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Building internal connections with Shaw Industries

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On this episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, we have Curtis Callaway, Communications Director at Shaw Industries.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails is internal comms served straight up, so settle in, and drink in the knowledge. Some shaken, some stirred, and maybe even some with a twist, and enjoy the top shelf guest I have lined up for you. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. On this episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, we have Curtis Callaway, Communications Director at Shaw Industries.

Shaw Industries is one of the world’s largest carpet manufacturers and has more than 20,000 associates worldwide. Shaw supplies carpet, resilient, hardwood, laminate, tile and stone flooring products and synthetic turf to residential and commercial markets globally. Shaw is headquartered in Dalton, Georgia, and is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway

We’re all getting way more comfortable with this video medium and so The Scene, through SocialChorus, gives us a platform to easily grab video, drop it into a story, and then communicate in a way that our company has not done previously.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 40 Transcript

Chuck Gose: Hello everyone. This is Culture, Comms and Cocktails. Internal comms served straight up. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, Senior Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. I’m back again with another great customer story. Joining me today is Curtis Callaway, the Communications Director at Shaw Industries. Welcome to the podcast, Curtis.

Curtis Callaway: Hey, thank you for having me, Chuck. It’s a pleasure to join you.

Chuck Gose: Well, the best thing about this podcast is being able to uncover stories and my favorite stories to uncover are with a lot of customers that I haven’t had a chance to work with. So I haven’t had a chance to work with you or Shaw Industries, but obviously glad to have you on board. But first and foremost, before we get into the work you’re doing there at Shaw, how are you and the people you care about doing during this pandemic and how has the pandemic impacted life at Shaw Industries?

Curtis Callaway: Well, we are doing well. Thank you for asking. We are healthy. My family is healthy. I’m married and have two boys and they are adjusting to the new world. Kids are pretty resilient. Obviously we’d love to return to the days of yore, but we’re hanging in there. Our passion is traveling so that’s obviously been hard the past few months, but we’re dreaming of what’s next and hopefully 2021 will bring us some adventures to Europe and abroad that we can look forward to. But we’ve even been planning, we may never take, but that’s half the fun to me is doing the research.

Chuck Gose: Well, that’s certainly a nice distraction during this time of all the plans that had to be scrapped throughout 2020 that we know at some point we’ll be able to do those plans again.

Curtis Callaway: For sure.

Chuck Gose: But how has the pandemic impacted life at Shaw? For those watching the video, you’ll see that you’re you’re at home today, but I know you’re also going into the office sometimes.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: How has this impacted the business?

Curtis Callaway: I’m actually at home today, but for the most part of during the pandemic, I’ve been in the office. I’m fortunate to live pretty close and you just happened to catch me on a day where my oldest son has virtual learning so he’s here. So he needs a parent, parental supervision. But things are going well at Shaw. For those of you that don’t know, Shaw Industries is a flooring manufacturer. We are based in Northwest Georgia. One of the things that makes us unique is that we’re privately owned by Berkshire Hathaway. So that gives us a few nice perks and benefits as far as financial stability and availability to capital. We also don’t have to report earnings publicly.

Chuck Gose: That’s nice from a comm standpoint.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah, it really is. So we don’t have any of those type of investor calls or anything like that. But we are about 22,000 employees and about half of those are manufacturing. I know that’s something we’ll talk about here shortly. And we’re about six billion dollars annually, just to give you guys some context for who we are. But yeah, it’s certainly been a challenge for us, but our experience is not unique to us. Everybody has certainly been in the same boat. But as a manufacturer, we have continued to produce products throughout this period. Our products, since they’re flooring and integral to the building industry both on the residential and commercial markets, we have been essential. So we never really stopped producing except for about a week there. Now there were lots of challenges with getting people into work and things like that, but the company’s done a great job of pivoting and making sure our facilities are even more safe than they were, keeping people apart. And in instances where we had to get creative, we were able to come up with some interesting solutions to make sure that people stayed safe. But manufacturing does bring in a different element to it.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, it absolutely does. And you’ve been a customer of SocialChorus now for several years, but very recently you’ve been tackling some new challenges of reaching some of those manufacturing workers that we talked about and you have some data around it too, around the success you’ve had. So talk a little bit about that project, but also why you think it’s worked so well and why have employees responded so favorably?

Curtis Callaway: Okay. Well, again, as a manufacturer, we actually have about 100 facilities. So we’re really spread out. Some of those facilities have hundreds of employees and some are less than 100. So every facility is different in a lot of ways, they have their own unique culture. And that individuality also makes it challenging from a comm standpoint. So communicating with those manufacturing associates has been one of our goals. You brought up data. We’ve seen our usage rate go from a very low number about a year ago to about up close to 50% now. And we really wish those numbers were even higher, especially when you hear your conversations with people like Owens Corning and Lincoln Financial and they’ve got awesome numbers. So that’s our goal and I think we’re well on our way to those engagement levels.

