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How Owens Corning finds the balance between their local and global content

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On this episode of Culture, Comms, and Cocktails, we have Brittany Barhite, Communications Leader at Owens Corning.

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 Brittany Barhite, Communications Leader at Owens Corning.

Owens Corning develops, manufactures, and markets insulation, roofing, and fiberglass composites. Global in scope and human in scale, the company’s market-leading businesses use their deep expertise in materials, manufacturing and building science to develop products and systems that save energy and improve comfort in commercial and residential buildings. It has been a Fortune 500® company for 63 consecutive years.

I think the data we’ve been able to gather from using SocialChorus has really been eye opening. One thing is people love leader communications. We’ve always guessed that and thought that, but they really love the authentic leader communications, the quick videos from their home. We just had a leader do a shot from his RV, and people like to see them in their authentic landscapes, their homes.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 38 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 thrilled today to invite to the podcast Brittany Barhite, communications leader at Owens Corning.

Chuck Gose: Brittany, welcome to the podcast.

Brittany Barhite: Thank you.

Chuck Gose: Now first and foremost, in this pandemic that we’re in I do like to ask everybody, how are you doing? Where does this podcast find you today? How are the people you love doing during this critical time?

Brittany Barhite: Thanks for asking. Well, it’s definitely a challenging time, I know, for all of us. I’m lucky enough to live, I’m at my home today, we have flexible hours at Owens Corning. I live two doors down from my one sister, and a block away from my mom and other sister, so luckily I’ve been able to socially distance walk during this time. But as a communications person, I’m sure other people listening to this podcast feel the same way, it’s been a crucial time for communications, a very busy time. And, I have found connection through our communications has really been key for us, and SocialChorus has helped with that. I’ve been trying to focus a lot there.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. Taking care of yourself, and I love that social distance walks and having a community to be able to do that is good, and especially family members. Even better.

Brittany Barhite: Exactly.

Chuck Gose: To be able to check on them.

Chuck Gose: Owens Corning has been a SocialChorus customer now, for a few years. What I’m curious about is as a communicator, is there anything that you’ve learned about content, and how employees consume content, that maybe you didn’t know before?

Brittany Barhite: Sure. I think the data we’ve been able to gather from using SocialChorus has really been eye opening. One thing is people love leader communications. We’ve always guessed that and thought that, but they really love the authentic leader communications, the quick videos from their home. We just had a leader do a shot from his RV, and people like to see them in their authentic landscapes, their homes.

Brittany Barhite: But also, one of our top performing posts was actually a CEO post of his pink Christmas tree, because we’re known for pink at Owens Corning, and his dog. Still, to this day, that was one of the top performing posts. So while he gives a lot of great updates, people love that authentic, get to know the personal side of our leaders.

Brittany Barhite: They also really like user submitted content. People like to hear the business updates, and the leader communications, but they’re more apt to cheer each other on and be cheerleaders, and comment and interact with the user submitted content, so we see that do really well.

Brittany Barhite: As usual with social media, pictures, images say 1000 words, so people like those quick hits. They don’t have a ton of time, but they love to scroll through and see those items as well. I think the data’s really shown that.

Brittany Barhite: And finally, I would say local content. While we have a corporate hub we do a lot of communications from, we help create facility or country channels, and people love to have their local content shared. Because if you’re in a facility, you’re closer to those leaders, those different topics, and so that means a lot to you. They go in to see a lot of that local, organic content.

Chuck Gose: Now, I’m curious from the marketing and brand team, did they verify that the tree was the right Pantone color of pink?

Brittany Barhite: It was not, but don’t tell the branding team. That one’s hard to find, it’s very bright pink.

Chuck Gose: I’m sure that it is. But definitely trying to be on brand, even at Christmas time which is pretty remarkable.

Chuck Gose: You had mentioned about that balance of the global content which you’re part of creating, plus then that local content. How do you find that balance? Do you see some locations doing better than others? And what, in your mind, qualifies as better?

Brittany Barhite: Yeah. I do see some locations probably having more activity, more engagement, which qualifies a little bit as better, but I don’t want to put down those that might not be getting quite as much interactivity yet because it’s coming.

Brittany Barhite: I will say, one of the things that we find is we’ve tried to set up processes to help those, because not everybody in those local places are communicators in their day job. They have their own jobs. There’s HR, plant leaders, we’ve had lots of different folks step up and say, “We find it important to have a local channel, but this is my side job.” So if we can equip them with image libraries, and best practices, and show them how to quickly use Program Studio to better manage their content, we find that us helping guide them makes it easier for them to put their local content, so that does seem to do well.

