"The Calgary Zoo is committed to excellence in animal stewardship and conservation leadership. Our staff and volunteers are what make us a success in these activities and keep us focused on our commitment to engage visitors in enjoyable and unique experiences, connect our community with nature, and inspire actions which support conservation."

We spoke with Internal Communicator Stephanie Richard from The Calgary Zoo about how she uses Bananatag internal email data to improve upon her new internal communications strategy and make beautiful, engaging internal emails:

Bananatag: What is your background, what lead you to IC, and why did you join the Calgary Zoo?
Stephanie: I found the right blend of using my passion to write and edit coupled with my love of people and building relationships with others. I have six years of experience as an organizational communications generalist, holding positions in for-profit and non-profit organizations. The zoo has never had a role like mine, internal communications, so I’m a first here which is exciting. I wanted to bring my skills to the table to support a cause I highly believe in.

I try to take an innovative approach to managing the zoo’s internal communications using a multitude of channels including -- Yammer, employee intranet, daily newsletter, and emails -- to ensure the content is always fresh and engaging for employees on whichever tool they prefer.

B: How are your organization’s employees distributed/working? (ie. in the field, in the office, remotely, etc.)?
S: We are spread out along 125-acres and see a variety of employees on-grounds from office dwellers, on-grounds building operators and animal care staff, our horticulture team in our botanical gardens, retail workers in our gift shops, as far as a remote conservation researcher located in Kenya, Africa.

"The biggest frustration was being able to know if my emails were being read, received and understood".

On top of physical space divides, we also have a large span of age-gaps from 16-year olds to baby boomers, so the demographic is a whole range, which adds to the communications challenge. With this, we also reply on managers and supervisors to pass on messages. A lot of our communication is verbal, which is tough to track.

B: What was the largest source of frustration before using Bananatag?
S: The biggest frustration was being able to know if my emails were being read, received and understood, and no one wants to send or receive those annoying “read/delivery receipts.” Bananatag is an excellent alternative!

B: How was the process of getting Bananatag set up in your organization?
S: Our IT team researched Bananatag to ensure that we were not breaching any security policies here at the zoo, it was a breeze to set up within my department.

B: What made our product or service stand out?
S: Being able to do more than simply track. I can provide metrics, use the dashboard effectively, and reports can simply be downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet for sharing with my manager and director. It’s a really nice, clean platform to work with, especially when sharing results with management.

B: Which types of internal emails are you tracking at Calgary Zoo?
S: Construction updates, important organizational announcements, three-times weekly conservation/sustainability bytes. We track any “All Staff” emails that I send out and organize them into labeled folders.

I'm able to figure out how to get people’s attention and a lot of internal communications is about getting attention.

B: What surprised you most about your data?
S: Finding out that some employees don’t necessarily open my emails right away -- some wait a few days or sometimes up to a week after an email has been sent, and other employees go back over and over again. The zoo audience is unique in that way, as they are out caring for animals and the grounds. Seeing the data has taught me a lesson in patience and timing my messages out accordingly.

B: That's great insight for your comms! How has Bananatag saved you time or other resources?
S: I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the email designer. It makes my life much easier that I can make these beautiful template emails. I create three separate construction emails and send them out weekly/biweekly. They are all branded a certain way based on the project or content. I’ve branded employee surveys and event invites to make them look clean, on brand, and eye-catching. In our research, we know zoo employees are more likely to react to imagery and visuals. This has been one of the coolest parts of the platform and probably the thing I love most about Bananatag.

Along with this, measuring results makes you more cognizant of what you're sending internally. I now know a really catchy subject line will bring people in and if you can bring people in, paired with a nice feature image and clear link to get them to our Intranet, it gets the most bang for my buck. It's helped me realize how to become a better communicator in a lot of ways. I'm able to figure out how to get people’s attention and a lot of internal communications is about getting attention. How can you give employees information if you can’t get their attention? This is especially true now with our smartphones, emails, and social, employees have so much to do.


B: You mention catchy subject lines. Can you give us an example of some you have played around with?
S: Well luckily, we work at a zoo which means there’s so much content. Recently we had a naming contest for two red panda twins — that email data was just through the roof! Almost everyone clicked through, and voted on names for the cute little twins. It’s things like that that really engage.

B: We love that you're using the email designer -- it's our newest feature that we're most proud of at the moment! And finally, last question. How has getting internal email analytics with Bananatag helped you prove your own internal comms strategy?
S: I'm now planning on stratifying and targeting my messages per department. We needed to see how we can make Bananatag work for us, now that we understand the platform, we are ready to take it to the next level. I built Bananatag into my first communications plan this year with the roll-out of an internal stationary re-brand. It impressed my co-worker in Marketing, which was a win for me personally!

Thanks Stephanie for taking the time to chat with us about your experience with Bananatag! Read more about what internal email data can do for your communications.