Curtis Callaway: But we began our partnership with SocialChorus a couple of years ago and it really began as a means for us to give our employees the tools to talk about our foreign products on social media. So it really began as an employee ambassador play. And then shortly thereafter, SocialChorus really changed your platform and became more focused on internal comms and that’s when the light went off for us. It’s like, “Wow, we’ve got this great tool that we need to figure out how to leverage.” And that really opened the door to so many different features, particularly with our manufacturing employees. So let me talk about that a little bit. We obviously have our admin folks like me, sit at a desk, have all the devices. We have access to email and intranet and all of those digital tools. And then we have our manufacturing employees. Most of them do not have email at Shaw. So we’ve kind of created this upstairs-downstairs environment in a lot of cases where you’re talking to two completely different audiences, both from a professional background, and then the means to actually communicate with them. So you add into that that many of them speak Spanish in some of our facilities so the language gives another challenge.

Curtis Callaway: So we’re continuing to try to get people to engage with our platform, which I should mention is called The Scene. And we think The Scene is where things are happening, so that’s why we liked the name. And it’s also a shout out to my favorite band, The Hold Steady, but that was just for my amusement I guess. But we’re continuing to develop what that value proposition is for the employee to come into The Scene and receive their information and interact with that content, download the app and all of those sorts of things. But at a base level, this gives us a digital means to communicate with manufacturing employees.

Chuck Gose: You had mentioned a lot of different tools that are out there and we’ve talked about the mobile application, there’s email, you mentioned an intranet there. I know one of the projects you’ve got coming up is using our content amplifiers to put then into your intranet. And for those that aren’t familiar, one of SocialChorus’ core efforts here is to create efficiencies for communicators. So you publish once and then put it out where employees are going to see it. So how do you see this impacting your role as the communicator and do you see it drawing even more eyes to the great content your team’s creating?

Curtis Callaway: Yeah Chuck, I really wish if we could go back and do it over again that we would have focused on this right out of the gate, because I think this would have changed the experience for our employees. So when we launched, we kept our intranet site as our main channel of news communication, and our intranet is called My Shaw. And news on My Shaw was oftentimes supported by broadcast emails like most people would do. And then we launched The Scene as this kind of outlier channel that existed, and we encouraged people to use it, but they could also still get all that news and information for the most part from My Shaw. So we had created these competing channels and left it up to users to pick which ones they want. Now we’re a manufacturing company, we’ve been in business for over 50 years. We’re kind of slow to change in some ways. The adoption rates initially were tough, particularly from our admin workers, again, because they had access to a lot of these other ways to interact with the content and we gave them I think too many options. So now we are actually in the middle of an intranet integration project using the content amplifiers. And it’s happening right now so I don’t have any news or metrics to share with you yet, but I really look forward to being able to do that at some point.

Curtis Callaway: But I think by integrating The Scene directly into our intranet and having that be the repository for all of our news, I think that’s really going to be a game changer for us because somebody is going to come to My Shaw, they’re going to see that story from the CEO or whatever it might be, and they’re going to click on it and it’s going to launch them immediately into The Scene. So they’re getting into the program whether they elect to or not. And from my team’s perspective, this means we only have to create the story one time. And right now we’re creating it in both channels. So it’s going to be an efficiency for us, but it’s also going to be a better user experience. And I think this will fully allow us to take advantage of some of the tools that the platform gives us.

Chuck Gose: Now, when you think back through earlier, you talked about all the different manufacturing facilities that are part of Shaw and some are larger than others. And regardless of size, is there any sort of favorite campaign or content from a local level? Because that’s where I see the local employees really responding is when they see that global, local and me, when they feel represented out there. So what is some of that favorite content or favorite campaigns you’ve seen from those facilities?

Curtis Callaway: As I think about this, as a communicator, we often want to make a big splash or we want to come out with this really cool marketing initiative that really turns some eyes and is very flashy. But we don’t want to discount simple, because sometimes simple can be equally successful. And I think about our facilities that have launched their own channels, that’s really been the manufacturing strategy is to give each facility its own channel. And they’ve embraced it and come up with campaigns that are simple, like employee recognition, or metrics reporting, or recapping team huddles with notes, sharing metrics, just simple things that put that need to know information right into the hands of those employees.

