SickKids Foundation is a trailblazer in children’s care and research. Their commitment to innovation and care is second to none in Canada, and their team of dedicated staff work endlessly to ensure that The Hospital for Sick Children receives the support it needs.
We at PostBeyond consider ourselves so incredibly lucky to have SickKids Foundation as a partner. The team there continues to inspire us every day with the work they do.
I sat down with Mark Jordan, Director of Digital Projects, Brand Strategy & Communications at SickKids Foundation to learn more about how their organization uses technology to enhance their communications efforts.
A hybrid thinker, Mark brings years of experience in digital marketing and brand strategy to SickKids. Working in both an agency and corporate setting prior to the foundation, he’s seen the evolution of digital marketing from many different angles.
“My journey started prior to internet marketing even being a vehicle,” he told me. It turns out that, although digital marketing and social media have changed the game, the core value of marketing remains the same: identifying a problem and finding a solution to it.
I tend to agree. We’re past the age of having a branded Facebook page for the sake of being trendy. And similarly, we’re past the age of having a corporate intranet to seem “approachable” to employees. Digital is a channel, but not THE channel, as Mark said. Both internal and external communications exist to identify and solve problems, and we can’t lose sight of that.
So, what does this mean for the workplace? We know that many enterprises have broken internal communications systems, but with a mission as important as SickKids’, strong communications is of paramount importance.
I asked Mark for his thoughts around the future of work and the role that technology plays in communications. He offered some fantastic insight as to how one of Canada’s largest charitable organizations infuses technology into their internal communications processes to spread their message externally.
MH: What are some of the biggest communications challenges facing the workplace in 2016?
MJ: I think, and not dissimilar to challenges that exist outside of the workplace, it’s breaking through the clutter. There’s so much noise, there’s so much demand for attention, that some of the same challenges you have trying to get your message through outside are the same challenges you have internally.
I also think people are increasingly looking for reliable sources of information. In the past it would have been intranets, but now it’s fragmented. You’ve got intranets, town halls, emails, so it’s very cluttered.
Even if you spend every waking hour trying to keep up with all of the information that’s being put forth, you’ll never stay on top of it. So how do you make sure the key information is getting through? That’s the main obstacle.
MH: How would you define the Future of Work?
MJ: One of the trends I’m seeing is not necessarily everyone working together in the same work space. It’s moving toward allowing people to work where they need to in order to get work done. I think another trend is the idea of “gigging” and not necessarily working somewhere for 20 years or even 5 years, but working on a “passion project” basis.
And another one is the diversification of backgrounds. In the not-for-profit world, it used to be that you started at, let’s say, Canadian Cancer Society, then you moved to Heart & Stroke, then you went to SickKids, and you kind of make the rounds within your industry. But now there’s a respect for different perspectives and backgrounds. So we want to have, for example, that executive who worked at a bank for a few years because they bring a totally different perspective.
It’s more about the mindset of people working together, versus “I’ve got these 20 technical skills” – because guess what? Those skills might not be relevant in a year from now. So hiring based on mindset and attitude is a trend that I’ve seen. If you have the right mindset and attitude, everything else can be learned.
MH: What role does communications play in the evolution of the workplace?
MJ: Well, I think the ability to make employees feel connected to the culture, to the information, to the “what’s going on”, that whole connectedness, I think that’s even more important when we’re talking about the distributed workforce.
I also think the notion of people being able to get the information they want and filter it based on their needs, not what they’re told is important. So it’s empowering them with communications tools where they can determine what’s important to them within the communication flow, versus an email blast to “all” where the reaction is “I’m not interested – turn that off” I think is also important for communications in future of work.
MH: How do you think technology in the workplace has evolved? And what are some emerging trends in terms of attitude?
MJ: I think it could possibly be generational. People are used to working a certain way, and it’s hard to change behaviours. Think of carrying a laptop versus stacks of paper – it’s a comfort thing for some people. I think the generational shift of millennials entering the workplace is going to accelerate that change. I still see the resistance around technology – it’s almost like a barrier – where some people can break through, and some people, the moment technology is even talked about, are immediately like “I’m out. Bring in the propeller heads.”
