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Why communications is the backbone from MGM to Department of Health with Rey Bouknight

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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 the podcast, we have Rey Bouknight, Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus.

I think we have recognized the importance of having the tools, the resources and the talent in order to communicate in an effective way. Because it serves situations such in the case of COVID-19, it can mean a question of whether business results are being delivered and when it came to working for an organization like the Department of Health and Human Services, it literally meant whether or not lives would be lost.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 44 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. And on this episode of Culture, Comms and Cocktails, we have Rey Bouknight, who was not only guest number one on the podcast, but is also now a Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus. So, welcome back to the podcast, Rey.

Rey Bouknight: Thank you, Chuck. I’m so excited to be here on the podcast again and excited to be here in my new role of Strategic Advisor with SocialChorus. Thanks for having me.

Chuck Gose: Absolutely. So, where does the podcast find you today?

Rey Bouknight: So the podcast finds me at a place different from where I was when I was last on the podcast. It finds me in Lansing, Michigan. There’s the saying that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, not everything about a year and a half or so ago. My wife and I relocated back to Michigan, which is my home state. So, that’s where you find me this morning.

Chuck Gose: And then, during this pandemic, we’ve all dealt with it in different ways. How are you and the people you care about doing during this time?

Rey Bouknight: Yeah. All things considered, we’re doing pretty well. It’s obviously a challenging time I think for everyone right now, with two young ones, one of which is doing distance learning here at the house and jogging the kids at the house, that could be a bit challenging. But when you look at globally, all that’s happening, things could be much worse. My family is doing really well. Thank you for asking me.

Chuck Gose: As I mentioned in the intro, you are now a Strategic Advisor at SocialChorus and part of the A team, as I’ve called us. Talk a bit about your career path and what led you to this moment.

Rey Bouknight: As I mentioned, quite a bit has changed since I was last on the podcast. Before I was with MGM Resorts International serving as the Executive Director of Internal Brand and Engagement Strategy and that’s how I was introduced to you, Chuck, and the entire SocialChorus team. Since then, and following my move back to Michigan, I had the opportunity to lead the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Communications, which has been just an incredible experience, working with several experts in the field of health and human services at a pretty critical time, [inaudible] you’re encountering the global pandemic. So, since then I had the opportunity to join SocialChorus. And in the back of my mind, since I had the chance to work with SocialChorus at MGM, I’ve been thinking, “It’d be phenomenal for me to have a chance to work with the team here.” And I’m just delighted to see how things have panned out.

Chuck Gose: And to think back, Rey, but obviously to have someone like you, with your experience, in that public health communication during this pandemic, it’s something that probably residents of Michigan may not realize how beneficial that probably was or how helpful that was, because in this time, we’ve all learned so much and we’re all still students of communication. So even with your experience at the state of Michigan and MGM and other places you’ve worked, what’s something you’ve learned about the profession and/or this industry as a result of everything we’ve gone through in 2020?

Rey Bouknight: Yeah. That’s a great question, Chuck. As communicators, I think we have maybe taken for granted within ourselves, understanding how critical communications is and for anyone that had any doubts about whether corporate communications internal or external is important to an organization achieving its business results, then I think it’s been made clear with 2020 just how vital a role communications is.

Rey Bouknight: And you could see that both, I’ll get on the internal and the external side, whether you are a communicator working to engage the public, as I was in my role with the Department of Health and Human Services, helping to inform them and to make decisions that would help to slow the spread of COVID-19 or if you are an internal communicator helping a organization navigate the unchartered territories that we are still going through as it relates to this year and COVID-19.

Rey Bouknight: So, in short, it’s just a reinforcement that, and this is a vernacular that SocialChorus uses that communications is the backbone. And I think individuals have recognized the importance of that. I think also we have recognized the importance of having the tools, the resources and the talent in order to communicate in an effective way. Because it serves situations such in the case of COVID-19, it can mean a question of whether business results are being delivered and when it came to working for an organization like the Department of Health and Human Services, it literally meant whether or not lives would be lost.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. And there is so much that all of us have learned both professionally and personally during this of what communication is and truly, I think has redefined crisis communication to more of a term that I’m stealing from someone which is critical communication. And I hope that communicators all took note of all these lessons we’ve learned as we move on into 2021. And you’re in an interesting position, as you mentioned, having once been a customer of SocialChorus. It’s funny, Rey, when I left Rolls-Royce now, which feels like a lifetime ago, it was a join a company that I had worked with much like you had worked with SocialChorus. So what was that experience like working with us and thinking about that now that you’re a part of us?

