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How Extreme Networks is Changing the Game of Internal and External Comms

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On this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, we have Allison Nelik, head of global of internal communications at MSCI.

I’m your host, Chuck Gose, senior strategic advisor at SocialChorus. On this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, we have Mitch Reyes, channel marketing specialist at Extreme Networks.

Extreme Networks is the industry’s first cloud-driven, end-to-end enterprise networking company, with 50,000 customers globally. From the wireless and IoT edge to the data center, Extreme Networks’ technology solutions are flexible, agile, and secure to accelerate the digital transformation of their customers and provide them with the fastest path to the autonomous enterprise.

We’ll discuss:

  • Communicating with employees and partners all on one platform
  • Support global team members through channel divisions
  • Enhancing the company and culture through their internal comms 

“All sales has to do is just click sign in and they instantly go to that post without any delay, so that’s absolute game changer. It’s helped us increase our user counts over time and we’ve seen some great spikes in activity ever since we launched that during the second half of the year” —Mitch Reyes

We feature communications leaders every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Don’t miss an episode of Culture, Comms, & Cocktails, brought to you by SocialChorus. Subscribe now wherever you listen to podcasts (Apple, Google Play, Stitcher, etc.)

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode #21 Transcript

Chuck Gose: Mitch, welcome to Culture, Comus & Cocktails.

Mitch Reyes: And thanks Chuck for having me on today’s show. It’s a pleasure to be on.

Chuck Gose: Grab a seat here at the Culture, Comus & Cocktails lounge and let’s get started. First right off Mitch, for listeners who don’t know who Extreme Networks is, talk a bit about the business.

Mitch Reyes: Sure. So Extreme Networks, we’re a networking vendor specializing in WiFi solution, switching and software services. Our latest, probably our most memorable claim to fame is we’re the official WiFi and Elise provider for the NFL. So we’re in almost every NFL stadium out in the country. So we’re currently number three in terms of networking vendors. So we’re poised to make ourselves number one. So that’s the battle we’re going through right now.

Chuck Gose: And about how many employees work at Extreme Networks and where are these employees located?

Mitch Reyes: That’s a great question. So we actually just acquired a company called Aerohive. So those numbers have changed. I believe we’re around the 3000 mark. So even though we’re pretty large in terms of the radar and the market share we’re a pretty small and nimble company and our main offices, our headquarter is in San Jose, California. So we are a quote unquote Silicon Valley based company. But we also have some offices spread across the globe. Our big marketing HQ is actually in Salem, New Hampshire, just 40 minutes North of Boston. We also have an office in Raleigh, North Carolina, another major tech hub. Overseas, we have a Reading office, we have a Frankfurt office. We also have one in Shannon, Ireland for financial purposes. And then we even have an office in Singapore for HR operations. So we’re quite global.

Chuck Gose: I noticed you used a word that I saw on the website. So the culture there is described as nimble, those words are entrepreneurial. How do you see this playing out in the company, these two words, nimble and entrepreneurial and perhaps more importantly amongst your peers there in marketing and comms? How do you see you guys being very nimble and entrepreneurial?

Mitch Reyes: I’d say compared to our two top competitors, which would be Cisco and Hewlett-Packard, we are fairly nimble in the networking space and one of our main differentiators is that networking is all we do. We have several other competitors that we have in the space, but they may tend to be diversified doing other things like selling computers, servers. Networking is our main and core focus. And as I mentioned earlier, we’re only 3000 strong give or take. So the good thing is we have that global presence. We’re able to compete with top big vendors out there, but we’re still small enough that we can adapt and change and move quickly to address market needs. We are a major vendor, but sometimes we tend to act like a startup. Sometimes we’ll get some product updates or changes that are actually influenced by customer feedback that we get and since we are a small inside company, we’re able to implement and make those changes happen pretty quickly compared to some of our competitors. So I think that’s where that statement comes to mind or at least that’s what we see from the internal perspective of how it works.

Chuck Gose: Now I mentioned you’re the channel marketing specialist. What does that mean at Extreme Networks?

Mitch Reyes: A channel marketing specialist is an interesting title. There’s a lot of us that have that title in the organization and I can tell you that there’s probably no two people that do the same exact thing. Basically, a channel marketing specialist is somebody that works with our reseller network. So Extreme Networks, since we are an IP vendor, where we typically go to market is actually working with a vast network of resellers that we have spread across the globe. About 80% of our businesses is sold through our reseller network.

Chuck Gose: And then E360 that is the company’s internal comms platform, powered by SocialChorus. What does that have to do with marketing? Why am I talking to a marketing guy when E360 is the internal comms platform?

