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Earlier this year we were asked if talkshows and telenovelas can replace communications in the  form of entertaining stories that appeal to an audience disrupted by digital media. While corporate messaging will always have a place in the way companies communicate, the use of TV and video is not only changing the communication landscape forever, it’s impacting the bottom line as well.

At SAP employees no longer get newsletters or updates from company executives. Instead, every week corporate newscaster Megan Meany invites employees, customers, and any other curious viewers to take a ‘spin’ and get all their global headlines. But The Spin was just the first of many game-changers shaping the new digital approach to communications at SAP. Now, executives are using innovative videos to talk about strategy and topics like digital transformation. Irfan Khan, SAP’s chief technology officer for customer operations, for example, takes viewers behind the scenes of his digital life from London’s financial district to the privacy of his own home. Not only did his video get thousands of views on the day it was posted, it generated a pipeline of requests from other executives who want to produce similar messages.

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The company is also changing how it tells customer stories. The content team literally took clients into the clouds on a balloon ride and produced a mini series about Cloud solutions that is more reminiscent of Mission Impossible than your average marketing clip. The team also brings new meaning to humanizing the brand. Instead of talking about the technology behind smart cities, the team sent a breaking news camera crew right into the flooded home of a family that lost everything in a raging flood that could have been prevented with software solutions that monitor data and use analytical tools to decide where and when to send maintenance crews in emergency situations.  This video generated leads that resulted in software sales, clearly adding value to the business.

Impacting the bottom line

According to the European Communication Monitor 2015 linking communications and business strategy has been the most enduring challenge for communication professionals surveyed over the past eight years. Communicators normally argue their case to top executives and internal clients by explaining the positive effects of good reputation and organizational culture and explaining the role of content in thought leadership development. But only half of those surveyed claim to show economic results.

“In one year we doubled the content team’s annual budget through funding from the business,”says Sam Juneau, vice president, head of content at SAP Global Corporate Affairs who set out a year ago to disrupt the communication environment at one of the world’s largest IT companies. “This is the result of having a clear vision about our topics and targeting our content to specific audiences using a variety of platforms. Relentless execution is required, but it’s paying off!”

Video is the way to go

Soon, 80% of the world’s internet traffic will be video. That’s because the average human attention span has deteriorated to eight seconds, and most people tend to multitask while consuming information.  “Our employees are changing, so we’re changing. Today’s millennials will be tomorrow’s decision makers. We are hipper, punchier and more relevant to their lives because we give them information that’s easy to consume,” says Sam. It’s not easy to change the traditional style at a 100 billion dollar market cap company. But the time was right, and both the company’s CEO and the head of Global Corporate Affairs were ready to turn SAP in a new direction.

The disruption started when Sam hired Megan Meany, a professional TV anchor experienced in the real world of pop culture and morning shows. “I wanted someone who could bring levity into a serious environment. SAP has been leading enterprise software for 40 years. Over 70% of the world’s transaction revenue touches an SAP system. I wanted someone who could translate all that corporate lingo and all those heavy technical topics into interesting news told in a whimsical style.”

Authentic is the new disruptive

Initial reactions to Megan Meany and The Spin were mixed, especially with European audiences who found the show too American. “I was working on various programs from CNN to E! entertainment news,” says Megan.  “It was hard to find a show that would accommodate my smart, serious side and my entertaining, human side. The corporate environment allowed me to apply my catchy content creation skills to text about technology. I realized right away that my American personality might seem jarring in a European company. I even wondered if I should tone it down. But I knew that being authentic would be truly disruptive.”

Now, The Spin is the place to be. “Everyone’s clamoring to get on the show,” she adds. “One of the biggest challenges was creating a streamlined process for people to submit complex, densly packed info that I could digest and turn into relatable stories!” Megan’s greatest accomplishment is her ability to impact revenue. Not only are company experts and executives reaching out with ideas for videos that can help drive sales, but customers are now asking for Spin-style newscasts to help tell the story of their digital transformation with SAP.

More visuals in sight

“I’ve hired another TV producer to be our creative director, and I’m upskilling the content team to become a true 21st century newsroom,” says Sam. “We’re working with totally new platforms like PeriscopeTV and Instagramthat we never used previously. That’s not to say text is dead! We continue to produce compelling stories and blogs, but we’ve set our word limit to 500!” Tools, guidelines and visionaries like these truly are changing the communications landscape and the bottom line!

@magyarj

This article first appeared in The Communication Director.

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