Rey Bouknight: Yeah. So, a few things that really set SocialChorus apart when it came to working with me and my team at MGM Resorts International, first is the people, so having the chance to work with you, Chuck, and so many others as SocialChorus. And the customer service that the team provided definitely made you guys stand out. For the very beginning, taking time to understand the business of MGM Resorts, taking time to understand the goals and exactly what we were trying to achieve. And then helping us walk through the journey of achieving those goals.

Rey Bouknight: That experience was incredibly helpful. Me being an in-house communicator, where I was jumping several different things. It was great to have someone and a team walk the journey with me. And at SocialChorus, we use, it’s a value of ours to say we succeed together. And I think that applies not just within the bounds of SocialChorus, but also in us, how we engage our customers. That’s definitely how I felt when it came to working with SocialChorus, is that phrase, we succeed together, determine how SocialChorus, the SocialChorus team, would engage with me as a customer.

Rey Bouknight: Then as far as the product, and I mentioned this before on the podcast and I continue to see this happening is how the platform of SocialChorus continues to evolve. Trying to mirror the expectations that employees have and how they’re used to receiving communications. At MGM at the time, I would raise questions to say, there are certain things that weren’t up, more options were available at the time, such as tagging individuals.

Rey Bouknight: And I remember one day when I brought it up to you, “It would be great if we could tag individuals in comments or in pictures.” And it’s like magically a couple of days later, that tagging feature was made available. So, the point that I’m trying to make is that the technologies continues to evolve. And I’m seeing that now that I’m back, I will say, in the SocialChorus family so to speak, that the technology didn’t end when I made the transition out of MGM, but you have continued to evolve in a way that is very exciting and shows the innovation that drives SocialChorus.

Rey Bouknight: So, those are a couple of things I would say, the experience, working with SocialChorus left such an impression on me that I told myself, “If I do have that opportunity to join the SocialChorus team, I’m definitely going to go into take that.”

Chuck Gose: Now it was great working with you and the team at MGM. And obviously we continue to work very closely with the team at MGM, with [Leo 00:09:06]. And as you know, Rey, you never had to twist my arm to get me to come out to Vegas. So, I was always happy to be there and would have spent as much time as possible out there. But as you mentioned about this transition, now think about this as a comms professional. Yes, you had a great experience as a customer, which we want all of our customers to have. What is it though, as a comms professional, that interested you in being a Strategic Advisor with SocialChorus?

Rey Bouknight: As far as the direction and what drives me as a communicator, it is one way to help organizations redefine how they communicate to their employees in order to help them drive stronger business results. That is something that fits directly in the mission, vision and values of SocialChorus. When I was with MGM Resorts International, being able to see the power that technology and the platform that SocialChorus provided, helped to transform not just how we communicate, but ultimately the culture of the company, made me so excited about the possibilities of not just that happened in a place like MGM Resorts, but other companies as well.

Rey Bouknight: Combined that with my time at the Department of Health and Human Services and seeing how critical, when it comes to a crisis such as COVID-19, internet communications is in order to keep an employee base motivated and engaged. Combine those two and the learnings that I received with both organizations really made me want to join a team where I can apply those learnings and help other companies, guide them and advancing, transforming their digital employee experience in order to achieve those business results that they were really seeking.

Rey Bouknight: So, I’m sure I would say the alignment of mission, vision, values, the culture that’s at SocialChorus, the relationships that I had a chance to build ever since working with SocialChorus at MGM Resorts had such a lasting impression in my mind that when that opportunity came, I definitely wanted to jump in and take it.

Chuck Gose: And the company is growing like crazy, obviously now in 2020, and in 2021, it seems like every day, there’s a couple of new jobs posted. If we’re connected on LinkedIn, you see me post those jobs that are available. So we want the right people to join our team. And as someone who recently went through that application process and interview process, Rey, what would be your words of encouragement to someone who’s thinking of applying to work at SocialChorus, or is contemplating an offer from the company?