Mitch Reyes: The E360 platform is interestingly enough run by our marketing team, both the internal one and the one we use for our partner community. So we actually, here at Extreme Networks, have two different E360 programs. One is for internal employees, and then we have one that we call our partner E360. And that one is for our reseller community. So technically, we’re using it as an external comms platform and it’s a way that we’re able to communicate with our reseller network around the globe through a Social Avenue. So that’s kind of how it fell into to the marketing branch, if you will. And it’s really exciting we’re constantly trying to innovate and think of new ways that we can be a little more personal and communicate with our reseller networks differently, either to let them know about new things that are happening that we’d want them to know, but not necessarily our customers out there and given the latest updates and news and in real time.

Chuck Gose: There’s a lot of talk in the comms world about internal going external and on external going internal by having the partner communication and the employee communication in the same platform. How do you see that playing out? Like do you see employees now having a greater understanding of both the partner network? Do you use the partner network to educate about what all the employees are doing? How does the content crisscross back and forth between the two or does it at all?

Mitch Reyes: That’s a great question there. So we are still working on that bridge between the two platforms. Right now we do keep them fairly separable, but what we’re starting to do now is, part of the partner E360 strategy is to decentralize our communication contributors or our content contributors.

Mitch Reyes: So we are starting to add in employees that typically would not even touch the big partner E360 platform and effectively giving them a microphone to talk to their partner. And this is actually something I just started rolling out about two months ago. With the power of E360 we’ve been able to segment our user population by where they are located geographically and then we can assign their individual fields, marketing and their field sales teams, with credentials to start posting on partner E360 and effectively give them a social media app for their individual region and to just share important updates and it’s only for that specific area. So for example, we actually have a channel now that’s just for Germany and then we have the German teams, the field marketing and the field sales team. They now have a microphone; they have their access and they can now start posting stuff, like updates that are relevant to their partners in Germany. You have the same thing for Russia and the same thing for the Northeast.

Mitch Reyes: Anywhere, any region in the world that we have listed in Salesforce, we now have a private channel, we now have content contributors that we’re starting to onboard and give them a microphone to talk to their partners.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. It’s pretty cool to think about the one platform that if I’m an employee at Extreme Networks, I can use that one platform to communicate with partners who are in the external world as well as communicate or receive communication from my company on the internal side which is pretty amazing. Have you seen the employees, especially those that are creating communication pretty excited about this opportunity?

Mitch Reyes: Yeah, I mean in the channels division of our team, this is just a medium of communication that was just never available to them before. Their options prior to this rollout were very simple. If they wanted to reach out to their partners they either had to call them on the phone or they had to send an email from their outlook. Now we’re giving them this platform that lets them send out push notifications and email notifications to their partners at any given time so they can reach them both socially or, if some of their partners aren’t app focused, they can still get an email in their inbox and access E360 on the web instance. So, really powerful… This is kind of entering us into a new wave of a new era of communicating with our our reseller network around the world. It’s a great time.

Chuck Gose: Previously, I know that E360 is focused on a mobile app, but I learned that you’ve also been able to inject some of that content directly into your partner portal so you’re able to publish in one place and have it go to many places. How has that helped your effectiveness or availability of resources?

Mitch Reyes: I mean to us it’s an absolute game changer. One of the things that has helped us expand our reach of E360 is through the new feature of content amplifiers. And what we’ve done is we have a partner portal where our resellers log in to get information and resources and we’ve now created content amplifiers for some of our key channels that we launched in our partner communities. And there are now hyperlinks inside of our partner portal. So for example, we have a channel called The Sales Source, which is dedicated to any updates or news for our sales personnel from our resellers. And that’s now located on the sales page within the partner portal. And when they click on that, what’s cool is it literally shows them a live feed of E360 of all the latest posts that have been tagged to that channel without them even having to log in or go into E360.

Mitch Reyes: And then if they’re interested and they see a card that piques their interest, when they click on that, it’ll take them through E360. But the beauty is now that since we’ve enabled single sign on between that partner portal and E360, they don’t need to log in a second time. All they have to do is just click sign in and they instantly go to that post without any delay, so that’s an absolute game changer. It’s helped us increase our user counts over time and we’ve seen some great spikes in activity ever since we launched that during the second half of the year.

Chuck Gose: E360 has been around now for a few years. What are some of the next steps as we look into 2020 that the company wants to take with E360 or do additional things with E360?

