When Caitlin Scanlon, Social Media Communications Manager at Voya Financial, took on her role in the Corporate Communications team three years ago, one of her goals was to support Voya Thought Leaders as influencers in their respective areas of expertise. One way to accomplish that goal was to zero in on getting the executives on social media.
“I knew it was a really effective way to create engagement,” said Caitlin. “It was also a great way to create more channels for content that we just didn't have anywhere else — while helping building our brand, highlighting our leaders' expertise, and expanding our thought leadership in a scalable way.”
According to Caitlin, the work began with looking to increase executive comfort level on social media to get buy-in.
“We had a few executives on social,” she explained. “But we wanted to expand it. So, in the beginning, we needed to focus on just getting more leaders out there.”
In all, the process took several months, which Caitlin said comes with the territory of developing a program built in partnership with executives. She and her colleagues started building a process for the CEO and at least one leader from each business to begin.
“Our leaders have businesses to run, and their time is busy and valuable. We also knew that – for most of these leaders – corporate communications or another member of their team would be helping with the ongoing support,” said Caitlin.
Finding the people to do that heavy lifting was a large component of their success — not only for the executives themselves, but for Caitlin and others that would be supporting executives.
When they were looking at the individual leaders, Caitlin worked with colleagues who already knew the leader well and were also adept at social.
“Once we found the people who would make the best delegates, we met with them to identify the leader's business goals and how we could best work with them,” she said.
To pick the order of the executives to reach out to for the first launch, Caitlin and her colleagues focused on several key factors.
Those included the size of their existing network, if they were historically quick to adopt digital changes, and the kind of content they had to share.
“We worked with people who had the biggest networks first, because we would be more likely to have some immediate results,” said Caitlin. “We also knew that content would be very important here, so we took that into account at the beginning of this initiative.”
Once they had their list, they presented it to the leaders from the perspective of fitting into their goals and their way of doing business.
“That's the underlying theme for this whole project,” said Caitlin. “We wanted to let our leaders know that – first and foremost – we were focused on and thinking about how social media could support their business plans and help them achieve their goals.”
She explained they were able to drive that message home more through presenting research on the benefits of executives being active on social.
She also shared a study on how trust in executives increases when they're active on social — which she said was beneficial to getting them on board.
After they secured buy-in from their key executives, Caitlin and her colleagues put together social media plans to fit their different needs.
According to Caitlin, their leaders were either DIY in their approach, wanted to be hands-on but needed help, or were excited about it but didn't have time and needed 1:1 support going forward.
“Every time we met with someone, we presented them with options A, B, and C and a prescriptive plan they could choose from,” she explained. “That way we could come away from the meeting with a next step.”
Once they understood how involved the leaders wanted to be, Caitlin provided specific examples of posts and suggested updates for their profile.
“We adjusted it based on how involved they wanted to be,” she said.
Caitlin said treating these new executive channels as just another of their distribution channels has been key to their success.
“It's always something I consider in my content planning — or my teammates consider when they're creating content for social media or other channels,” she said.
Over the past three years, they've been able to achieve almost full saturation with their Executive Committee on social media.
And she says they've seen significant increases in engagement across that period of time — with a 101% increase in engagement across their individual executive channels and a 49% increase overall in 2018 alone.
Caitlin said another thing they had to consider throughout the process was that Voya Financial is in a regulated industry.
She explained that a lot of their executives are registered, and the ones that aren't are still speaking on behalf of a company that's heavily regulated — which made compliance an integral consideration for the program.
“Our compliance colleagues were wonderful partners, and they helped us be creative and find ways to succeed,” said Caitlin.
According to Caitlin, she knows they've been successful not only because of the numbers, but through the feedback she hears from leaders.
“We've had a lot of leaders responding and telling me about great interactions they had on social,” said Caitlin. “Those kind of one-off ad-hoc comments are valuable to me.”
To set yourself up for success, Caitlin emphasized the importance of positioning the program in a way that's business-oriented, flexible, and is a service for leaders.
“It's not coming to them with some great idea for how they can help you,” she said. “It's about having a great idea for how you can help them. Presenting it that way has been the biggest component of making this initiative successful.”
Caitlin also credited her teammates on Corporate Communications. “Partnership – with your colleagues and your business leaders – is key. And if you can tap into those partnerships, that is really where you're going to make more impact and you're going to go in with the right goals and the right outcomes.”