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Culture, Comms & Cocktails with Kelly Lawrence McCarran

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On this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, Chuck Gose is joined by the inspirational Kelly Lawrence McCarran, Corporate Communications Manager at Weatherford. They talk about how to keep employees connected to their company’s culture, the role of data in communications and how to build humor into your messaging.

“I found a real passion for working with our people, telling their stories.”

– Kelly Lawrence McCarran

Kelly shares some examples of the engaging campaigns she’s led, using employee’s stories. She describes the active role her leadership team have played in internal comms activities and talks about the importance of recognition in building an engaging culture.

“We did a series where we asked for employees to submit short video clips of what they were grateful for professionally or personally, and then we strung those together into a video, shared it in the app, and it was beautiful. It was just really, really touching and it’s another great way to engage our people.”

– Kelly Lawrence McCarran

Featured in this episode:

  • Find out how Kelly chose internal communication as a career.
  • Learn about the cultural journey Weatherford has been on and how communication and sharing employee stories has been central to that.
  • Discover what Kelly uses the One Weatherford app to share, including how the ability to translate content has helped employees feel more connected.
  • Get some insight into the role leaders play in internal communication at Weatherford.
  • Listen in to Kelly’s secrets for building humor into her communication in an effective and engaging way.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 51 Transcript


Chuck Gose: Hello, everyone. This is Culture, Comms & cocktails, internal comms served straight up. I’m your host Chuck Gose, senior strategic advisor at SocialChorus. And on this episode of the podcast it’s an honour and a privilege to have Kelly Lawrence McCarran, Corporate Communications Manager at Weatherford, joining us for this podcast. Welcome to Culture, Comms & Cocktails, Kelly. 

Kelly McCarran: Awesome. Thanks Chuck I’m so happy to be here.

Chuck Gose: Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to work that closely with Weatherford, but I’ve heard so many great stories about what you and the team there are doing. But before we get too far down that path, why don’t you share with us. I think it’s pretty cool what Weatherford does, but share with us, who Weatherford is, the work the company does, in case those aren’t familiar with it.

Kelly McCarran: Well, I think it’s pretty cool here too and that’s why I’ve been here for almost two decades, but we are an oilfield services company. So, at a basic sense that means that we partner with operators around the world to provide technology; services; experienced personnel to produce their wealth. So, our people are creative, passionate, innovative and driven, and it’s just a really fun place to be and a really exciting time for our industry right now.

Chuck Gose: And you mentioned you’ve been there now close to a decade. 

Kelly McCarran: That’s right.

Chuck Gose: Share with us your career journey there at Weatherford and how that’s made a difference.

Kelly McCarran: Sure, so I joined straight out of school. I went to Texas A&M. And, you know, I thought maybe I would stay for a year to get my feet wet and then try something else. I wasn’t sure at the time if the energy industry was right for me. I really didn’t know a lot about it, and I just fell in love with the people and the work and what we were doing. And I learned so much more about how our industry really powers the world and how we try to do that in the safest most sustainable manner possible. And I was hooked. So I stayed and I haven’t looked back, and I just love it. 

So, in terms of my journey. I started really early on, kind of dabbling in internal and external communication, and then I found a real passion for working with our people telling their stories. And so my career, while I do still get the opportunity to do some external communications, I really leaned into employee engagement and telling those stories. Keeping our people up to speed on what’s going on in the organisation. And then also getting their perspective and building our culture together. So I’ve just loved that and, and I think one of the reasons I’ve stayed, as long as I have and will keep staying and trying to do what I can for our company, is the open culture that we have, the exposure I’ve had to working closely with our leadership team, and just working on really interesting projects. And I don’t know if I would have had that opportunity elsewhere so it’s been a great, great fit.

Chuck Gose: I love hearing that story of communicators, which a lot of us started that specialist-generalist role and you’re getting the exposure to a lot of different areas, and when you find out that internal comms is it. You find out that that’s where the passion is, that’s where you want to apply your energy and creative skills. Love, love hearing that from you in there.

Also Weatherford has been on a bit of a journey. Over the past several years. Talk about that interesting journey and how the culture has changed there at Weatherford since you’ve been there. 

Kelly McCarran: Sure and I’d like to address culture first, if that’s okay because I think it’s a really important part of our story. Several years ago, we knew that our organisation had already been through a lot of change, and we needed to inject some good positive energy into the company. We wanted our people to be re-energised and excited about what was coming next. 