Mitch Reyes: There’s quite a few I can think of off the top of my head where we’re constantly modifying this plan we see things move on. Recently we actually just had our partner conferences. We decided to do two this year, one in California and one in Athens, Greece and we used E360 for the, I say we’ve used it before, but this is the first time we really effectively used it as an event app and our partners were actually quite blown away with the app. They’ve known that it’s existed for awhile, but this is the first time that it’s been so useful for them that people are leaving on their phones and they’re excited to see what else we can produce for them. And it really has to do with some of the latest updates that you guys have pushed out with.

Mitch Reyes: One thing that helps us out immensely was the automatic subscription to channels. We were actually able to get the entire list of registrations, create a private group and private channels just for the events. So all the attendees instantly had access to these channels ready to go. We had special announcements every time our main sessions were starting out, where lunch was, where breakfast was, and where dinner was. And even though we were sending sometimes five, six, or seven pushes a day on the conferences, the feedback was unanimous. It was the most thoughtful and most useful app that they’ve ever seen at a company you mentioned before. So now that we’re riding on the coattails of that success, the plan here is to just keep producing content that’ll make them keep reacting that way. But this is still the most useful asset they have out of all of their vendors out there.

Mitch Reyes: My team is very small. It’s just myself and my colleague out there and our manager and we’ve got to decentralize our content production to our subject matter experts. They’re the ones that are masters of their information and we just have to give them the microphone so they can go ahead and share their message and their news to our partner community. So that’s the strategy. More relevant content. Keep it going and then decentralizing content production.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. It’s great to hear the use of the event because whether it’s an internal event for employees or an internal event for partners like yourself, we recognize how helpful the app can be. Sometimes that’s the use that people start to realize, “Oh, this is not all that it can be, but this is how it can benefit me.” And it is that go-to resource, whether it’s an agenda change, an event change, a speaker announcement, the cookies are being served at 4:00 PM, whatever it is, it becomes that driver. So people start to realize what the possibilities are. It makes it very real for them and know that’s definitely a great use of it because it does become that valued resource for them.

Mitch Reyes: It’s really funny too, because I ended up doing some of the photography for E360 during our main stage sessions and we had a professional photographer, but it was just easier for me to take photos on my cell phone to instantly upload a number on E360 and I accidentally chose to sit in the executive table to get a good shot. The Chief Marketing Officer for the entire company ends up sitting right next to me and I’m the only guy out there with my laptop pounding away during the sessions. He saw it was on E360 and was like, “Wow, that’s really cool. You’re posting live in real time to the whole audience.” And he asked me, “Oh, how many people have signed up for the event channels?” And I was happy to tell them for the first time, I think ever, we had 250 attendees there and all 250 were already registered because we had automatic subscriptions and he was super impressed with that because before we had to advertise to people, download the app, you have to log in, follow these channels. We didn’t have to do that anymore. It was just a complete game changer.

Chuck Gose: That’s great to hear and I fully expect it to continue to grow. So we talked a little bit about the company and the culture and the comms activity and you guys have had such great success with E360. Let’s move on now to the cocktails part of the podcast. So Mitch, what is your favorite cocktail?

Mitch Reyes: Well I’m based down here in South Florida and we’re pretty well known for our cocktails down in Miami. I tend to be a day-to-day bit of a traditionalist going to a gin and tonic. If I want something a little sweeter though, I’ll go for a Moscow Mule. But I’ll admit I’ve got to change by preference sometimes. If it’s a hot summer day down here, it can get up to the 90s so I have to hop on for a Tom Collins every now and then. But you could say the gin and vodka I tend to gravitate towards.

Chuck Gose: I have to ask just for a little detail, do you have a go-to gin or go-to vodka for those drinks?

Mitch Reyes: I’d say for gin, it’s definitely going to be Hendrick’s. That’s my go-to. For vodka, it could be something like Grey Goose or Tito’s. If we’re going to be really fancy, I love Beluga. That’s probably my favorite vodka out there.

Chuck Gose: You can never go wrong with a good classic Hendrick’s and tonic with little muddled cucumber in there. Almost the perfect drink.

Mitch Reyes: Got to make sure you got the Fever-Tree tonic water too.

Chuck Gose: There you go. All right Mitch well thanks again for being on the podcast and you guys, you and the team at Extreme Networks did a great job with E360. And I thought this is a unique story to tell where we typically do focus on the programs that are solely internal comms, but you provided a great example of there’s various internal communities that can benefit from this program not just to just be employees, but in your guys’ world, it was this partner network that now E360 is providing a great service to.

Mitch Reyes: Yeah, absolutely and happy to be on the podcast today.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture Comms & Cocktails on Apple podcast, 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 & 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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