Like most of you, we started 2020 with high hopes. Bananatag had just won Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 Award—recognizing us for more than doubling our global customer list in recent years. And we were gearing up to grow even faster in 2020.
Then, well, 2020 happened... *cue record scratch*
And you all know how that went.
But despite it all, we weathered the storm better than we expected.
Our product was designed specifically to make internal communication easy. And turns out, that’s exactly what organizations and internal communications professionals everywhere needed.
But it definitely wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies.
In 2020, our mission to make meaningful internal communications easy took on a whole new meaning we never could have anticipated. It challenged us to think differently about the way we worked, what we built, and how we supported our customers.
Like every person and organization on the planet, 2020 changed us.
And now we’d like to share with you how 2020 became the most transformative year for our people, our product, and our brand in our 10 year history (and what we learned along the way).
The Bananatag Morning Show brought us together
After the COVID-19 pandemic hit in mid March the world went into shock and panic.
We were no exception.
The first thing we did was take a lay of the land. Every consultant, vendor, practitioner, and their brother was writing about how to tackle COVID-19 responses internally, how to communicate with remote employees, and how to coach leadership through the chaos.
There was so much information out there from thought leaders in the industry who, quite frankly, knew a lot better than us how to deal with all of this, that we had no interest in adding to the noise.
We wanted to be helpful. We wanted to support our community.
So we asked ourselves, “What do internal comms professionals really need right now?”
Do they need another blog post? Another whitepaper?
Internal communicators were isolated. Disconnected. Worried. Overwhelmed.
What they needed (what we all needed really) was connection. Support. A sense of community and a little bit of hope.
Enter: The Bananatag Morning Show.
Our mission was simple: connect our community with experts in the field in candid conversation, with tangible takeaways that our audience could implement right away.
Each episode, an expert would join Adam and Kyla to answer questions from the audience on how to navigate communication challenges during a pandemic. Together, with the audience, we’d dissect the most pressing issues and then we’d have a laugh.
Turns out, that’s just what we all needed.
Six months and 32 episodes later, we’re proud to say that it turned out to be the best possible decision we could have made.
Lesson learned: When you’re worried about being lost in the noise, listen to your audience and focus on what they really need.
Comms-unity created new connections
Once upon a time, we ran a worldwide event series for internal comms pros called Comms Lab. We travelled to London, New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, and DC and ran free, full day internal communication workshops for anyone to attend.
We were looking forward to making Comms Lab 2020 even bigger and better. In fact, we had a Comms Lab scheduled for April and were in full swing, preparing the venue, presentations, and so on when we had to cancel.
It sucked. It sucked so bad.
These events were where we could meet with our people in the flesh, connect, learn, drink wine, and build awesome relationships. Attendees loved them not only because of the learning, but because they got to connect with other practitioners just like them.
We knew we had to do something to keep the energy and connection going.
So we started Comms-unity.
Comms-unity is an invite-only Slack community for communicators looking to share, learn, and grow.
It is a safe space to get career advice, inspiration, and support directly from experts in the field and other practitioners just like you.
We took all of the energy we would have put into creating a live event and intentionally built this community to be for internal communication professionals, not us.
Instead of promoting ourselves and using it as a sales opportunity, we focused on facilitating connection and letting the magic of bringing brilliant people together take the wheel.
And it worked.
We now have 800 members from around the world and it is still growing rapidly.
Lesson learned: You don’t have to be the centre of attention to provide value. Facilitating connection and collaboration will create more value than you alone could have accomplished.
(Oh, and if you’re interested, you can join the conversation here: Comms-unity)
Practical resources made it all easier
Once we got a handle on the new landscape, we realized that though a lot of the resources out there were super valuable, they weren’t exactly making things easier from internal comms pros.
Most people working from home didn’t have time to watch a live event or read a 30-page whitepaper in between homeschooling their kids and back-to-back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings.
So we redoubled our focus on creating useful, practical content to make your life easier.
Here are our most popular new additions to the resource library in 2020:
- Ask the Experts: Communicators in Crisis: An expert panel webinar hosted by our own Adam Brayford, SCMP, featuring internal comms pros from Uber, Slack, E-Comm 911 and the Centre for Crisis & Risk Communications.
- The Ultimate Guide to Virtual Town Halls: Includes a downloadable powerpoint template full of engaging ideas
- Data Visualization for the Internal Communicator: An awesome webinar with our friends from Brilliant Ink all about how to analyze and present your internal comms data.
Lesson learned: Making it easy is one of the best ways to provide value.
Templates for internal crisis response were essential
By the end of March, it was clear that COVID-19 was pushing our customers into overdrive, as they worked around the clock to keep their audiences informed and safe.
And we knew that some of these communicators were doing crisis communications for the first time. Talk about pressure.
Fortunately, we don’t just serve communicators—we hire them too.
Our comms-savvy team got to work developing a template to help communicators save time when you-know-what hits the fan. The template followed best practices in crisis communication to lay out the fundamentals that communicators should be addressing with their employees during a crisis.
Then we added these templates directly into our customer’s accounts and got lots of great feedback from customers.
Lesson learned: Again, making things easy is one of the best ways to provide value.
New editing features helped communicators collaborate remotely
We love to collaborate.
It’s the juicy stuff that makes work fun, fast, and leads to outcomes that are much greater than the sum of their parts.
We know that our customers and community feel the same way.
But working from home made us realize that satisfying collaboration is a product of having the right people in the same room.
In 2020, that was not an option.
