Caitlin Adams shares how her team worked to engage the FedEx executive leadership team on LinkedIn

We know people want to hear company news from people at that company rather than a logo. Caitlin Adams
As a Senior Social Media Strategist on the FedEx Global Social Media Team, Caitlin Adams has worked closely with the enterprise to keep business units compliant with corporate social media policies and procedures.

Though her role revolves around social, Caitlin says historically, there was not a process to actively engage with FedEx executives on social media. “Social media was seen as something fun and new, but we approached media very traditionally as a company,” explains Caitlin.

But in February 2016, that started to change when the Global Social Media team launched their first social team member advocacy program.

As the program developed, Caitlin saw the opportunity to engage their executives directly on social to share more company news.

“As we started successfully engaging our team members on social media, we wanted to extend the program to leadership as well,” says Caitlin. “We know people want to hear company news from people at that company rather than a logo.”

Caitlin started working on how to get leadership to share company news in a way that stayed true to the brand, while humanizing their message. “I built a business case for how we could engage our executives on social,” says Caitlin. “Then, last October, we started putting the plan into action by showing leadership what other brands were doing and how they were using their executives to tell their story.”

To build the business case for leadership, Caitlin looked into how social could amplify brand stories — all while sticking to the company's core values.

There was an initial challenge of getting our teams to understand that social media can just be an extension of their existing communications plans. Caitlin Adams
“I saw a pattern that sometimes our brand stories were being told by third parties in either an inaccurate or an incomplete way,” explains Caitlin.

They wanted to show the benefits of using team members and executives to take hold of that story on social media and show their commitment to things like diversity and inclusion, corporate social responsibility, e-commerce, and innovation — all while pushing forward FedEx as a transparent brand.

To prove the value of this focus, Caitlin used external data — such as how many times or how many hours a day the average user is on social media, and how much more employees trust their company if executives are engaging on social media.

“This information is so important as we continue to grow,” explains Caitlin. “We have more than 425,000 team members, and I'm looking at how we can grow our team and engage the younger workforce.”

Caitlin also pulled from statistics to get buy-in from her executive stakeholders and prove the value of her initiative.

Caitlin points to Edelman data showing 81 percent of the population view employee communications as a way to increase CEO trust.

“While social media is by no means the only way to engage team members, it can be an effective extension of communication,” explains Caitlin. “We took those external metrics to our executives to show the internal benefits of using social media.”

Once she got buy-in from leadership to launch the program, Caitlin started developing a toolkit to help their executive team get more comfortable on LinkedIn.

Once you have (executive) support, it's important to make engaging easy for them. Caitlin Adams
“I found myself having the same conversation or copying and pasting the same emails to answer the same questions,” explains Caitlin.

She started working on a resource that could help teams through the process and support their executives as they became more engaged. “Because each operating company has their own communications team and strategy, we didn't have a one-size-fits-all solution,” says Caitlin. “I looked for some common themes to help support our executives.”

Caitlin's toolkit includes a 70-page handbook that provides social best practices and answers to questions like where to find photos to use when publishing a blog post, basic social troubleshooting, and how to handle situations to align with the core FedEx values. In addition to the handbook, Caitlin made a template for herself and support teams to make a personalized strategy recommendation for a specific executive based on their operating company and the kind of content they're creating.

In one year, Caitlin was able to officially onboard nearly 50 executives onto social media.

“That was a big win for us, because now it has set a precedent where before, we were trying to sell executives on the program,” explains Caitlin.

She shares they have also been able to identify gaps in which experts could add something to the company brand voice that wasn't there before — which several of their executives have taken to filling with enthusiasm. “In the first year it was definitely much more selling and pitching the idea,” says Caitlin. “Now we're having executives come to us and say that they want to participate and continuously improve.”

Those executives currently include almost every CEO from their operating company divisions. The program has seen a 400 percent increase in executives using social media to write and share original content.

Caitlin says to see these improvements, they've had to focus on getting their executives comfortable using social as part of their normal communications.

Now we're having executives come to us and say that they want to participate and continuously improve. Caitlin Adams

“There was an initial challenge of getting our teams to understand that social media can just be an extension of their existing communications plans,” explains Caitlin. “If an executive is speaking at a conference or a commencement, they can turn that into a blog post to share on social without having to reinvent the wheel.” She focused on helping them become more comfortable sharing daily events like service center visits and interactions with their employees.

And Caitlin's work is paying off. “One year ago, I was pulling screenshots for my presentation and trying to find examples of executives on social and it was tough,” says Caitlin. “Now, when I get on LinkedIn, the first five posts I scroll through on my feed are all posts from FedEx executives.”

Caitlin says she's proud to open her newsfeed and see FedEx talking much differently as a brand than they were a year ago.

“It's no longer the logo on everything — it's the people,” says Caitlin. “We're excited to have that as part of our brand messaging on social and see photos of our executives at conferences and FedEx facilities.”

Their next steps for continuing to develop the project and connect with their audiences will be to roll out the program to their international regional teams.

As for advice, Caitlin says it's important to look at what other brands in your industry are doing on social.

“You can really build an effective and strong business case off that data,” says Caitlin. “Once you have their support, it's important to make engaging easy for them. Whether it's something like an team member advocacy tool where you can populate suggested content or have them share a speech they're giving, it's important to make the engagement manageable and have it be an extension of what they're already doing.”

Caitlin Adams has been a member of since 2014. You can follow her on LinkedIn and Twitter.