“Empowering our executives in social is one of the most powerful ways to tell our story,” says Sam Sova.
We don't ghostwrite for any of our executives. We train them and let them be authentic.
Johnson Controls' Director of Global Social Media and Web Content, Sam Sova, explains that the company was going through some major changes to share a more cohesive brand story and humanize the company.
And their new CEO, Alex Molinaroli, who was already active on Twitter, got the ball rolling with everyone else by pulling together an executive leadership team made up of the top 100 leaders in the company. Each of these executive leaders was assigned a communications partner to help them start telling the company story. Instead of getting them started with social media from scratch, Sam's team attached a social component to this overall communications program.
- Leadership landscape: Share examples from who is already doing this at other companies
- Content strategy: Build a content strategy based on the objectives they have as an executive
- Increase impact: Train them to use the channels in a hands-on, one-on-one environment
- Mitigating risk: Help them feel comfortable and give them good insight on stuff to avoid
Sam's team worked individually with each executive to help them define a content strategy.
- They started by helping them identify an audience: Are they most interested in talking to customers, employees, or the industry at large?
- Then, they defined their individual objectives: What are their goals for being on social media? (For example, Alex wanted to show that he was a family man in addition to being an executive.)
- Those steps helped them determine their main focus areas: Sam's team came up with four different content themes for each executive and gave them a one-page handout with content ideas on those themes.
To take it from “good to great,” they worked with executives on the content they'd already published and talked about how to make it better. Sometimes, Sam explains, that meant simply getting on the phone and explaining how to tag someone or mention them in a tweet.
“Just those little tips helped make each of them much better contributors,” Sam says.
They also created a short checklist to help executives mitigate risks.
Sam says, “This checklist was especially important, because we don't ghostwrite for any of our executives. We train them and let them be authentic.”
He says that freedom to be authentic has led to posts from executives no marketing team would have dreamed up. For example, one executive's personal style is to share selfies, while their CEO's tweets are all over the board from sports commentary to conference live tweeting, photos of geese on the property, and a meeting with a long-time employee.
How do they keep up that momentum? Command walls.
“We call them command walls because.. that's just what we call them,” Sam laughs.
These command walls are actually 70-inch touch-screen TVs sharing a split screen of Johnson Controls' content and an unfiltered stream of brand mentions from their listening tools. They're strategically located to keep social on everyone's mind.
“Our executives pass this every day so it's kind of a reminder that ‘maybe I should tweet something today' or ‘maybe I should look at what's going on.'”
He says some executives' admins have seen them scrolling through the screens for 20 minutes at a time, engrossed in what people are saying.
One of the program's biggest signs of success: Media attention.
One of Sam's biggest signs of success with the program is when the media references their CEO's tweets in big announcements, like the company's deal with JCI Interiors in China.
But it's not just the media, their executives' tweets are also inspiring employees to get social.
In fact, the employee featured in this video created a Twitter account just to thank Alex for tweeting about his story.
Sam says, “We think the impact our executives are making is huge.”