So, you know, we got in the room and we said okay let’s come up with a great employee communications campaign and tagline. And we came up with some really good ideas, and then we also looked at what had been done historically. And about 10 years before we started this sort of refreshed conversation, predating my experience, a group of employees had come up with a concept called One Weatherford, that originated organically from the field, and it was this mentality of working together as a team. 

So we said, you know, don’t try to come up with something to reinvent the wheel, if you’ve got something great that’s right there and that, better yet, came from your employees. So what we did was we, we refreshed that concept, and we came up with a mantra: “Individually we are impressive. Together we are unstoppable. We are one Weatherford.” And we put a tonne of energy and communications around really rallying the organisation behind that new mantra and the, you know, updated look and feel. 

And so we did facility graphics like huge well field graphics, pillars wrapped and we did some leadership townhalls. We actually did our first global townhall at the time when we launched that with our new mission and core values, and it was great. We called that One Weatherford Day and we’ve done that every year since. And it’s an opportunity to get employees aligned on our strategy and keep culture top of mind. 

So, a couple of years after that sort of baseline setting for our culture and One Weatherford, we partnered with a culture shaping firm. And we had the opportunity to put a lot of our employees through training, and you think about culture training as, you know, hah, you need to do that? And I think you do. It’s a great opportunity to build a common language, and just get people to have those aha moments of, you know, what are your cultural principles, probably make a difference at work, at home. Other than making them a more effective person, a better colleague, a better spouse, a better friend. So it was a really great opportunity for us to set that foundation. 

And I think that foundation was so important as we went through the more challenging years. So, Weatherford went through a financial restructuring and we’ve also had several members of our leadership team change out over the last couple of years. We welcomed the new members. And our employee group has met that with curiosity, which is one of those principles that we live by, and they really want to know what they can do to make a difference, how can they be a part of that journey. And I think having built that strong foundation really set us up for navigating those new territories, new waters, together.

 So it’s very much a collaborative effort. And the app, the One Weatherford app which we use through SocialChorus, has just been a huge asset for us, because now we’re keeping those culture principles top of mind. We’re sharing those important company updates, really digging deep, and then we’re also crowdsourcing information, ideas, and celebrating each other’s successes. So I think our journey has just been great so far. I’m excited to see where it goes next.

Chuck Gose: And you mentioned this One Weatherford, that’s that’s carrying through as you mentioned, that is the name of your digital employee experience programme, through SocialChorus. How has that changed how you as a communicator, communicate to employees and how, what sort of opportunities have presented itself for you? 

Kelly McCarran: How much time do we have, because there’s a lot! Honestly, it has been such a game changer for us, you know. In the past, before we had the One Weatherford app, most of our communications were pushed out via email, which was a really great channel, and we put things up on our internal intranet. But we didn’t know what happened next. We didn’t know if everyone got the message, due to different technical challenges. We didn’t know who actually opened it, or what they thought about it. 

So, when we introduced the One Weatherford app. We’ve been doing email and app posts through that and we’ve also used a content amplifier to plug in our featured content to our change intranet. But streamlining some of the work, which is great because we are a small but mighty team, and, and for us just the ability to see the analytics behind everything is hugely, hugely helpful. 

And again, as a smaller team one of the things that we love the most about the platform is the ability to schedule communications in advance. So, if you want to send something out to colleagues in the eastern hemisphere, I’m based in Houston, Texas. I don’t have to get up and do that at four o’clock in the morning, I can schedule that and reach them in their day. So it feels like we’re connecting with them, when it matters most. 

And gosh, another feature I love is the translations, because we are a global company. So in the past, we would translate some but not all of the messaging, and they could take a couple of weeks to get translations turned around from a provider and get everything ready. And now with a push of a button, employees can translate that content on their phone, on their device and feel more connected to what we’re doing, and vice versa. They can submit content in their native language that anyone in the world can then speak to and digest and I think it’s been incredible in terms of increasing collaboration.

Chuck Gose: I think you just, that was an amazing sales pitch, Kelly. I didn’t want to ask for it. I think the last point is one, we haven’t talked a lot about translations on the podcast, and most communicators think about it as we need our content translated for employees, if that even happens. I love your take on that, now it’s about letting employees communicate in their first language, in their native language, and then their co-workers or their peers around the world can then read, understand what they’re saying. And they’re not having to do that translation for themselves. I think that’s a great point to bring up.