Curtis Callaway: But if you want to go a little more flashy, we have had several facilities that are getting their plant managers involved. And I think that’s really one of our biggest next steps is seeing leaders as communicators in a lot of different ways. And I think this starts with our plants, and whether it be an article that that plant managers would write, or even experimenting with video, that is something that we’re seeing some of our facilities have done and it’s been really impactful. We’re all getting way more comfortable with this video medium and so The Scene through SocialChorus gives us a platform to easily grab video, drop it into a story, and then communicate in a way that our company has not done previously. So I’m excited about that. I think the next step for us beyond leaders as communicators would be leveraging that UGC, the user generated content, that comes from our employees. We really haven’t done a lot of that yet and I’m excited about leveraging that at the right time.

Chuck Gose: No, it’s great when you have that balance of the stuff that the comms team is creating, you’ve got leadership, thought leadership, project leaders in there communicating, and then you’ve got employees and everybody feels represented and part of The Scene.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah, and I think we do a really good job from our team about putting together leadership communications, but they really feel like things that came from corporate. And I think this gives us an opportunity to give a little more authentic and transparent platform for some of our leaders. And I know that not all of them will be open to that, but we certainly have some that are really good targets for us and that would be happy to talk and communicate to their teams in a new way. And we’ve definitely seen that during the pandemic and now it’s just integrating that into some of our channels.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, and then thinking through, you mentioned from a communications team standpoint, how much time would you say do you spend every week managing The Scene either from a promotional standpoint or creating content for it and just minding the shop so to speak?

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: Going in and looking at metrics. What’s that effort, what’s that lift look like?

Curtis Callaway: Well, I think if I was talking to a prospective customer that you really need to make sure that it’s something that you have the capacity to focus on because we’ve seen more success when we’ve been diligent about focusing on the platform. And so we have a small corp comm team, like many other companies, and so that has been challenging at times and I would admit that. But last year when we began to take a more hands-on and focused approach on The Scene and began to deliver newsletters, or began to promote content more faithfully, we saw the increase. And whether employees decided to come into The Scene or not, we were able to help them get in there with some of those promotion materials and that really has made a difference for us.

Curtis Callaway: So we need to focus more. We get distracted by all the fires that we put out at times, or get behind in our strategic planning. So having somebody like an awesome account manager like ours, shout out to Karen Landis who rocks at SocialChorus, that really does help. So I think you guys do keep us accountable in a lot of ways, but it does fall to the company to be the ones that are in the platform and getting their hands dirty. So we’ve got to roll out channels. We have to educate those channel contributors on how to use the platform and then what it can do for them within their facility or within their team and it just can’t be an afterthought in your comms planning.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, we absolutely do see it, and I know Karen will appreciate the shout out there. Obviously well deserved.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: That we do create strong partnerships, but ultimately it is around the communicating with intent and being very intentional about it. Or on a previous podcast, guests talked about communicating with a purpose. Having a purpose behind everything and being very intentional about, “We are doing this. This is why we are doing it and this is the results we expect.” And if you get the results, great, let’s try to make them better next time. If you don’t get the results, what can we tweak and improve to get better? Because we all can be better communicators, whether we’re on a comms team, whether we’re a communicator by title or just communicator by function or we just are one who’s privately communicating inside an organization, certainly something we can all get better.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: And 2020 has been a tough year. It’s almost cliche to talk about, and I hate cliches, but it’s true. It’s okay to acknowledge it. But Curtis, let’s say if it’s 2021, November next year, and we’re back here talking about The Scene. What would you like to accomplish? You and the team there at Shaw Industries. What would you like to accomplish over the next 12 months that if we came back you would just be absolutely giddy?

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: To talk to me about?

Curtis Callaway: Okay, well certainly this intranet integration project is huge for us. It may be the biggest thing that we do over the next six months or so. So we want to see that seamlessly integrated and launched, and we want that change to be easy for all of our users. So when they come into the site, everything makes sense, and then the login process happens easily and so that it’s just really seamless. So we want that change to be easy and for it to be a better experience than what we have now. But I’d like for us to also be diligent about weekly newsletters to promote content. I mean those newsletter tools are so simple, but they’re powerful and they bring people into the platform. And this past year, Shaw got really active in our local communities in donating masks and we used our Makerspace to design face shields for the medical community and our flooring was used in some of the temporary hospitals that were popping up. So we had a lot of things that we were communicating to the organization that we hope that people felt good about, and they really did. And that’s part of our culture is that community involvement and people really respond to that.

Curtis Callaway: So we were communicating that through The Scene and we saw a huge uptick in both views but also sharing on social media and interacting within the platform. So people were proud to bring that to their friends through social media. So I want us to be more diligent about those newsletters and sharing and reinforcing information that people are seeing through our broadcast or in other places.

Chuck Gose: Yeah.

Curtis Callaway: So I’m hoping all of those things are working together and that we’re here in a year and we’re real excited about the progress we’ve mad.

Chuck Gose: Well, it certainly all sounds very achievable. And it was you, you mentioned some of those community efforts. And when I interview guests, a lot of times I’ll go into your programs and look at the data to find out what is the best performing content. And what I thought was super cool, if you look at all of 2020, your best performing piece of content was a mask sewing campaign.

