This article was originally published in Digiday by Shareen Pathak.
Glen Schwartz, director of global corporate communications at Dunkin’ Brands, had a real problem on his hands: He needed the company’s 2,000 franchisees to start checking email headquarters would send with important updates on everything from training information to product releases to messages from the CEO.
“We’re lucky if we got them to open a memo,” Schwartz told Digiday. “We’re even luckier if they click on a link.”
To solve the problem, Dunkin’ has turned to a new method of communication over the past year — high-production videos that ran about two minutes.
One of the first videos Dunkin’ created a year ago was a 90-second short about a new printer that would save a lot of time for those working inside Dunkin’ stores. The brand had previously sent multiple emails — and in some cases, actual people — to franchises but hadn’t heard back.
In the first two weeks since launching videos for corporate employees, the brand saw 400 video views and 1,000 visits to the player page. A “leadership update” for Baskin-Robbins employees in May was watched by two-thirds of all franchisees, the brand said. Today, “the majority” watches each video in full, said Linda Crowe, who heads digital marketing at Brightcove, which houses the videos for Dunkin’ in its player.
“What we did in 90 seconds saved us a lot of time and money,” said Schwartz, who then spearheaded a large-scale overhaul of engagement practices across the company that started rolling out earlier in the summer.
The brand creates each video in-house at its corporate headquarters, “in its own building,” so it can retain creative control over the final product.
“Everyone that thinks about Dunkin’ thinks about our TV ads,” he said. “But within our own building and own world, we have to come up with our own stuff that’s actually really important for our brand.”
The videos — there are a couple dozen now, many featuring real employees and franchisees — are housed on an internal channel that lives on Brightcove. Only franchisees and employees can access them, since some of the content is confidential. Below, a brand sizzle reel that was circulated internally to motivate employees:
“We’ve seen an uptick in response rate to whatever messaging we’re putting out there,” said Schwartz. An informal internal study found that awareness and engagement with franchisees have increased since the videos launched. They run the gamut: franchisees reviewing new products like a frozen drink; messages from executives; customer testimonials; equipment training.
Franchisee engagement is a real challenge, and an important one: “One of the biggest impacts on a company with unengaged or actively disengaged franchisees is its ability to execute the company’s vision,” Evan Hackel, principal of Ingage Consulting wrote in a research note in Franchise Business Review. Non-engaged franchisees also create pressure on engaged employees, since corporate attention often over-focuses on them, said Hackel.
In the long term, Schwartz hopes that there will be more videos — and is now working with Brightcove to make them all mobile friendly so franchisees get pushed internal messaging onto their phones.
“We need our employees and franchisees to know what’s happening in the company” without needing to go to district-level meetings or read emails. The brand is also going to experiment with providing incentives for employees to watch these videos — a short-term offer on equipment, maybe — so they can drive views, said Schwartz. “Engagement is a challenge for us, particularly internally, and communication is a challenge too,” he said. “This is one way we can solve the internal issues.”