Again, that’s the generational thing. The next generation (Gen Z?) won’t even consider it – you know, it’s just there for them. It’s like us talking about electricity, it just IS.
But I think we’re going through a massive shift. Soon enough, millennials will be taking on senior management roles, and be calling the shots.
MH: It’s an interesting paradox. We see articles all the time about “how to market to millennials”, but then when you get to implementing that kind of change within a workplace where millennials are actually working, there’s resistance.
MJ: Yeah, we’ve all seen the recent articles that say “we need to remove ‘Digital’ from everyone’s titles!” And the reality is – I completely agree – it’s not about “digital marketing” or “digital strategy”, it’s now strategy and marketing with the assumption that we operate in a digital world.
But where we hit that paradox is: we still need people with that deep technical knowledge, because at some point, we have to implement it properly. We need to build solutions at a high strategic level, but we also still need individuals who can get the work done.
MH: There’s a widening gap between the future of work and how enterprises are embracing it. How is SickKids Foundation reconciling that gap?
MJ: I think, like many things of this nature, it starts at the top. We have a culture initiative here at the Foundation called “BOOST” (Building On Our Strengths Together). We do things we call “innovation rounds” where we bring new ideas and ways of thinking and share them widely with the foundation as a whole. There’s a deep, vested interest and understanding that growing the technology literacy and digital literacy involves investing both time and resources.
Our training programs are valued and upheld here. It’s not like “We need to be digital – here’s a new tool. Go!” It’s making sure that the proper training and resources are in place. There’s definitely a culture around learning, training, sharing, and collaboration. Two of our core values are innovation and collaboration, which I think helps us bridge the gap.
There’s always a fine balance of “what’s in it for the employee”, and we try to continually incorporate that.
MH: What would you say is the role of employees in building a strong brand?
I view the 190 people we have in the office here as some of our strongest potential ambassadors. They’re the most connected to the cause and the most passionate about what the brand is doing. How do we enable them to spread the word?
We all have networks, we all have people we talk to – we’re the best ambassadors of what we do here. It goes back to communications: we need to make sure that everyone understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and that there’s a common language around it.
And then we can take that even further. We have 10,000 employees across the street at the hospital. There’s another 10,000 people who on a daily basis, make SickKids what it is. We at the foundation think that we enable the hospital, because at the end of the day, we don’t exist without the hospital. There’s no foundation without the hospital. And the 10,000 staff that are over there doing the work, and directly helping or saving children’s lives, are even closer to the cause. So that’s an avenue with PostBeyond that we haven’t even begun to explore, but we know that the potential is there for those ambassadors.
MH: Recent research from Hinge Marketing finds that 72% of employees at high-growth firms have not received any formal social media training. What are your thoughts on that?
MJ: It’s a huge problem. There’s still a lot of misnomers around social media. Because people understand it from a personal standpoint (like “I’m on Facebook”), that doesn’t necessarily translate as to how to use Facebook as a brand. There are different strategies and approaches as to how one uses Facebook as a person versus as a brand.
And I think there’s still a reticence among some people to use their personal channels to talk about what they’re doing in their work life. So, on Facebook I’m going to add my stuff from what I did this weekend, and then move on to then share this deeply emotional story from SickKids, there might be a disconnect. But the reality is: you know your friends, and you know who’s connected with you – it all resonates. It isn’t about the juxtaposition of the content, it’s about whether you think your friends will find it relevant.
It should be a reflection of who you are. And I think that’s the real power social media holds: it shows who you are and authentically builds your personal brand based on what you decide to share.
MH: What skills do you think are necessary for someone who wants to lead a digital change in their enterprise?
I think about the journey of how we got PostBeyond. We were wrestling with the problem of ways to amplify the brand, and employee advocacy was an idea we had talked about for quite some time. We met with some of the PostBeyond team, saw that platform, and decided that this would be a tool that could help solve the problem we had.
