How DJ Hamm and Katie Langer at Securian launched a UGC campaign from scratch to engage audiences impacted by COVID-19

I started wondering if people were having a specific conversation about this experience that our brand can relate to and that we can speak to in our brand messaging. DJ Hamm
In early March, as COVID-19 began to spread around the United States, Securian Financial Group Social Media Lead DJ Hamm started seeing more and more people having conversations about how they're trying to connect. And, according to DJ, a lot of those conversations were shedding a positive light on how people were adapting.

“I started wondering if people were having a specific conversation about this experience that our brand can relate to and that we can speak to in our brand messaging,” he said.

Together with Enterprise Content Lead Katie Langer, DJ set out to develop Securian's first UGC campaign and first attempt to engage their core audience in a meaningful dialogue: #LifeBalanceRemix.

The first thing DJ and Katie did was connect with their team on how they could turn DJ's idea around this messaging into a campaign.

“We decided to focus that message on how we can live and enjoy life in our current context and have the best experiences possible,” he said.

Then, Katie started thinking about how Securian could be part of those conversations in an authentic, organic way — while ensuring the content was still tied to their brand.

“That's a fine line to tread,” she said. “I was brainstorming ideas about what our theme would be and used my own personal situation and realized that everyone is still having to deal with their regular life and stressors. Everyone is always trying to balance life in some way. That's when we got the name for #LifeBalanceRemix.”

Once DJ and Katie's team had fleshed the idea out, they presented it to leadership and partnered with internal teams to start bringing it to life.

Everyone is always trying to balance life in some way. That's when we got the name for #LifeBalanceRemix. Katie Langer
Starting with their direct manager and moving up to their Head of Marketing, DJ and Katie worked on getting approvals. They also engaged their law and compliance team to ensure everything was in order for the campaign.

Then, another member of their team, Brittany Heller, came up with the idea to incorporate giving into the campaign.

“We reached out to our foundation manager and she and her team loved the idea,” said DJ. “She identified a local nonprofit that had a national impact, because we wanted to support Minnesotans while also being able to scale the effort if needed, and we were ready to go.”

For that giving component, they donated $10 to Feeding America for every post with the campaign hashtag.

In all, the planning process took about a month — but DJ said it would have been much longer had it not been for a tool they onboarded months ago.

A few months before #LifeBalanceRemix, DJ and his team had worked with their law and compliance team to implement a new tool for UGC campaigns. That work meant that, when the idea for #LifeBalanceRemix came around, they already had their terms and conditions locked down.

“So, we had that core infrastructure set and ready,” said DJ. “We could just pull the trigger — everything was set for when this opportunity came.”

According to DJ, this process was a testament to their partners across the organization who helped ensure they would be able to execute something like this.

As they prepared to launch, one of their main goals was to better engage their employees and the communities where they live and work — so they decided to start the campaign with them.

“We have a really connected employee base who are committed to their own communities,” said Katie. “We thought offering the matching donation would engage people, because it serves a broader purpose.”

We identified a local nonprofit that had a national impact, because we wanted to support Minnesotans while also being able to scale the effort if needed. DJ Hamm
DJ added that announcing the campaign to employees and getting them involved first would help them get a headstart on posts with the hashtag once they publicly announced the campaign.

“I wanted to build up the momentum internally before we went live so when folks from the general public went to the hashtag, they would already see some engagement there,” said DJ.

And, from their internal intranet, Katie wrote an article teeing up the campaign and linked to a landing page with instructions for how employees could participate.

The campaign itself was focused on Instagram and Twitter so Katie and DJ could source the hashtag. They went live in mid-April.

We have a really connected employee base who are committed to their own communities. Katie Langer
“We got some good results from our employee launch and saw some Instagram Stories we wanted to share, so we ended up going public a day early,” said DJ. “Our goal was to be able to show that we're all living this experience in our own way, but to find little moments that bring us joy and engage with others who are doing the same thing. So far, the majority of engagement has been primarily on Instagram.”

They also worked with their media company, through which they have some sports partnerships, to engage local athletes throughout the Twin Cities with the campaign.

Then, in the second week of the campaign, they kicked off a limited ad run to try and build more engagement in the Twin Cities.

In less than one week, they had 30 posts with #LifeBalanceRemix and 92 mentions on their Twitter channel — and those posts are overwhelmingly positive.

“We don't really have a baseline we're trying to work with,” said DJ. “We didn't know how this is going to work. But, we went into this to learn and to create a positive conversation. And we've been able to accomplish that.”

DJ said this campaign has also benefited from utilizing a completely unique, unused hashtag. “We own this completely,” said DJ. “We're able to measure everything used. We know it's all a result of our campaign. That's helpful with data analysis from the campaign.”

According to DJ and Katie, this experience proved that a UGC campaign can provide value to their organization — and that much of that success came from their careful planning.

We went into this to learn and to create a positive conversation. And we've been able to accomplish that. DJ Hamm
“We wanted to show how generating a conversation can be equally as valuable to generating a TV spot, and that a UGC campaign can be just as good as a general ad campaign,” said DJ. “We were able to accomplish that. But, to get there, we had to come with a strong vision for what we wanted to do. We had to trust that what we were trying to execute made sense.”

Katie added that having the idea fully mapped out early on was beneficial because they could lay out the full vision to leadership — which was instrumental to them getting approval.

“We were able to show what this would look like to bring people along on the journey,” she said. In the end that helped us with buy-in.”

For future UGC campaigns, DJ and Katie hope to be able to create a bigger launch and be able to move through the planning and approvals process more quickly.

We were able to show what this would look like to bring people along on the journey. In the end that helped us with buy-in. Katie Langer
“For our next campaign, I'd like to create a video to promote it instead of an image, because that gets better engagement,” said DJ. “But that just takes more time.”

Katie hopes that, in the future, they'll be able to create more experience to pull from, and that the buy-in process moves quicker as leadership becomes more familiar with what they're doing.

For social media leaders looking to start a campaign like this, DJ and Katie advised focusing on the goals you want to accomplish and making sure you educate leadership on what you're doing.

“I've wanted to execute a campaign like this before,” said DJ. “So, I worked on the back end to ensure we had everything in place. Then when this opportunity came, we jumped on it.”

DJ emphasized the importance of preparing ahead of time and looking towards the future to make sure you have everything in place to jump on the opportunity when it comes up.

“When it comes to the idea generation phase, it's really important to be able to provide similar examples of what people are doing,” Katie added. “The educational component of it all is hugely important.”

DJ Hamm and Katie Langer have been members of SocialMedia.org since 2017 and 2018, respectively. You can connect with DJ and Katie on LinkedIn.