Chuck Gose: I love the words you used, saying that they stepped up. I think that’s good advice for communicators out there, looking to encourage other participants out there, whether it’s a site leader, an HR leader, whoever that is, asking them to step up. It does become a side job, but hopefully it makes their normal job maybe a little bit easier because they’re in control of their communication.

Brittany Barhite: Yeah. When they have the opportunity to share. For example, we have a project management team, we have another one that focuses on process improvements in manufacturing, and they both have launched channels. It’s an opportunity for them to share change management, communications, and their programs in a different channel. But yeah, it’s a new learning strategy for them to learn how to use the tool, but hopefully in the end, will make it easier for them to share their really good messages company wide.

Chuck Gose: Now, the program you us there is called OC Now.

Brittany Barhite: Yes.

Chuck Gose: And you use multiple endpoints, the app being one. But recently, you changed the strategy of the web, or what we call the web experience, for people that want to access this news and information from their browser. What has that response been, with that change in stg? And, what did you change around it?

Brittany Barhite: Yeah definitely, very exciting. When we first started launching SocialChorus, what we call OC Now, we found that our salaried employees, who were more at their desks a lot, they liked to interact with the browser still. But, our SharePoint, our Intranet site, was still our main page so it took an extra click to get to see OC Now. While our primary employees, the plant floors, they tended to be on their mobile phone, so we liked the opportunity to use both. But we still found people were not quite adapting, or one of the things that we find is we’ve tried to set up processes to help those, because not everybody in those local places are communicators in their day job. They have their own jobs. So if we can equip them with image libraries, and best practices, and show them how to quickly use Program Studio to better manage their content, we find that us helping guide them makes it easier for them to put their local content, so that does seem to do well.

Brittany Barhite: Just in July, we called it the flip, and branded someone doing a back flip. We changed their homepage to be OC Now. OC Now, SocialChorus at the top, changed it so that we could edit the hyperlink so that was huge for us. We had click backs to our Intranet and other key resources that people use, like our HRIS system. So it wasn’t as big of a change to have SocialChorus pop up, they could read all the different channels not just four stories, and then click to go to their other resources.

Brittany Barhite: We had, before that happened, 5000 registered users, and we’re now over 10,000. We just celebrated that milestone in less than two months. We’ve seen a huge improvement, more activity, more people clicking on posts. Our activity levels have increased by 500% because before, it wasn’t in their face to remind them to look at all that great content, and now it’s the first thing they see when they open the homepage.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. When I’ve talked to other customers about that tactic they’re like, “Isn’t that tricking them?” I’m like, “No, it’s just making it first and foremost.”

Brittany Barhite: Yeah.

Chuck Gose: You’re putting that up so they don’t have to hunt and find, looking for content.

Brittany Barhite: Right. It’s just one more click away. Our Intranet, that was a change, we’d say, “It’s just one click away,” so they still had the opportunity to go to the other resources, we weren’t taking that away. We were just making sure it was relevant, and quickly to connect to that content.

Brittany Barhite: I always say we need to think like marketers when we do internal comm, because it needs to be timely, relevant, and in their face. Think about when you walk by a storefront, you get that app reminder that you just passed that store, or you get an ad a little bit later, we need to do the same thing to make sure because we’re bombarded with messages every day. The more we can put it in front of them for easier access, the more they’ll be able to grab the information they need.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. There’s a lot of internal communicators that don’t like to think like marketers, that’s a bad word for them. But, I’m on your side on this, Brittany. I always say we need to think like marketers when we do internal comm, because it needs to be timely, relevant, and in their face. Think about when you walk by a storefront, you get that app reminder that you just passed that store, or you get an ad a little bit later, we need to do the same thing to make sure because we’re bombarded with messages every day. The more we can put it in front of them for easier access, the more they’ll be able to grab the information they need.

Brittany Barhite: I have a marketing background, and I’m bringing it, I’m making it the new trend.

Chuck Gose: I love it, I love it. You talked about a 500% increase in activity from employees. I want to talk about, now, the activity of communicators. By now having this single point of publishing, where some people might look at it on the app, some people might look at it on the web, some people might like in another spot, that that should be saving communicators time. Or at least, being more efficient.

