Chuck Gose: Welcome to Chuck Chats Colleen! Is this the weirdest interview you’ve ever done?
Colleen Carey: Haha, it sure is. :)
Chuck: Good. I figure we can all use a little more weird in our lives these days.
Colleen: I couldn’t agree more.
Chuck: We are chatting today because I heard through the bananavine that you are doing some pretty great things in communications BUT your title is not internal communicator.
Colleen: Thanks Chuck, that’s correct.
I’m a “Senior Communications Manager” but I don’t focus solely on internal comms in the traditional sense. I work very closely with the Sales and Marketing, and Sales Enablement teams on a very specific niche—communicating our products and value props to our front lines.
Chuck: And who are these “front lines?”
Colleen: Sales teams and our support teams (consultants) who support our products and clients.
Chuck: And the company you work for is FactSet. I’ve done my research so I know a little bit about what the company does but why don’t you explain who FactSet is.
Making sure our employees know the latest and greatest is key to staying ahead.
Colleen: FactSet is a financial technology company. We sell data and solutions to financial professionals.
It runs the gamut from content to news and quote monitoring, to advanced analytics.
And funny story—it’s our 40th anniversary this week and I wrote a story about how 40 years ago the content was delivered on paper via bike messenger!
Chuck: That’s amazing—both to the 40 years and bike messenger.
Oh how far we’ve come but probably not as far as one might think. I’m sure there were still a lot of the same challenges then, too.
Colleen: Yes, in understanding what our clients need and where the technology is going, but also from the communications perspective.
We were 10 employees then, now almost 10,000. A different and still growing beast!
Chuck: 10,000 people! It’s amazing how many of these “beasts” are out there and yet I (and I’m sure others) hadn’t previously heard of the company.
But like you said, in your niche, I’m sure FactSet is a household name so to speak.
Colleen: We’re still one of the smaller players on the block, surprisingly. Up against competitors like Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, etc. but growing in market share much faster!
And making sure our employees know the latest and greatest is key to staying ahead.
Chuck: Do your employees or the culture itself have a bit of the underdog mentality?
Colleen: Yes I think so! It’s one of the things I love about working for a “smaller” company.
Nothing wrong with being hungry.
Colleen: Ha I love that! (I think I’m always hungry...literally...)
Chuck: Let’s talk more about what you’ve done with the sales team there. What has worked to grab their attention when it comes to your content and what you share with them?
Colleen: So the channel that has been the most effective has been email, which can have its challenges, of course.
But we created a weekly newsletter called the “Sales Pulse” so that timely information is consistently sent out and the sales teams don’t have to go looking for it. They trust the information in the Sales Pulse and its consistency. It contains links to more information, more thorough assets, and resources, etc.
Some of the links and assets that have worked best are sample emails that they can immediately personalize and send to their clients and prospects. We also promote our learning materials, and find that images and videos get the highest click rates.
The channel that has been the most effective has been email.
Chuck: We’re going to get to measurement in a second but let’s get back to the first point about email.
You hear all the time that employees “allegedly” get too much email. How does your newsletter cut through the noise?
Colleen: It’s true and I can attest to it!
Email is probably overused, but when it’s used right, it’s incredibly effective.
I think the consistency and brevity of the newsletter contribute to its effectiveness. It doesn’t take long to read and it’s there every week. The formatting is clean, easy-to-read, and it hones right in on the “what’s in it for me” for the sales teams.
Chuck: It’s a bit like PowerPoint. PowerPoint itself isn’t bad. Just like email isn’t bad. But what people do with them can be very, very bad.
Sounds like you’ve hit the right balance between have to know, want to know, nice to know, and helpful to know.
Colleen: Yes that’s a great point!
Balancing those is key, and I try to include a call-to-action, or some actionable piece for every piece of content, to answer the questions “why is this important and what can I do about it” whether it be a sample email, a call list, a video, etc.
Email is probably overused, but when it’s used right, it’s incredibly effective.
Chuck: I think the last part is key. If employees know they are going to get something out of it, they’ll gladly invest the time in the message or channel.
Colleen: Yes! By focusing on their needs and goals, we are more successful than by focusing on the message alone.
Chuck: Now we’re going to go down another line of questions with you talking about needs and goals. I think one of the biggest mistakes communicators make is not aligning what they are doing with the company goals. And it sounds like you do.
Colleen: In a way, I think it might be a little bit easier for me to align with the goals because they’re pretty simple for my audience—sell more product, build relationships with clients, etc.
But the proof is also in the pudding—by focusing on the goals, we are more likely to meet them (and are meeting them).
Chuck: You’ve been with the company now for a while, relatively speaking, but certainly not the whole 40 years. ;)
What have you seen change culture-wise in your time?
Colleen: Haha not quite 40 years yet no, but a little over a quarter of that!
The growth has been remarkable in my time here. When I started we truly were a “small” company and there have definitely been some growing pains as we expand. The small company “go-getter” attitude is still here, but it’s met with the challenge of scalability and solving those problems on a global scale.
For example, we are updating a lot of our internal tools like the intranet and HR portals. Traditionally it could be a small team that solved those problems, but now there is a lot more coordination, approval, and planning that needs to be done.
We’re also finding some “duct tape” solutions that were implemented in our smaller company days :)
By focusing on [employees] needs and goals, we are more successful than by focusing on the message alone.
Chuck: “Duct tape solutions…” I like that. Even in big companies, that happens in small departments when people just try to come up with their own fix. And in a crunch, duct tape works quite well.
What sort of challenges do you experience by communicating with a global audience?
Colleen: Relevance can be a challenge, as well as an over-emphasis on the Americas region.
We have offices all over the world and so some products may be developed specifically for those markets, or we may have greater opportunities in some regions than in others. Keeping the entire team engaged and making sure that they are all receiving helpful, relevant info week-to-week can be a challenge.
This year I’ve been trying to log the geographic focus of the content so I can make sure that I’m rotating around and not being biased by my own location!
Chuck: It’s great that you acknowledge your own bias. Because if we as communicators don’t, it will negatively impact how others perceive our communications. One of the downsides of the “curse of knowledge,” too.
Colleen: I really like that phrase “curse of knowledge”!
Chuck: All communicators have it. We get exposed to so much that we forget that others don’t have the same access or visibility.
Colleen: It’s true, and definitely a ‘for better or for worse’ situation!
Chuck: You spoke about your success at the ALI Conference in Boston this past summer.
Do you speak at many events?
Colleen: I have not, it was my first one, but a great one!
It was so helpful not only to learn about other communicators’ experiences and challenges (inside and outside my industry) but also to network with people who can celebrate and commiserate with the communications role.
I’ve been trying to log the geographic focus of the content so I can make sure that I’m rotating around and not being biased by my location.
Chuck: We only have about 4 months left in the year. What’s left on your list that you’d like to accomplish before we get to 2019?
Colleen: It’s interesting because our fiscal year begins Sept 1, so it always feels like back to school. It’s a super busy time of year, but really nice to kick back into gear.
I’m looking forward to implementing some more measurement and ROI analysis as well as finishing that intranet project I mentioned.
Chuck: Let’s wrap this up the way we always do. Share your thoughts about internal communications in emoji form.