The Gatehouse Blog

It’s ‘Show Time the whole time’ with AT&T’s global newscast

The following is an extract from the Journal of Internal Communication. See if you qualify for a free industry subscription at www.internal-communication.com/joic.

Telecommunications giant AT&T beams a bi-weekly video newscast around the world to more than half its employee population. Lead IC Consultant Jimmy Rice explains…

AT&T is a global telecommunications company with over 240,000 employees around the world. We run a bi-weekly TV newscast called ‘Around The Globe’ that covers what is happening with in our company as well what might impact us externally. It goes out every Tuesday and Thursday. Most shows are less than three minutes long. The newscast gives employees the headlines, and they can then visit our intranet for more details.

Most employees watch it from their desktop or laptop, but also increasingly from mobile devices. Some of them are desk-based but a lot of them are mobile in the field – technicians or sales representatives.

Topics covered

Our company is increasingly moving towards being a tech nology company, and the stories we cover help our employees understand what it means. We cover all sorts of stories – customer stories, marketing campaigns, HR updates or leadership messages.

We also talk about HR messages, which in many organisations don’t resonate with people. However, the latest big changes to our vacation policies happen to be our biggest story so far. Over 70,000 people watched that episode because we managed to show how it would impact them personally, so it resonated with them.

The newscast has also proved to be very effective at making our CEO and other leaders more approachable. Throughout the year we run our Leader Series where we interview our executive team on or off set about the direction of the company. It lasts around five minutes and we get about 38,000 views from the first show.

The CEO is always a hot topic. Frontline employees don’t really know him so those shows are very helpful. People like seeing leaders in such a casual way, and in a short amount of time. Town halls last an hour and people can’t always consume that much information. The newscast gives them those high level views of where we’re heading as a company – they love it.

Around The Globe goes out to every single employee. But we have started to develop local versions of it – there’s Business Beat which is just for our mobility and business solutions teams – about 12,000 employees in that area. We update them on what we’re doing to support B2B, business to  business activity, as well as our mobile activity – what’s happening in those worlds. We have plans to develop other local versions.

Challenges

One of our initial challenges was wondering if we would have enough to share. Now it’s the opposite. Some people come to us with stories that are not appropriate for this medium. The other issue is that you always need some  sights to go along with the sound – it has to be visual.

There have been good stories with  technicians out in the field helping people. Once a plane crashed on the highway and we showed how our technicians used their training to respond. We used pictures that people had taken on their phones and then interviewed a few people  who were there. This type of story
works really well because it’s visual.  Of course that content doesn’t come every day.

We’ve also tried to educate people  on what this medium has to offer and what is a good story. We always ask, “Why should they care?” If it  doesn’t really apply to every single employee across the company, we tell them to use a different medium.

The timing is also a challenge. The stories have to be approved before people leave work, so we need to be very responsive and quick. We also need to capture each story in about 20 seconds. Writing for a broadcast is very different from writing for an intranet, where you can go into immeasurable details. We’ve been teaching people to take a 1500-word story and edit it down to a 50-word script.

The print version of a story might be, “Johnny was headed towards San Francisco when a huge storm came and blew him off of his bike. He fell and rolled over three times, scraping his knee and breaking his leg. One of our technicians was right behind him, helped him up, put band-aids on him, stopped the bleeding, called 911”. In television you don’t have that luxury. You need to figure out what the headline is: “Johnny fell off his bike, the tech was there to help him back up, got him to the hospital, he’s recovering and doing well”.

Impact

Our average viewership is around 21,000 views per episode, while intra net articles typically get around 10,000 views. This medium has proved to be a blockbuster when  it comes to employee engagement.

More people want to watch and listen to company news than want to read it on a website. Last year we ran a survey. We found that around 108,000 people  have watched the newscast at least once, so almost half of our employees. Around 30,000 of them  stay with us for a 70% play-through ratio. 96% of respondents thought our content was interesting, another 94% said it’s relevant. And 93% would recommend to other co-workers.

I think the newscast speaks to the power of sight and sound in this generation. People want something they can take in in a bite size, snack-able way, but feel like they’ve been very, very well informed. They want to be able to listen to it or watch it whenever they feel like it. That is what Around The Globe is providing to our employees – something fresh and unique they can watch on demand.

BIOGRAPHY – JIMMY RICE

Jimmy is a dynamic, innovative and bold producer and communications specialist. He is currently a multimedia storyteller at AT&T. With attentive eyes and ears, he captures company news and creatively shares it with colleagues.