Chuck Gose: What have you seen now, with having that single point on publishing creating more efficiency? Have you been able to focus more on content? Or, have you been digging into data more? Or, have you simply been able to take a deep breath, and not react and plan more communications? What communication behavior changes have you seen there at Owens Corning?

Brittany Barhite: Sure. We have an editor of our OC News, we call it, which is our main corporate channel. She was publishing in two places, so she has been very happy the past few months. I know she’s been happier.

Brittany Barhite: I would say, we almost might have gotten busier, but not because we’re publishing in more places but because we’ve gained more awareness from the analytics, and more excitement from different departments and people, to start their own channels. But I think it’s starting to hit a plateau, because now we’ve established processes, and procedures, and metrics. Yeah, I think we’ve made it to a point where we have a little more time, we’ve implemented it, we have processes, we have channels. We now have our way we want people to access it.

Brittany Barhite: So now, we can step back and be strategic about how to adapt, and get our primary, our hourly employees on more. How can we look at the analytics, and make data-driven decisions with our content? Maybe our stories are too long. So we’ve had more time to pay attention to that type of strategic next steps.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. Earlier, you had talked about your hourly employees, and your frontline employees at the plant level. Obviously, this is available to them. But in 2020 and 2021, your team has a focus of, I don’t want to say rolling it out, but promoting it more to those facilities. How is that working, and what has the results been so far?

Brittany Barhite: Yeah. We had about six key goals as we went into 2020, because we launched in 2019. One of those was to make eight to 10 best practice plant channels. We really wanted to get those plants comfortable, we wanted to make a process. So we have image libraries, we have training, we have a whole lot of stuff that we have created that they can use as what I like to call a copy smart as we move to different plants. It’s not copy exact, because every different location is different, and they have their own culture. But, what can we lift and shift, as we launch future channels? That’s one of our approaches.

Brittany Barhite: The other reason to have a best practice is to learn before we launch some more, and they can be our advocates. So our plant leaders talk all the time to one another. I was just on a call a few weeks ago where one of them is like, “What’s this OC Now? No one has time for it. They can’t use their phones, except on break.” And then one of our plants was like, “Oh, we use it. We’ve seen great results because of this, and we have people going in, and we’re doing lunch menus, and we’re doing our safety metrics.” That plant, once we got them up and running, was able to be our advocate.

Brittany Barhite: We’re excited, by the end of 2020, to have 10 channels launched. As I mentioned, we’ll have all our different procedures in place, and then we’ll look at our goals for 2021 to duplicate that, and continue to get more plants on board.

Brittany Barhite: The other thing we’re working on is what connections, what integrations do we need to do, so I’m focusing on paychecks. We did some talking and research with our primary hourly employees, and we found that they go to their kiosk to look at their paychecks a lot. So how can we integrate, we use SAP, with SocialChorus? And that’s our next steps, too, because if we put in things they want to go in for, then they’ll see all the other great information once they’re in.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. No, that’s a great idea. If you can get them out of having to go to a kiosk to look at things and do it more privately, especially something like their paycheck out there, that’s a brilliant idea. Any time you can add more utility to the platform, that’s only going to increase its use, and make it more usable for a lot of people out there.

Chuck Gose: Now, you might have already answered my next question so I’m going to put you on for more tips. But, I know that some communicators who work in environments where there’s manufacturing, there’s hourly employees, there’s plants, they struggle with getting adoptions, or bridging that gap to that workforce. You talked about the copy smart, which I think is great. But, do you have any tips for communicators on building relationships with plant leaders, or site leaders, to show them? Because the example you provided was one said, “No, no, no, this isn’t going to work.” And the other one was like, “No, no, no, it totally works.” How do you start build those relationships?

Brittany Barhite: I think a lot of it… We can go in with our best presentation and everything, and bells and whistles, but at the end of the day it helps to have those advocates. I have been doing roadshows. We went personally, before COVID, to some places to gauge which plants would be best to first target. We talked to them, we did marketing there, we equipped them with all different types of fun marketing items to get their people on board. But as you mentioned, first you need to get the leaders involved.

Brittany Barhite: We show them some of the different stories they can tell, how it’s all in one place, they can move some of their updates to this platform, and get people in and engaged, instead of maybe posting flyers, and posting on their digital sign. We could all move it here, if we create a new culture of Steve coming in, popping up his phone to see what happened on the plant floor, but then also checking it at lunch, and then at his break. We try to go through a day in a life of a plant or primary worker to show how it’s a little different, but how they can still engage. And then, we’ve been doing testimonials. So who that has been advocate for it, they’ve come in, they’ve helped talk and do testimonials, to help get our other manufacturing plants involved.