After chatting with customers and looking at our own internal practices, we realized that back and forth email chains do not cut it if you’re hoping to collaborate and move quickly.
So we worked harder and faster than ever to introduce new features to help communication professionals collaborate remotely, including:
- Real-time editing: Much like Google Docs, multiple users in different locations can now edit an email together, simultaneously.
- Invite users: We made it easier than ever to invite colleagues from across your team or organization to contribute to your email, or to review your communications with view-only access.
- Version History: An Enterprise feature that lets you view up to 100 previous versions of each email and template in your account, including a log of who made the changes, then revert back to any version you choose.
(We’re adding new features all the time, visit our What’s New page to check them out.)
Lesson learned: You can’t recreate in-person collaboration 100%, but you can get pretty darn close with the right tools.
We expanded into MS Teams and Slack
While email remains the most popular channel for internal communications by far, times are changing. Employees are now using chat platforms, mobile apps, corporate social networks, and more to communicate at work.
As much as we believe email can be the best internal communication channel when used thoughtfully, we still wanted our customers to be able to reach the right employees with the right messages at the right time—wherever they are.
So in May, we launched our first multichannel integration for Slack, letting you schedule messages to any public channel on your company’s Slack account. You can also send on behalf of your organization, so company Slack updates no longer have to come from your personal account.
We’ve also built a Microsoft Teams integration, which will soon be available to all Bananatag customers on our Power and Enterprise plans.
Lesson learned: It’s important to reach people where they’re at, so we’re going to keep working to help integrate Bananatag with the tools our customers are already using to make them more powerful and easier.
We improved advanced distribution lists and reporting based on user feedback
As more Bananatag customers took control of their distribution lists and started sending directly from our web app instead of Outlook, we also made numerous improvements to our web-based sending experience based on their feedback.
Specifically, Advanced Filters and Segmented Reporting made building Custom Distribution Lists easier and more powerful than before.
Now users have the ability to:
- Exclude employees from distribution lists based on location, department, or other attributes
- Combine multiple result-sets into one list using sub-filters, making it possible to create lists based on multiple criteria
- Include and exclude employees based on start date, tenure, and more
- Compare how different audiences engage with their communications
- Filter email metrics based on location, department, or any other attribute stored
Lesson learned: Communication professionals want (and deserve) more control over how and who they send to. And when they do get that control, they get deeper insights and find more value in their internal emails and Bananatag.
We made our already awesome email designer a whole lot more awesome
For many of our customers, the Email Designer is their favorite part of Bananatag.
So in 2020, we worked on a ton of improvements to make the Email Designer even better.
These are just a few of them:
- Custom Fonts for Power and Enterprise users
- More design flexibility with the ability to set the width of columns individually
- Improved text editor functionality, including the ability to paste text formatting from Microsoft Word and more
- Add GIFs, as well as private YouTube videos to emails
- Image Editor improvements with new stickers, text designs, and customization options
We also improved Bananatag’s user experience wherever we could:
- New and improved version of our Outlook Classic integration
- Improved user permissions, making it easier for Enterprise accounts to control what their organization’s users can access
- New search function to help you more easily find email drafts
- Easier template management, with the ability to move multiple templates between folders as well as the ability to delete unused folders
Exporting Survey Feedback from Bananatag in either CSV or PDF form
Lesson learned: We’re never done improving.
We had lots of reasons to celebrate
Though, on the whole, 2020 isn’t a year any of us would like to repeat, we did find a lot of reasons to celebrate.
Here are our top 5 accomplishments from 2020:
- We’ve now attracted more than 600 stellar customers worldwide. 🥳
- We were recognized by three fast-growing company lists for our amazing growth. 🚀
- We moved the Bananatag workflow into our web app so we could have more control to build a truly awesome user experience for our customers. 🙌
- Our commitment to employee engagement was solidified by becoming a certified Great Place to Work. 🔥
- And last, but not least, we were able to connect with all of you and the rest of our community in ways we never thought possible, giving us a renewed sense of service and commitment to help you make meaningful internal communication easy. 🥰
Where we’re going in 2021
We’ve already jumped into 2021 with both feet and are getting ready to launch some incredible features very soon.
Here are some features and improvements to look forward to:
Our new Image Library is going to allow you to store images you frequently use in Bananatag. Admin users on Power or Enterprise accounts will be able to upload logos, icons, executive photos, and even your favorite GIFs for users across your organization to access.
Our integration with Microsoft Teams is going to be launching soon as well. We’re also going to be talking a lot about synching your Workday data with Bananatag.
We’ll also be focusing on improving Bananatag’s reporting capabilities. Users on all non-legacy Bananatag accounts, both that send through the web app, as well as Outlook or Gmail, are going to be seeing great new features very soon.
We’re also going to continue building more integrations with the tools you already know and love, so make sure you tell your account manager if there’s a particular integration you’d like to see.
And of course, we will be doubling down on our commitment to helping our community connect and creating free resources that make your life easier.
We’ve got your back in 2021
Phewf. That was a lot.
But if you take anything from this post, we hope that it’s this:
In 2021, like always, we’ve got your back.
We’ve weathered the storm with you and are ready for whatever gets thrown at you next in your mission to connect and engage employees through what is likely going to be another intense year.
For now, it has been our privilege to support you through all of this. We’re glad you found us and we’re honored to have you here.
Our wish for you in 2021 is that you and your families stay healthy and safe, you find connection and purpose, and you always remember to spell check before you hit send.
Onward and upward! 🚀