Self-serve executive communication

Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers is like any other busy CEO.

“For weeks at a time, he may have only a few minutes he can devote to employee communications between important customer meetings and other business activities,” wrote Cisco employee communications manager Desiree Elsharif in her entry into last year’s E2E Communication Awards.

Elsharif and her colleagues wanted to find a way to share Chambers’ energy and ideas with employees without disrupting his schedule. They came up with an elegant answer: “CEO Video E-mails.”

More than a blog, which Cisco communicators also considered, video would show Chambers’ personality, his “powerful demeanor, eloquent language and nonverbal skills, bringing his energy and enthusiasm directly to viewers.”

But Cisco is spread across 70 countries around the world. Time differences reduce the effectiveness of live videos. “While employees view long format videos-on-demand when they have time,” Cisco communicators reasoned, “a shorter format was needed for messages they should absorb quickly.”

Using some of Cisco’s own communications technology—it’s handy to communicate for a computer company—Elsharif and her team created a way for Chambers to make 90-second videos right at his desk and make it available via e-mail messages sent to the whole 100,000-person audience of employees and key contractors.

With the help of a briefing by an executive communication manager, “John can easily and quickly compose and produce the video at his own desk,” Elsharif says. “After each employee opens the video, it appears that John is speaking to him or her personally, from his own desk.”

Topics are limited to those of worldwide priority and requests for direct action. The videos are homespun, “deliberately recorded directly to a digital low-quality format so the video is easily hosted and streamed,” Elsharif says.

Chambers has taken to it. “He now records a key message literally in five minutes and one take, from wherever in the world he is visiting—and makes it available to a total possible audience of 100,000.” And it’s catching on with other Cisco execs, too; 25 of them now use the format to speak to their employee groups.

In surveys, employees have said they appreciate Chambers’ videos, one remarking, “With messages like this you will create a level of intimacy with individual contributors that will drive an amazing amount of loyalty, productivity and commitment to success.”

And to end the suspense, yes: Elsharif won the category award.



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