transform communicators role on the team from being operational, to truly strategic business partners.

Gillian Clowes:

That’s fantastic. Thank you Tahni And I love what you said about best-in-class comms should feel like a conversation with a friend. That’s great.

We’re going to take some of the questions. I know there’s a lot pouring in. We’ll pick a few that we can answer now and other ones we will try to follow up to answer. You’ll also see more in the coming weeks and months about the nitty gritty of New Studio.

One of the things that I’m seeing a lot of is a question about topics versus channels. People with a keen eye caught that topics are called out in this new published workflow. That really is just a renaming. There’s a few things that are going to get renamed as we migrate to New Studio. Your topics will work just like your channels do today. In terms of users being able to subscribe. You can continue to publish the topics, which will sort of act as a container for your content, but you have the flexibility to also publish to audiences that don’t align with your established topics.

A question about being able to send emails to everyone, even if they’re not on the platform. That is absolutely still something that’s possible in this new publishing workflow. Your audiences include people that are on every single platform, including email. If you send an update to that kind of audience, that includes a mix of people that are available on email, versus the intranet, versus the mobile app, they will all be able to receive that communication.

Another question about targeting, “If something that is shared to an audience, that’s not in a specific topic that that content is published in, where do people actually see that content?” That will actually be delivered directly to their feed. There will be sort of an additional personalization element to the feed where people will be able to receive communications that were targeted directly to them.

Then question about design before we wrap up here. “Can you set the options for your predefined font and colors?” Yes. You’ll be able to create sort of a brand style guide. If you want to choose your default fonts and colors for each of those elements, you’ll be able to do that as an administrator for other people to use. You can also save those as part of a template if you have multiple versions that you want to use.

Okay. I know we’re at time here, so we can’t get through every single question, but thank you all for all of the questions and we will continue to work on answering all of those for you as we get closer to releasing New Studio.

Next up, we’ve got a quick break and then we’re back at the main stage with a quick yoga session and then our closing remarks with our CRO Brian McDowell. Thanks everyone for joining.

Tahni Morrison:

Thanks everybody.


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Gillian Clowes