But I think for skills it isn’t necessarily someone who has technical capabilities. It’s more about someone who can see the connection with what a tool has to offer and what problem you’re trying to solve. So for example, with PostBeyond, it would mean someone who can see farther than “posting to social media” aspects and see the potential for other uses, like internal communications. We have all of this brand content to share, as well as company advisories or other internal content that our employees need to see. It’s a dashboard for us, not just a tool for us to post content. I think for someone to lead this type of program, it would need to be someone who can connect the dots and see those other opportunities.
And I think, too, someone who can rally and influence a team. When we first decided on PostBeyond, we knew that it had to happen before our Fall Brand campaign. That was the timeline we committed to, and it wasn’t “oh, it would be great to set this up, we’ll do it someday.” We had tons of great content coming out around November-December, and we set a very specific timeline in accordance with that. Someone who can commit to getting started and meet a deadline, I think, is another important quality.
MH: Why did you choose to partner with PostBeyond?
MJ: First and foremost, it was easy to use. It felt like you guys had thought of everything ahead of time. The quality of the product is top notch, and it’s continuing to evolve.
Also – the onboarding. I remember Chad taking us through the 4-week onboarding, and I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a company that was so comprehensive. It’s sort of expected to hear “we’ll get this up and running in 4-6 weeks”, with a few delays. But PostBeyond was very “turnkey” in this way. Within 4 weeks, we were completely set up as planned. We had the right people in place, and simply introduced the product to them. PostBeyond has lived up to its billing since Day 1, both the product itself and the way the team has worked with us.
MH: What do you or your team like most about using the platform?
MJ: For me, I like that it’s a simple, easy, centralized place where you don’t have to sift through emails or different places to find the latest video link, or the latest statistic that goes with our latest campaign. If it’s in there, it’s shareable, and you’re confident that you can use it, that, to me, is the greatest thing.
In general, just the ease of use. Suggesting content and the Chrome extension make it so intuitive.
For the team, it would be the insight into which content is performing. Previously, when we encouraged our team to share content, we would have an idea of what we thought would perform best, but now we’re seeing that it’s sometimes the opposite. I think that’s where some of the value the team was looking for is starting to come back.
Before we’d create a one-pager about a new campaign, send it out in an email blast with relevant information and some links, and ask people to share it out on their networks. And we’d be left wondering whether anyone actually shared it. But there’s no measurement in that way. Now, to be able to go in and say “we drove this much in earned media, this much in engagement, and this percentage of our employee base is active” – that’s awesome.
MH: Where do you see SickKids headed with PostBeyond?
MJ: I think we’ve barely scratched the surface. There are so many different sectors of SickKids that I think could make use of the tool. For example, our AboutKidsHealth website, which is a help centre for common inquiries (like what to do if your child has an allergy), there are literally thousands and thousands of articles on there, so I think it would be a great opportunity for that team to make use of PostBeyond.
Or, our Great Camp Adventure walk, let’s say. There were 3,000 participants last year, and 10 “Champion Teams” with the greatest number of active participants and the most funds raised. We’re now wondering “how can we offer up our PostBeyond dashboard (SickKids Dispatch) to those champions?” So we’re thinking that we’ll populate PostBeyond with great content, and grant access to these champions so that they can share to their networks.
When we initially partnered with PostBeyond, employee engagement was our first starting point. But there are so many ways that we could be using PostBeyond that haven’t even occurred to us yet. So now it’s a matter of sifting through those opportunities. How can we get this to be a tool that our corporate team uses, or how can it be used for select corporate donors?
When asked for some final thoughts on technology and the changing world of work, Mark told me:
I think tools like PostBeyond are becoming more and more important, especially when we think that our workplaces are becoming decentralized. It’s now a question of having a tool that’s accessible anywhere that gives you the right information at the right time. These are the types of tools that are becoming more vital not only in terms of how the world of work is changing, but in terms of how people expect to engage with companies and receive information.
We’re still going through that “digital transformation”, so there’s still work to be done. We probably won’t be having conversations like this in 5-10 years from now, because technology and accessibility will just be assumed.