Brittany Barhite: I will say, COVID has helped us a lot. It’s the silver lining of something negative, but when we weren’t able to connect as well, or we had less people even in our plants, we had a whole India team come to me and say, “Listen, we have a skeleton crew. How can we get information to them? They don’t check their email, not all of them even have emails.” I said, “Let’s get you four plant channels,” and we launched in two weeks, to all their India ones. They have seen great success. Initially COVID started it, but then they see the benefits.

Brittany Barhite: The other suggestion that would be is at the top. We have a couple presidents of our businesses who we’ve helped get them on board, they see the benefit, and they are our best spokespeople. Because when they were traveling pre-COVID, or on calls now saying, “Check out this on OC Now,” it gets their people to pay attention and see the benefits as well.

Chuck Gose: I love that example of the channels in India, because it shows the dynamic nature in how this platform can be one thing on day, to one audience, and another thing to a new audience another day, without throwing up blockers in the way of doing it. Just saying, “Nope, we can totally do this,” and then two weeks later, there it is. And then, those employees are getting the benefit of it. I think that’s a great, to echo what you shared before, it is all be relationships, and people building that trust out there.

Chuck Gose: This is an unscripted question Brittany, but seeing your enthusiasm for OC Now, I want to ask you this. It’s clear that you are very proud of this work that you’ve done at Owens Corning with OC Now, and others involved. What are you most proud of, when you think about OC Now?

Brittany Barhite: Oh, that’s a great question. Well first of all, you mentioned others, and we have a great team that helps support OC Now at Owens Corning. But, I was always proud of being able to help launch with this culture change, because it’s not how people initially interacted, it’s a different way to think about communications. We took it from more formal news stories, which we still have, but how else can we also engage through more of that quick, brief, bulletin types or images so we’re changing the way we think about communications. That’s one thing I was proud of.

Brittany Barhite: But once COVID hit, my mindset changed even more, because we saw people looking for a way to connect. And what better way than a socially distant tool, where you don’t have to be by each other? We went remote in US, our China and Asia-Pacific folks had earlier, March 16th. After that, we just saw people really struggling, personally, professionally. So on our community channel, which we call Voices, we started a campaign all about where are you working from, because some were home, some were stuck somewhere, some were going into the office but showing how they were to socially distance at a plant. What are you eating? What local recipes? Are there cool restaurants doing something that’s COVID safe? We saw 1000% increase on this community channel.

Chuck Gose: Wow, that is amazing.

Brittany Barhite: Yeah, it was amazing. We had 1000% increase of submissions, people being interactive because they needed that sense of community. It was really nice to see that OC Now could provide that, and show how people were still connecting, and still being a part of Owens Corning. And outside of Owens Corning, just a part of a community during a really hard global pandemic.

Brittany Barhite:
Prior to that, I would say all that we did to get where we went I was proud of, but now I would say that’s my, probably, favorite story because it was just really needed at the time.

Chuck Gose: That’s really great to hear, I’m glad I asked that question of you.

Chuck Gose: The podcast is called Culture, Comms and Cocktails, Brittany. So I’m curious, what is your favorite cocktail? Or, if somebody’s in Northwest Ohio, where you’re located, what’s a cocktail in a place you’d recommend getting that cocktail?

Brittany Barhite: Well, I prefer a weekly Taco Tuesday at La Fiesta, if you’re in the area. But hands down, a margarita on the rocks, any day.

Chuck Gose: A solid recommend, Brittany. Thanks again for being on the podcast, thanks for all the great work you’re doing there at Owens Corning with OC Now, and thanks to the rest of the team there that has made this a great thing. You’re right, there’s been a really tough time for people in a lot of different ways,
professionally and personally, so it’s great, as you pointed out, that with OC Now what maybe started out as, largely, a news and information tool has turned into this connection tool for those out there.

Chuck Gose: So thanks again for telling these stories and sharing your advice, it’s been great to hear.

Brittany Barhite: Thanks for having me.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture, Comms and Cocktails on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Spotify, or where 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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SocialChorus is the leading workforce communications platform that transforms how workers and organizations connect every day. We empower communicators to reach every worker–from the head office to the front line. Companies thrive and win when all their workers feel informed, aligned, and supported. The SocialChorus platform allows communicators to publish once and distribute everywhere–efficiently delivering critical information to the right employee at the right time.

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