Kelly McCarran: Oh, thank you. Yes, it’s been just so nice to see the connections that are being formed, even just on the app with people that may have never had the chance to work with, or meet in person. So, you start to see these commonalities and the recognition and the hearts, and comments, I love it. It’s great.

Chuck Gose: And with One Weatherford now being out there as part of this platform. How has leadership communication changed? You talked about being able to do town halls and your first global town hall earlier. But how are leaders now engaging and participating in the platform?

Kelly McCarran: Well that’s been fantastic and I think it’s so important to have your leadership teams support your app, because it’s a great way to increase adoption. And also just to role model the types of behaviours that you want all of your employees to see. Because it’s a new way of communicating, right? It feels very social in nature. So, at first, I think we saw, maybe a little bit of trepidation from employees to comment, to like things. Because it felt like – is it a bit too corporate? Should I not, you know, go that far? And then when you start to see your leadership team get behind it, and even post emojis, that’s just great right. 

So, let’s see. Some of the examples that we love to bring up are, we have a CEO podcast. So we welcomed the new CEO last year and he’s been incredibly engaged in the app and just in the organisation as a whole, and really wants to connect with our employees. So we do a video podcast with him about every six weeks. And we post it in the app, we send it out via a Smart Campaign, and he talks about culture, technology, strategy; just what’s happening in the organisation. 

Like, we recently took a deep dive on sales and operations planning, and that’s a topic that maybe not everybody in the organisation would be familiar with, but it’s really important for us. And we just had, gosh, I think like, 70 likes and maybe close to 40 comments, and that’s that’s high engagement for us. And people are so excited about it. 

So we love doing things like that. Keeping it light, keeping it fun. And some of our other leaders have also taken to do selfie videos. For example, last year, we held our first virtual walk. Because in Houston, we typically do a charitable walk every November, and due to COVID that looked a little bit different. And so instead of joining together for one day we walked for an entire month. And we did those promotions on the app, and we had leaders go out walking around, random trails and then doing a video post right after saying. ‘Hey I got out and got my steps in today. I hope you do too. Come and join me for Weatherford walks.’ So it’s just been a really, really fun way to connect the leaders to the broader organisation.

Chuck Gose: Anytime you get leaders, not just talking positively about it but participating in it and driving conversation. That’s at times the holy grail of leadership comms is getting them doing their own content, in there.

Kelly McCarran: Absolutely. I totally agree and I’ll give you a sneak peek into something that hasn’t dropped yet but we’re, we’re working on. So I mentioned, we do have some new leaders, and we want our One Weatherford family across the globe to get to know them. So we’ve started this film, ‘The ten things you didn’t know’ about scaling, in videos, in under a minute or less. And so we’re asking rapid fire questions ranging from what’s your favourite foods, what’s your go to karaoke song, to what motivates you to get out of bed every day and what do you love about your job. 

So, you know, a little bit of the fun with the, with the serious there, and I can’t wait to share those with our, with our organisation. And you know hopefully have more generated from our, our leaders around the world too.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, I love, I love those examples. Anytime we can make – I hate to say that, but oftentimes we say that we have to make our leaders more human. Well, they are human, but, but how do we make them more relatable, as I think oftentimes the word we’re looking for. And giving those like 10 things you know, and karaoke songs, and concerts, and first jobs and all that. Because we all have those experiences regardless of title in the company and you’d mentioned about fun. 

One of the things that I’ve been impressed with is the organization’s use of humour in your communication and that makes some people a little nervous, bringing humour in. So how have you been successful at sprinkling in those little drops of humour throughout your communication?

Kelly McCarran:Sure. Well, you know, like he said some people can be a little bit nervous about that because at the end of the day we all want to do our best work and we take our jobs really seriously and we try to deliver at the highest level internally and externally. But you can do that and still have fun. 

So one of the examples I’d like to bring up is, when we were looking at our engagement and we saw, you know, a number of users who were inactive after 30 days. We use that group feature to filter that. We thought, well how do we bring them back into the platform without it seeming like big brother is watching you, because nobody wants that. So we mulled on it a bit. And when we stumbled over this gif, and it’s a whale, jumping out of the water and the text goes “Whale hello there”. And there’s no sound but every time I say it, I feel like I say it that way. So, there you go, that’s what’s happening in my head!

