ACTION! Employee-Generated Media Transforms Deloitte
12/08/2007

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ACTION! Employee-Generated Media Transforms Deloitte
12/08/2007

By Carrie Sackett
Deloitte & Touche USA LLP

What happens when you bring 40,000 employees at a Big 4 accounting firm
together with 350 cameras and invite them to tell their work stories? You
get the first-ever Deloitte & Touche USA LLP Film Festival. Here is the inside
story from a leader of the initiative.
 
Scene I: The ensemble
Early in August 2007, the curtain went up on the Deloitte Film Festival’s rating
gallery. More than 370 films, designed to answer the question “What’s Your
Deloitte?” had been submitted by teams from every level, every function and
practically every office in the company. This community of 2,000 filmmakers
represented more than five percent of the total employee population.
It was clear that the invitation for employee self-expression through film
connected strongly with Deloitte’s people. In six short weeks, during extra work
hours, teams of up to seven had conceptualized, performed, shot and
edited the three-minute films.
 
From every corner of the organization, there were accounts of teaming,
fun, creativity, innovation and new conversations. Feedback from participants
was beginning to fill in the details. New hires on film teams got more
integrated into the organization in a shorter time period. Local office screenings
provided summer intern filmmakers the opportunity to become the stars
of their office, attracting the unlikely attention of senior
partners. Back office and client service professionals
related to each other with newfound respect. Overseas
colleagues and analysts initiated their conference calls
by chatting about films, reorganizing what had been awkward work sessions.
Those expecting drab corporate-speak films were surprised. The 370
teams produced comedies, film noirs, raps, silent films, thrillers and documentaries
to express the culture and values of Deloitte.
 
With the films uploaded to the film festival site on Deloitte’s intranet,
employees searched, viewed and rated their colleagues’ creative output.
Offices from Hermitage, Tenn., to Hyderabad, India and Phoenix to
Philadelphia sponsored screenings of their hometown teams. E-mail appeals
by filmmakers and viewers criss-crossed the country and the ocean, from
India to the U.S. and back again. A genuine grassroots and viral marketing
machine was born by enthusiastic filmmakers and viewers alike.
By the end of the 11-day rating period, 300,000 hits were registered on the
film festival gallery. It was unprecedented and almost unbelievable by any
marketing or employee engagement standards. Something was happening
inside Deloitte.
 
Scene II: The business case
Deloitte’s quest to set the standard of excellence constantly demands a drive
for innovation, in particular when it comes to attracting and retaining talent.
Deloitte is regularly recognized as one of the best places to launch, build and
sustain a career, with many successful programs already in place. Even with
such accolades, Deloitte is highly conscious of the competition for talent and
the need to distinguish itself from its competitors.
Always looking for opportunities to be a game-changer in the recruiting
arena, CEO Barry Salzberg championed the film festival from the start. Who
better to tell Deloitte’s story to prospective new hires than its own people?
The authenticity of the “What’s Your Deloitte?” message
through film could connect in ways that traditional
approaches might not.
 
Internally, the film festival was viewed as an opportunity
to re-recruit Deloitte’s people. However, certain cultural conditions must
pre-exist for an invitation to make company films to be received enthusiastically.
The Deloitte U.S Firms have long been enormously committed to
fostering a culture of openness and inclusion. And in that kind of environment,
people responded strongly and positively to the invitation to express
“their Deloitte.” The icing on the cake became the further development of
40,000 brand ambassadors who could project Deloitte’s eminence and brand
power through their participation in the project.
Thus, the innovation of the Deloitte Film Festival lay in its strategic objective
to bridge both internal and external marketing. The activity of filmmaking and
viewing films created tens of thousands of brand ambassadors. It transformed
— and will continue to transform — office culture. Films will be shown at
internal events for months to come. Recruitment operations across the
country have also integrated films into their presentations, so that future new
hires can experience authentic Deloitte voices, points of view and stories.
 
Scene III: The cultural case
The explosive growth of social networking sites like YouTube and Facebook
are indicative of a developing culture of participation. Mass democratization
of filmmaking (hand-held cameras, user-friendly software) has empowered
millions to tell their stories.
These trends, driven by Generation Y, create a receptive context to tap into
the creative capacity of all people. Of course, many have recognized this
trend. Doritos launched a competition for consumer-generated television
ads, as did Southwest Air and several other consumer product companies.
For the Deloitte Film Festival, however, its target audience was not
consumers, but employees — the actual creators and producers of Deloitte.
After all, services companies are all about their people. Employees are the
brand. The more passion, commitment, creativity and integrity employees
express, the stronger the brand.
 
Scene IV: Branding and positioning
With a strategy and mission in place, the next step was to build the project.
Incredible things can happen when internal channels align. A team of
Deloitte professionals from corporate strategy, communications, marketing
and recruiting worked to brainstorm, strategize, execute and then implement
the film festival. What became known as the Film Festival Planning Crew
designed every phase and facet of the project.
From the outset, the team agreed on a critical point: The function and
structure of the film festival had to engender participation from the bottom
up. This was not a project that could be controlled from the top, just as
Madison Avenue no longer expects to design one catchy tagline and have
clients “buy it.” Indeed, when it comes to branding, employees and clients
need to experience and own the same brand vision. It’s in the activity of
producing it themselves that employees deliver on that brand promise.
The usual rules of internal marketing had to be deconstructed.
The reconstruction occurred as a synergistic
partnership between film festival champions on the
ground, local leadership and the Planning Crew. In
essence, the Planning Crew discovered how to lead
from behind. It refined messaging and tactics based on
the momentum in the field. This was a project that employees creatively motivated
together and built together. It was reinforced by the fact that the
Planning Crew had no budget for local promotions. For the film festival to
succeed, local champions — whether administrative assistants or senior
managers — had to step forward, partner with colleagues they had often
never met before, and make things happen.
 
Scene V: Performance is the key
For employees to live the brand promise and deliver and express it in the
random, word-of-mouth way that drives brand excellence, they need to
create new environments and new tools.
Performance allows people to do that. By definition, performance gives
people permission to be other than “who they are” in society. Performance
frees people from their locations as “partner,” “first year,” “IT professional,”
or “manager,” so they can work together in new ways. They can get creative
together, take risks together and play together. That activity helps build
teams, break down silos and create a culture of innovation and inclusion. As
creators of their environments at work, people become empowered to share
their experiences with others both inside and outside the company.
For the film festival, Deloitte took its employees’ desire to team together
and get creative together as seriously as it would for any official professional
development. Indeed, that was the very point. Performance — the activity of
going beyond one’s role, of doing things one doesn’t
know how to do — has as much to do with making films
as it does with delivering outstanding client service.
In the end, Deloitte’s employees together not only
created fantastic recruiting videos, which puts Deloitte’s people on the line
and in the game, they also created a cultural shift within the organization.
Barriers were broken, difficult conversations recast and a collective spirit
connected people.
 
The final 14 film finalists can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/user/
DeloitteFilmFest. In the next issue of The Journal of Financial Advertising &
Marketing, read about the metrics of the Film Festival, as well as anecdotes
and a how-to guide. ■
 
Carrie Sackett is a senior manager of communications at Deloitte, in which she oversees
strategy communications. Prior to working for Deloitte, she was with Standard & Poor’s where
she led a global change management/employee engagement project. She can be reached at
csackett@deloitte.com.
 

 

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