Rey Bouknight: I would say the opportunity in front of you is even greater than what you see. I was already excited about the chance to work with SocialChorus, [inaudible] to stay in the position posted and applying for it. I was excited at what could come out as a result of that. But what I did not see is behind the veil, all of the things that’s happening is SocialChorus, the momentum, the innovation, and as I mentioned it before, the evolution of not just the technology and the platform, but the evolution of the company. The vision is so great, the people are so engaged. There’s such a drive for us to build SocialChorus and continue to advance it.

Rey Bouknight: I’m even more excited than I was when I first put in my application. So I would offer that as far as encouragement to that person that might’ve seen maybe your LinkedIn post and is questioning whether or not they should apply. I would say, go ahead and apply because the opportunity is much greater than what you see right now. And you’ll be joining a phenomenal team if you have that opportunity. I have absolutely no regrets. I’m so excited to be a new team member with the A team, the advisor team, as we say, and I’m so thrilled to see what’s coming on the horizon and the opportunities that are being presented.

Chuck Gose: And you mentioned, you have joined a great team and there are teams within teams, as we see. So we’ve got our A team. So I have an important question for you, Rey, which was cooler, being on the podcast now twice or now being a part of the A team?

Rey Bouknight: Let’s see. Well, I don’t know if… How should I put this? I would say that being on the podcast before maybe positioned me in a better place to join the A team. So, I don’t know if having not been on the podcast would have allowed me to have such an opportunity as I have right now. So I don’t want to disconnect the two. I think both have been very cool. But I will say this though, that the podcast, that was great, that was one, now two time thing. But having a career at SocialChorus is definitely a long-term thing, is something that I’m looking forward to that’s going to be standing.

Rey Bouknight: So, I guess if I had to choose between the two, I would say joining the A team, but I’m very much looking forward to continuing to be engaged and working with you, Chuck, and the entire A team when it comes to things such as this podcast.

Chuck Gose: Yeah. When I think back, Rey, it’s very serendipitous that we’re at this moment now, to think that, yes, you were the first guest, that was not by chance, because when I decided I wanted to launch this Culture, Comms and Cocktails podcast, I said to myself, “I want Rey to be guest number one on here.” So, it’s great to now have this moment where you’re back on the podcast, but more importantly, as you point, you are now part of the SocialChorus team, part of our A team, working with us, working with our clients, you’re getting into the wheels and learning about our processes and our methodologies, but also sharing your own experiences with customers and I know only the company and our customers are going to benefit that as well as the rest of the communications profession, having you be a part of our team.

Chuck Gose: And the podcast is called Culture, Comms and Cocktails. And you’ve talked about the culture and how important that is to you, obviously all the communications activities you’ve been a part of. When I rethink back to that first episode, Rey, and asked you this question, you had made some MGM recommendations of people going and checking out the park, checking out a couple of places there. But now that you’re in Lansing, Michigan, Rey, we’re far away from Las Vegas, as much as I would love to be there right there today, we’re not there today. What is your favorite cocktail or cocktail recommendation to listeners?

Rey Bouknight: Yes. So I’m unable to provide a recommendation as far as a place to go, because we’re not able to go many places right now in light of COVID, but I will share a cocktail recommendation, which I don’t think it’s a new one or anything fancy, but for me, I’ll just say a Moscow mule, which is easy for me to make here at the house, given I’m not able to go many places. That’s been a go-to, easy one to put together and a pretty standard one that I like to enjoy here and there. So, hopefully it helps.

Chuck Gose: Well, thank you, Rey. Again, it’s been great getting to know you the last couple of years, we’re obviously going to be able to spend even more time together now, part of the A team. So thrilled to have you and others joining our team. We’ve got another episode that’s coming up next with another communicator who’s joined A team. So I’ll be interviewing her for the next episode. But again, Rey, great having you here both 2020, 2021 and beyond. Thanks again for being on the podcast.

Rey Bouknight: Well, thanks again for having me, Chuck. I’m so delighted to be speaking to you, not from outside of the SocialChorus organization, but now as a colleague, and a team member. So, it’s great to have this conversation. It is quite the coincidence, the fortunate occurrence that I’m able to go from being the first guest, but also now a fellow team member. So I appreciate your time and looking forward to getting into supporting the effort here.

Chuck Gose: Best wishes to you and your family, Rey.

Rey Bouknight: Thank you, likewise.

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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