But we use that as the subject line and the header image when we push out the email campaign and now we’ve got that set as a recurring kind of ‘set it and forget it’ campaign. And it gets really good open rates, you know, it’s something that draws people back in. And I think it makes it feel a little bit friendlier and also tells them subtly that when you come into the app. We’ve gone and got a good balance of content that’s fun and light hearted and also has the hard hitting news you need to know. That’s one example that we’re really excited about.

Chuck Gose:Well. Just so you know when I saw that example, I said “Whale hello there” the exact same way you did. I think that’s universal. 

Kelly McCarran: We’re connected. Good.

Chuck Gose: When you see that when you see that gif. Again, it’s that safe creativity, it’s that safe humour. Nobody’s gonna be offended by a whale waving to them right. I think sometimes communicators struggle with creativity, especially with internal comms. It is a day, day, day activity, communicating with employees. What’s some other creative content that you’ve created that’s had an impact, at Weatherford, that maybe others could model from?

Kelly McCarran: Sure, so we’ve got two channels that I think are pretty interesting. One is called hashtag winning, and you know that success kid meme? A little boy, sitting on the beach and very, very serious but animated? So, we used his photo as our channel header, and I mean automatically that tells you there’s going to be some good things here. But that hashtag winning channel is about sharing sales wins and different successes across the organisation. So if we signed a contract or extended a job, we share that, we give kudos to the employees who are involved. There’s a healthy dose of emojis and that channel as well in some of the header lines, and it’s just a great way to celebrate our people. 

And we’ve also got a Weatherford fun-times channel. So you know once a month we come up with a theme, and this is another great one that you can kind of schedule a few months ahead and set it and forget it, which is super helpful for us. But we come up with those themes, and it might be something like sharing your favourite recipes, or post pictures of your dog, cat, lizards, whatever pet you have, or share your artistic abilities and that might be drawings that your, your kids did for you. Or maybe you’re a painter or a singer or a gardener. You find any, any number of talents.

 So, we push that out once a month. Our team tends to role model the content. So, we’ll commit to going in and scheduling and pictures that go along with that theme. And it really, sort of, kicks things off and then you just see it grow from there and that’s been a lot of fun.

Chuck Gose: No, I think anytime you can encourage people to participate and share a bit of themselves and share things that they are proud of. Whether that’s related to work, like you said, a sales win, a contract win, or is it a personal win that you have that they want to share. We’ve all seen in 2020 and 2021, we should celebrate as many wins as we can. So, I applaud Weatherford for opening up the platform and letting people know that, maybe some people see it as somewhat trivial content, but it’s not trivial to the person that shared that content.

Kelly McCarran : Absolutely. It helps you to learn more about the people that you’re working with. And I think you touched on something really important and that’s what we’ve all been through collectively over the last year, year and a half now. And another one of the culture messages that we ran through the app was a gratitude series. 

So, gratitude is one of those cultural principles that really drives us and helps us to go, you know, what are you grateful for so much? Even on days that are hard and days when things maybe aren’t going the way that you want them to, you can stop and think about what are you grateful for and it raises your mood. Makes you more productive. Makes you just, you know, feel, feel good all around. We did a series where we asked for employees to submit short video clips of what they were grateful for professionally or personally, and then we strung those together into a video, shared it in the app, and it was beautiful. It was just really, really touching and it’s another great way to engage our people.

Chuck Gose: Fantastic examples, keep it up. Keep, keep getting people sharing. Keep, you know, letting them feel appreciated, letting them share their wins, that’s only going to continue to drive success. 

Now segueing into, how do you see yourself as a communicator. How is the platform, how has Studio made you more successful? What do you love most about working on the platform?

Kelly McCarran: I love the data. I love knowing what’s working, what’s not. I’m really excited about some of the other features that we’re going to be rolling out in Analyse as well because like the sentiment tracking things of that nature. Just knowing how our communications are performing, what people are interested in, so we can lean into that. 

Knowing if an important message maybe got lost in the shuffle and does it need to be resent to a targeted group of users. That is all just so helpful for us because you spend so much time really thoughtfully crafting a communication, and we want to make sure that people get it. And sometimes that means it’s not a one-and-done. You know, it means doing a smart campaign, or checking those analytics and then targeting specific users. I love that. 

