Chuck: Welcome to Chuck Chats Andrea!
Andrea: Thank you so much, Chuck! I appreciate being invited.
Chuck: Typically on Chuck Chats, we feature people who are in the internal communicator’s seat at a company. But that’s not you. You’re primarily focused on social media, correct?
Andrea: That is correct. I’m the Digital Marketing Assistant Manager at STCU.
That means I handle social media, and help out with the team that does our website and digital communications. I end up working on internal communications in some aspects, sharing with employees who share on social, but it’s not my whole day by any means.
Chuck: And STCU is…...
Andrea: It’s a credit union based in the Inland Northwest. We started as Spokane Teacher’s Credit Union, but now we are open to everyone in Northern Idaho and Washington State.
Chuck: We met in Nashville this past Spring at PRSA Connect. And truth be told, we really hadn’t met until I called you on stage for my keynote.
But I called you up because of your activity on Twitter. I thought it was really cool how visual your Tweets were. Instead of just repeating what speakers said on stage, you were drawing up sketches and sharing those photos on Twitter.
Why do you find it important to tweet during events?
The average person will trust an employee’s post about a company something like 60% more than a post from the company itself - and are 150% more likely to engage with that post.
Andrea: One is because I always appreciate when people who are at events I want to be at (but can't) share their thoughts and take-aways with the world. It’s a way of sharing information beyond those four walls.
Second, it forces me to really focus in on what I want to get out of an event, rather than passively listening and hoping to take something out of it.
Third, it helps me focus. My brain is always going about 12 different directions.
And of course, I know I tweet very fast compared to some, so it’s a benefit that I can help provide to any event I’m at.
Chuck: What sort of tips do you have for people who would like to improve their own visibility and sharing from an event?
Andrea: Start with the basics.
Use the event hashtag, for one.
Tag the speakers and share what you got out of their speech and make it easy for them to re-share what you had to say.
Share what you think about something, not just a quote if you can.
And above all, be yourself!
Share what makes sense to you, and make it easy for others to respond, reshare, or find it.
Whether you like it or not, every organization is being talked about online, and at least some of that chatter is your employees.
Chuck: I see a lot of internal communicators missing out by not being on social media. What tips would you provide for them?
Andrea: I’d suggest taking a look at what networks your teams are using, and what’s already being said out there. Because whether you like it or not, every organization is being talked about online, and at least some of that chatter is your employees.
By finding those conversations, you can get a lot of context for how to do your job better -- and what network to start with if you want to jump in.
Next, choose at least one network to start, and really dive in for a while.
That doesn’t mean spending hours a day on it, but be consistent. Take 2-3 months of logging in at least a few times a week, intentionally building your network there, and seeing what value you get out of it.
Not every network is for every person, but you will get out what you put in.
Chuck: Getting back to the social content shared with employees, is there a theme or common thread when it comes to your advocacy efforts?
The number one theme is about what it is not - which is sales.
While about 5-8% of STCU’s social media content is sales, that’s never what I will ask employees to share.
Instead, it’s a lot of focus on community work, on the stories of what people working here love to do, and advocating for credit unions in general.
The more you try to hide what’s going on, the less information people have to make informed decisions.
Chuck: Perhaps this is an odd question but do you use the word “advocacy?”
Andrea: Not an odd question at all - and yes! Our employee team that we’re piloting right now is called the “Digital Advocate” team, and we’re very open that their job is to help advocate for our organization, the community, the credit union movement, and for the things that they’re passionate about.
Chuck: And what’s the grander plan with this team? How are you measuring success?
Andrea: For this initial pilot group, we’re measuring success on the basis of if the employees feel like they’re getting the tools they need to talk about our organization in the way they want.
We’re also using it as a test group to help rewrite all of our social media policies and procedures for employees, because they are in desperate need of an update.
The grander plan is eventually that this team will be the go-to group to help get the pulse of what’s going on in the wide world of social media, what they feel works and doesn’t, and to improve the social content we share for both employees and the rest of the online audience.
Chuck: I’ve found that the vast majority of social media and mobile policies are desperately out of date. They were often created as a knee-jerk reaction to 8-10 years ago and were never dusted off after.
Andrea: So very true.
We’re lucky in that our policies are only about 5 years old, but they were written as a part of other policies about speaking to the media, and just don’t quite fit.
One of the things I’ve seen a lot of large organizations do, that I love, is rather than a list of “do this, don’t do this” for social policies, they list a set of organizational values that all social posts will be judged on if they come in to question. Essentially making them independent of a particular platform or technology.
People trust people, not organizations.
Chuck: What I see are a lot of “don’t do this” policies, which only deters employees from being active and scares them off. Like it’s not worth getting in trouble.
And I’m always curious why some companies assume employees will do the wrong thing, instead of the right things.
Andrea: That’s such a good point.
And I think it comes back to what you were saying earlier - it’s a knee-jerk reaction to something that went very, very wrong.
And there are some companies that really want employees to be scared off of social media.
But I think in the long run, though, that’s such a bad idea.
A study that I saw come out of Sprout Social a few months ago said that the average person will trust an employee’s post about a company something like 60% more than a post from the company itself - and are 150% more likely to engage with that post.
People trust people, not organizations. And employers need to realize that when they hamstring their employees, they’re hamstringing their own reputation.
Chuck: Have you heard about Nordstrom’s HR handbook?
Andrea: I haven’t! I’m curious…
Chuck: Most companies have a handbook. And it’s full of policies. All of the things you shouldn’t or can’t do. Blah, blah, blah. Nordstrom’s “handbook” is actually a notecard with only six words: Use good judgement in all situations.
Andrea: Oh, that’s really intriguing. I could see that going very well, and I could see a few challenges. But I like it.
It's a really smart move on their part. It’s radical trust.
Chuck: I’d like to see companies create social media policies like that. And I love the term “radical trust.”
Andrea: Radical trust (and radical honesty) in communications is one of my passion points.
The more you try to limit or run away from or hide what’s going on, the less information people have to make informed decisions.
Chuck: Glad you mentioned honesty. One of my favorite phases in 2018 is “Honesty without compassion is cruelty.”
Andrea: Oh that’s so very very true.
Honesty doesn’t have to mean brutality. And to a certain extent, I think it’s dishonest to communicate without recognizing the humanity of the person and people you’re attempting to communicate with.
Employers need to realize that when they hamstring their employees, they’re hamstringing their own reputation.
Chuck: I think the honesty line stuck with me because I’m so over the authenticity talk but I also know that people go overboard with honesty. We can all be more compassionate when sharing feedback.
Between “authenticity,” “transparency” and “transformation,” I’m ready to just simplify the language. Be honest. Be clear. Be concise. Be compassionate.
Andrea: I love that. Especially because those are all active and proactive. Authenticity is something someone is or does. “Be honest” is an action you can take.
I’d also add to that “don’t assume.” Even though it’s a “don’t”. :)
Chuck: Maybe we can add “Be inquisitive” or something.
Andrea: YES. There’s a great quote from Letters to a Young Poet that ends in “love the questions themselves” and that’s literally probably going to be my next tattoo.
Questions and curiosity and being inquisitive are one of my big things -- I’ve got a database of over 1,400 questions I’ve been asking on social media for the last 5 ½ years, and reams of research on the importance of questions and how they operate in social structures and language.
Always, always, be inquisitive. It’s worth it.
Chuck: Well thank you Andrea for the chat today. Let’s wrap this up, with a twist. Use emojis to share your thoughts on the world of internal communication.
Andrea: Oh, that is a twist. Let’s see…