Storytelling for engagement: the Idol way

30 06 2011

What happens when a communications department passes the mic to the employees, asks them to tell the company’s story, and sprinkles in a little Ryan Seacrest?

Employee engagement, that’s what.

Melcrum recently shared a fun example of how one organization called on its workforce to promote engagement through storytelling, with an American Idol twist.

In October 2010, tech giant Neustar wanted to educate its employees on how to tell the Virginia-based company’s story to various audiences: potential customers, friends, family, etc. Research had shown that many employees didn’t have a complete understanding of all the services Neustar offered or how to pitch the company.

Rather than have the comms team produce the campaign or hire outside talent to illustrate the message, Neustar decided to provide the base messaging and let its 1,000+ employees take it from there. To ensure that employees in locations across the globe could participate, the campaign would have to be video-based.

In his project report, Neustar’s David Carson explains:

“We decided to hold a ‘We Connect Everyone’ Neustar Idol Contest. Employees anywhere throughout our global locations could participate by submitting a video recording of their 60-second Neustar pitch.

“We provided messaging documents as well as recorded a somewhat tongue-in-cheek training program in our Learning Management System. Employees had approximately a month to develop their videos.”

Once submissions were accepted, they were posted on Neustar’s intranet, where employees had two weeks to vote for their favorite video(s).

Carson continues:

“We received a total of 10 video submissions, with entries from Virginia, Kentucky, California and the United Kingdom. The entries were creative and varied in terms of style and tone, including compelling, lecture-style pitches, cartoon/animations and fully-integrated departmental collaborations.”

The top five vote-getters would be shown at Neustar’s December 2010 All Hands Meeting, with the winner receiving a trip to the Caribbean and the honor of being crowned 2010 Neustar Idol.

In keeping with the Idol theme, the five finalists presented their videos at the All Hands Meeting with a Seacrest-like host moderating. There was also a panel of three judges on hand: a correspondent from a major news organization, Neustar’s messaging expert, and a teacher/performer from the Washington (DC) Improv Theater. After each video, the judges provided humorous and critical feedback.

Once all the video were presented, employees were able to text their vote in real time by using one of Neustar’s products, Common Short Codes. When all the votes were submitted, the organizers tallied the results and announced the winner.

After rewarding the contest winner with the trip to the Caribbean, the Neustar comms team got its reward with some very encouraging results:

— A record 400+ employees (virtual and in-person) attended the All Hands Meeting.

— Neustar hit capacity on its phone lines (200+ on the dial-in) and had to increase the number of open lines.

— 87 percent of survey respondents Strongly Agreed or Agreed that the Idol contest increased their understanding of what Neustar does.

— 84 percent of respondents Strongly Agreed or Agreed that the event was engaging.

Despite the relatively low number of video entries, Carson said that was plenty for the campaign to be a success:

“We were more interested in providing varied examples of our ‘elevator pitch’ to a wide audience of employees and less concerned about the actual number of employees who submitted entries.”

The qualitative data also points to success:

“The Neustar Idol contest was very informative in letting us know how we CONNECT.” – Survey Response

“The perfect balance between providing structured information and open forum. This is the best way to provide employees a sense of common goals and objectives.” – Survey Response

The judges have spoken.

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2 responses

1 07 2011
Margie DiVincenzo

Love this – what a creative way to drive employee engagement and help them learn the elevator speech for the company’s strategy.

1 07 2011
Alex Mitchell

Glad you enjoyed it, Margie. The number that jumps out to me most is the 87 percent who agreed that the contest increased their understanding of what Neustar does.

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