I also just love being able to schedule communication, because again, it enables us to plan more and be more effective. And one of the big things that we’ve tried to do is limit the number of global communications on certain days, because especially over the last year we want so much to communicate. There were some days where, gosh, we might do three or four global emails in a day. And that’s just a lot of information hitting people’s in-boxes when they’re trying to get through their day-to-day job as well. And helped move the company forward. So, scheduling things enables us to find a little bit more balance in the week, and, and say, in some instances, hey let’s, let’s hold this one until next week, because here’s what we’ve got going on. 

So that’s great and, and I think if I’m thinking about Studio. Another thing I love is opening up the ability for other communicators in the organisation. We’re a very small team and there’s just no way that we could have our hands on everything, even if we wanted to. So what we’ve done is we’ve trained up, gosh I think close to 100 channel-communicators, or channel contributors now. And they’re active in Studio scheduling communications, email, up close, etc. And it’s really nice to empower them to do their own communications and lean on SME support, but give them all the templates, the tools, the resources they need to get started and play an active role.

Chuck Gose: I love that you brought up, Analyse and the metrics, because oftentimes that’s, that’s been a struggle for some in internal comms. Either they don’t have metrics, or the metrics have existed in so many different places, in different ways. Thinking through that content performance and some of those things that have worked, has there been anything that has surprised the team, that when you look inside those metrics and look inside Analyse you’re like, we had no idea that this mattered or that mattered. Like, have there any been any aha moments?

Kelly McCarran: Sure, so one of the things that we love to do is to look at what were our top performing communications over a set period of time, and, and see, were they corporate driven, smart campaigns which are inherently I think going to get some more visibility or was it user generated content. And if it was user generated content that’s incredibly interesting for us because that’s where we know, really a couple of things. You know, one; that’s somebody we can tap in to help advance culture initiatives, lean on them to drive messages locally in their area because people are paying attention. And two; what did they post about what was interesting about that so that we can encourage more of that. 

We want to use the data to help us make this platform as effective, relatable and exciting to us as we can for our employees. So that’s been one of those aha moments of, oh, okay, what are people clicking on and what do they want to know more about?

Chuck Gose: And Kelly, it’s been great to hear about Weatherford, and One Weatherford. It’s an inspiration to others who are using this platform and trying to connect with employees. 

The podcast is called Culture, Comms & Cocktails. So we’re going to wrap up, Kelly, with I want to hear a great cocktail recommendation from you.

Kelly McCarran: Okay. So I will say one of my go-tos for celebrations, big, small, is sparkling rosé champagne. But if you want a specific cocktail, I’ve really enjoyed Aperol Spritz. So, they have a really fond memory for me because I got married in the last year and…

Chuck Gose: Congratulations!

Kelly McCarran: Thank you so much. Thank you. And when we went for our honeymoon. We walked into the resort and they greeted us with this beautiful orange beverage. And it was an Aperol Spritz and it, you know, just sort of set the tone for the whole week that we were there and found out those fond memories of sitting on the beach and not a care in the world kind of thing. So, making them at home. You just need a bottle of Aperol. It’s a little flash we’ll add some Prosecco orange garnish and soda or sparkling water and you’re good to go.

Chuck Gose: It probably helps if you add a little umbrella to it though I would imagine, right. 

Kelly McCarran: Oh, yeah, absolutely, 

Chuck Gose: That’s gotta help the flavour of it. I love it anytime when people have made a cocktail recommendation that’s brought them back to a moment, or a memory. That’s really cool. 

Kelly McCarran: Oh absolutely. 

Chuck Gose: Kelly, thanks so much for being on the podcast. You’ve talked about the team being a lean one, but you’re accomplishing so much for Weatherford, the employees, the leadership. Obviously, the communicators are all benefiting from SocialChorus. Thank you for all the great work you and the team have done there.

Kelly McCarran: Thank you so much for having me, Check, and a huge shout out to all of our partners at SocialChorus. We, we love working with you all, we’ve learned so much and we’re just excited to see what’s next. So, thanks so much.

Chuck Gose: Well thank you. 

If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture, Comms & Cocktails on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you’d like to listen. And when you do, hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss any future episodes. 

This has been Culture Comms & Cocktails, internal comms served straight up. Thanks for listening.

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