For Oghene Oyiborhoro, rubbing shoulders with Upworthy and Zipcar’s CEO was “encouraging for a young upstart.”
Brittany, Joe, and Oghene were part of the eight-person SMW/OpenCommunications Press Corps that covered the 2014 edition of SMW New York. While the five days of events have come and gone, the Press Corps’ 32 articles, 100+ tweets (#SMWPressCorps) and RTs, a Twitter chat and myriad twit pics, Instagram vids, and Vines all live on.
And for event marketers, it’s an important point. Before social media, enthusiasm around a conference died down after the last session or as people checked their luggage at the local airport. Today, in-person and virtual conversations are basically inseparable, with digital content extending the life of physical experience; moreover, tomorrow’s journalists are the perfect means to capture the present and future of any event topic. And that’s the two-fold truth we set out to demonstrate with SMW’s first Press Corps.
When OpenCommunications CEO Andy Morris and I attended a planning event for SMW back in December, we thought: “Hey, with so many amazing people speaking, let’s capture their thoughts via the minds of aspiring journalists.”
In addition to Brittany and Joe (both seniors at New York University) and Oghene (a student at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism), our Press Corps consisted of:
So, we are sending a huge thank you to our amazing cast of writers, who are helping to keep SMW NYC alive through what we all hold so dearly: digital content. As such, the second post in this series highlights some of the journalists’ favorite topics and other ideas.
Sally O’Dowd, a contributor to the SMW blog, is chief of strategy at OpenCommunications, a PR and digital content firm based in New York. Follow her on Twitter @sallyodowd and the company @OpenCommsOmni. OpenCommunications CEO can be followed @andymorris.
Editor’s note: This story is taken from Ragan’s new distance-learning portal RaganTraining.com. The site contains more than 200 hours of case studies, video presentations, and interactive courses. For membership information, please click here.
Microsoft regional communicator Katie Hasbargen was visiting the company’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash., when the chief financial officer
Hasbargen—who is based at Microsoft’s Fargo, N.D., campus—said, “Oh, that’s [CFO] Peter Klein.”
Her companion said, “It is?”
It was an eye-opening moment, Hasbargen says in a Ragan video titled, “It starts on day one: Creating and maintaining a happy, engaged work force.” Despite
being based 1,400 miles away, Hasbargen was more familiar with company bigwigs than someone who worked among them.
“On the corporate campus, where you have 40,000 people, they don’t get in the same room with these executives,” Hasbargen says.
Employees at distant offices needn’t be isolated, Hasbargen says in a session that was part of a Ragan conference on “The Role of Communications in
Creating Best Places to Work.” But it’s up the branch offices—and their communicators—to create connections that go beyond organizational standards.
Back in Redmond, employees have all kinds of amenities, such as an on-campus mall featuring a ski shop and an optometrist’s office. But the company finds
ways to engage and reward employees on smaller campuses, starting with Fargo’s gourmet dining center.
Here are some ways Microsoft boosts the esprit de corps in Fargo:
Rope visiting executives into town hall meetings
More than half (50,000) of Microsoft’s 94,000 employees work off the main campus, and 870 of them are in Fargo, Hasbargen says. Fargo asks every visiting
executive to participate in a town hall. Employees can pose questions, and the bigwigs get feedback from the field.
Fargo also hosts an annual all-employee meeting off-campus, and executives fly in to talk. Once a top poobah agrees to come, others from Redmond hurry to
come along, among them managers who oversee teams in Fargo. Employees do presentations, and the Redmond crowd gets to know the bosses better than many back
at headquarters do.
Make virtual meetings a communal event
When a company meeting is held, Fargo opens a conference room where staffers can plug in a laptop and work while keeping an eye on the event. The company
provides food and beverages, creating a communal atmosphere.
“It’s one place to all come together and watch the meetings that we aren’t able to be actually present at,” Hasbargen says.
This in turn has increased attendance and improved knowledge of the company.
Let them eat cake
From picnics to volleyball, the Fargo office tries to make things fun on occasion. Borrowing an idea from Copenhagen, Fargo decided to host a monthly “Cake
Thursday,” setting out goodies for staffers.
Communicators send out an email that reads, “Cake Thursday has begun.” Sugar-deprived staffers stampede to the cafeteria—and a feast begins.
Involve all staffers in trying out the products
One of Microsoft’s values is self-criticism, Hasbargen says. This means the company requires everyone—even the folks out in Fargo—to beta-test its software
before they are released to the public.
“We are the most critical group you will ever see when it comes to evaluating a software product,” she said. “These people just rip it to shreds.”
Welcome new staffers
At Fargo, the orientation goes beyond the global standard. Communicators announce the new kids’ arrival, with their faces appearing on welcome screens. The
company even arranges to announce the hiring in the local newspaper, if the employee wishes. Oh, and each newcomer gets a campus sweatshirt.
Create site-specific newsletters
Fargo creates communications that go beyond corporate emails. A newsletter spotlights a staffer in every issue. It also discusses business events,
volunteer opportunities, employee and family celebrations, and diversity group chapters.
When a staffer volunteers at a charity, Microsoft pays the nonprofit $ 16 for every hour the employee works, up to $ 12,000 per year. Fargo’s employees
donated a total of $ 1.65 million in cash and software—“which goes a long way toward making people feel pretty good about where they’re working,” Hasbargen
When severe flooding on the Red River closed campus for two weeks, communications created a SharePoint site where people could tell about where they were,
and what they were doing to sandbag their homes or volunteer elsewhere.
All this helps build esprit de corps in ways that never would happened with mere directives from the home office.