Curtis Callaway: Interesting.

Chuck Gose: To encourage people to sew masks out there. So it’s not just this big corporate-y announcements that people care about. They want to know that their business is making a difference. And if you find that balance out there between that must know and need to know versus that nice to know and feel good to know, that’s when employees get that balance.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: And they see that yes, I’m working for an organization that yes, we might be in flooring or some other business out there, but we are also a big part of our community. So I thought that was really cool to see that was one of the best performing.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: I mean the best performing piece of content.

Curtis Callaway: I did not realize that, that’s very cool. And that was actually a program that started from an employee and they just got passionate about it and shared it with us and we did our corporate thing. But she was really passionate about getting people involved so that’s awesome. Very cool.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, it certainly shows that employees if given the opportunity will also become leaders in their own right in their organizations.

Curtis Callaway: No doubt.

Chuck Gose: So well, Curtis, we’ve talked about the culture and the comms at Shaw Industries, now we get to the cocktails part of this.

Curtis Callaway: Yes, I was wondering. I’ve been waiting.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, this is the question everybody gets excited to answer, so. But I know you’re more of a wine guy than necessarily a cocktail person.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: So make a great wine recommendation out there and talk a little bit more about how you’ve gotten into that, especially during this pandemic.

Curtis Callaway: Okay. Yeah, sure, sure. Well, I certainly would not say no to a nice cocktail, so I don’t want to get dis-invited to any parties or anything. But my wife and I started to take an interest in wine after a trip to Napa a couple of years ago. And I think if you go someplace where it’s made and get immersed, it’s seductive. And so I think that’s what happened to us is that like many people, we went to some wineries, we joined some clubs and that was just a jumping off point for us. So we did go back last year to Sonoma and spent some time for my wife’s 40th birthday and joined some more clubs. And so now we were in too many clubs, but anyway, we’ve had to cut back a little bit on that.

Curtis Callaway: But during the past few months, it’s been an opportunity to slow down in a lot of ways so we’ve, or at least I, have kind of dove into some wine podcasts and some wine content on YouTube. And there’s a new network called SOMM TV that I’ve joined so it’s just become a hobby. And I certainly am a novice, but there’s an intellectual side to it that I enjoy. And I don’t completely understand it, but it’s a fun exercise. So we’ve got some friends that we like to get together and we’ll open a bottle and we’ll blind taste and we just try to talk about it. So it’s just something fun. But anyway, you may ask some recommendations. I did pull two bottles handily available from two of my favorite wineries, one’s called Ridge. Ridge is just South of San Francisco in the Santa Cruz mountains and it’s just one of the legacy places in Napa. So I would recommend checking them out. And this one is called Schug and Schug is in Sonoma and they do some awesome stuff and they’re really nicely priced for the quality. So I encourage everybody, if you’re interested in some wine, go to your local retailer, maybe try to branch out from the grocery store and see if you can find something unique and see if it’s something you like.

Chuck Gose: Well, I will say Curtis, after 40 episodes, you’re the first one to bring samples to the podcast.

Curtis Callaway: Well, let’s be clear that they’re not open. It’s a little early over here on the East coast right now. But yes, I am at home so it made it easy to grab.

Chuck Gose: Well, Curtis, thanks again for being on the podcast, sharing the story at Shaw Industries. I will keep you up on that. We’ll come back next year and see how those projects came along. I know that continued work, that continued effort of constantly trying to crack that nut, get that next audience, get that next employee out there. I do think engaging those plant managers is a great strategy because if I’m an employee at one of those facilities, that’s who I see my leader as. And again, to your point, the more authentic that communication is, the more relevant and personalized that information is for them, the more likely those employees are going to keep coming back as that source and as that sense of utility for them as you shared. You’ve been sharing metrics and data with them, it’s probably got to be a much more efficient process.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: Well, Curtis, thanks again for the work you and your team do there at Shaw.

Curtis Callaway: Yeah, thanks for everything from SocialChorus. We appreciate it.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture, Comms and Cocktails on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you like to listen. And when you do, hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss any future episodes. This has been Culture, Comms and Cocktails. Internal comms served straight up. Thanks for listening.

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Chuck Gose

Chuck Gose

I am a self-proclaimed Skyline Chili connoisseur and Duran Duran fan with nearly 20 years of experience in marketing, corporate communications, and internal communications. My passion and enthusiasm for the communications profession began early in my career at General Motors and Rolls-Royce, Since then, I have focused on weaving internal communications and technology in creative ways. I'm also the co-creator of The Periodic Table of Internal Communications and The Very Hungry Communicator. But most importantly, I got to fly in a blimp once.

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