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What the Blue Shirts Can Tell the White Shirts

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I recently wrote a social media plan as a final project for a graduate-level class in PR and social media strategy at NYU. I chose to focus on a plan for internal social media since I am becoming increasingly interested in the phenomenon of the internal groundswell within companies.

One of the inspirations for this blog post was a guest lecture from Shel Holtz at NYU earlier this month. According to Holtz,

Internal communication is the most important type of communication a company does. Employees who are not engaged can easily undermine the best PR.

Holtz also mentioned Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation, the by now famous case study of an internal social media program started on a shoestring which yielded great results. Steve Bendt and Gary Koelling of Best Buy initially set out to do some research internally to create more effective advertising. They wanted to understand the customer’s point of view and started interviewing sales associates on the floor. They built an online feedback platform to capture comments and suggestions from employees and ended up with the wildly successful internal social media strategy platform, Blue Shirt Nation. As reported by Dan Haugen in Twin Cities Business:

That was the magic Bendt and Koelling had stumbled onto: having open conversations can help the company learn from employees, most of whom are experts in the jobs they perform and, often, in the products in which they specialize.

In a blog post she wrote for Business Innovation Factory, Student Experience Lab Director Christine Flanagan writes:

…Somehow this duo managed to create something most established companies only dream of: real and informed employee engagement that cuts across boundaries, silos, departments and disciplines.

A search on YouTube yielded this video, which opens with a quote from Peter Drucker about the difference between managers and leaders. The video also showcases various Best Buy employees and general managers talking about Blue Shirt Nation and the value it brings to their work and the company.

Because the company I wrote a plan for does not have a large number of employees, I did not delve too deeply in some of the enterprise options that would be viable for larger companies. This of course presents me with a great opportunity to opine on the various software options available for internal communications, which will be the topic of my next post on this topic. Please chime in below to share your experience with internal social media platforms.

Photo credit: Brendan Adkins

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