by Allison Banko
Nextiva, a cloud-based communications company, acquired its first customer in the spring of 2008. Back then, the company was small, only consisting of a handful of people in a cozy office space.
Now, six years later, Nextiva boasts 100,000 customers and approximately 300 employees within its Scottsdale, Ariz., headquarters. The company also consists of remote employees sprinkled across the country.
"Being on the same page is pretty simple when everyone is in the same location or the same room," said Yaniv Masjedi, Vice President of Marketing, Nextiva. "As you grow to 20 employees, then 80, then over 100, you start to lose that touch — or it becomes much more difficult I should say — to keep that close bond."
For example, employees didn't know all of their coworkers' names, and they weren't aware of what different departments were working on. Masjedi explained that while there's company-wide awareness for large happenings (e.g., new product launches), smaller events (e.g., departments reaching key goals) weren't as well known.
It became especially clear that increasing this awareness was an "area of opportunity" after Nextiva reviewed the feedback it received through company surveys in December 2012.
Though it's traditional for companies to keep employees in the know through internal newsletters, Nextiva wanted to do something different.
"We weren't inspired by anything," Masjedi admitted, "because we'd never heard of anything like it."
The idea? A weekly, internal video series called "NexTV." The series began shortly after the company received the aforementioned survey feedback at the end of 2012.
NexTV's first episodes were filmed using a laptop camera and featured one or two employees making announcements about what was going on within Nextiva. These announcements came from information gathered from departments.
On Friday mornings, two individuals would film the announcements in one take so the team wouldn't have to edit the video. Next, the file was uploaded as a private, two-minute clip to YouTube and shared internally.
"Part of the challenge was people didn't necessarily know who is who, who did what," Masjedi said. "So we never had the same person making the announcements. In some cases, it was multiple people, people that don't even know each other or [didn't work] together on a day-to-day basis."
From the first week, Nextiva noticed an immediate interest in NexTV, Masjedi said. Employees were now able to get an understanding of what was going on, and they started to know their coworkers better.
"I think that just helped us perform at the levels we wanted to perform," he added. "And it contributes greatly because we now know what's going on throughout the organization."
But by November 2013, employees were accustomed to the style of two people reading off a teleprompter. Though viewers were gaining the information from the videos, the team noticed a significant drop-off in the number of viewers by the middle of each episode.
NexTV needed a facelift — the series needed to be more entertaining.
A new NexTV
According to Masjedi, video has become a core part of Nextiva in recent years. The company now produces high-quality video testimonials and utilizes video responses to engage its social media audience. For instance, if a company thanks Nextiva via a Facebook or Twitter mention, the team will respond with a video instead of text.
"It gives more of a personal touch," said Nextiva's Lead Video Producer, Max Anderson. "It kind of makes them feel, 'Hey, they're not a bunch of robots. We're not just a number.' And it really puts a face to the name. It's been really impactful."
Anderson describes himself as Nextiva's "one-man army" when it comes to video. Though he wasn't on the staff when NexTV was born, he was there when the desire to revamp it arose. He came up with the idea to transform the announcements from a news-style broadcast to more of a variety show with a set host: Yoel Lustgarten, Nextiva's Head of Events and Culture.
Lustgarten "naturally" fell into hosting duties due to his involvement with Nextiva's entire employee base, which stems from his role on the company's culture team. His electric on-air presence didn't hurt, either.
"He goes around, interviews people around the office, and gets really live, candid moments with the people," Anderson explained. "But then we also do these skits where we all can be involved — people within the office participate in acting in our skits. They usually are not only funny and entertaining, but they also give information."
The new NexTV
(link will open in a new window) also strives to incorporate current events into its episodes. Take its recent Shark Week inspired video featuring a skit about a shark named Carl who worked at Nextiva.
"Today, it's turned into our own mini-version of 'Saturday Night Live,'" Masjedi said. "People throughout the week are looking forward to seeing what's on NexTV."
Step #1. Determine the week's topics
To decide what topics to cover in each week's NexTV episode, Anderson and Lustgarten visit Nextiva's departments to gather information.
From there, the two meet to flesh out what they've collected.
"Yoel and I sit down for 10 or 15 minutes just to get a grasp on what's current, what's happening and what are the main announcements that we want to do," Anderson explained.
Step #2. Decide on the best format to present topics
Once the information is determined, Lustgarten and Anderson brainstorm the best way to communicate it, whether through a skit or interviews with employees around the office.
Anderson said he and Lustgarten strive to feature at least one skit a week.
These information-gathering and format-brainstorming meetings occur the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week the episode is set to air.
Step #3. Write a skit and film the episode
Next, Lustgarten writes the skit script, and the two film either Wednesday or Thursday. Some employees even tell the duo that they want to be in the week's episode, so the two make a point to seek out these individuals during filming.
If the format calls for interviews around the office, the interview topic is clearly defined before Lustgarten grabs the wireless microphone and begins his rounds. Anderson said they define goals for the interviews so that they aren't going to employee's desks and bugging them with improv.
"There are some guidelines of what we're trying to achieve when we're talking to people," he added.
A few weeks ago, an episode featured an interview portion where Lustgarten asked employees if they used Google or Bing for their search engine. Employees were pretty passionate with their answers, Anderson recalled.
"That in itself is very candid," he said. "The improv is really done by [Lustgarten] when he responds to people's questions with follow-up stuff. Basically it's just a way of making it a little bit funnier, asking those questions that kind of dig down deep."
Step #4. Edit and post video
After filming, Anderson edits the episode Thursday night. The link is ready to be shared around 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. on Friday, so employees can watch it during the company's traditional catered lunch.
"People in most offices look forward to Fridays because it's the last day of the week," Masjedi said. "At Nextiva, people look at Fridays as NexTV day."
The video is available on Nextiva's YouTube channel, viewable only to those with the link. NexTV is exclusive to employees because the information in the episodes often contain company-sensitive information.
Anderson said the entire process for a NexTV episode takes "a little chunk of about three or four days of the week."
Because of the video editing, Anderson sometimes stays after office hours to finish it up, ensuring it's just right. While he could easily complete it in a shorter time period, he puts special care into each episode. For him, he said, the episodes offer a sense of accomplishment.
"The best part of it, for me, is the reaction," he said. "When it airs, I can hear people in the other room laughing. I go around and see people watching it, and for me, that itself is worth every hour I spend on it."
The engagement NexTV experienced after the revamp was "overwhelming," Anderson said.
Every Friday, Nextiva has found approximately 74% of its employees watching NexTV with a 96% engagement rate.
"Not only were the views going up, but the engagement was steadily increasing week by week as people realized that this was very entertaining," he added. "Immediately, the engagement was much higher, and it's continued to grow."
Anderson described the excitement employees generate for NexTV, especially if they know they're going to be in the episode.
"They're like, 'I'm going to be on the news today. Let's all watch it!'" Anderson explained.
Masjedi said NexTV has become a true staple within Nextiva's culture. He also acknowledged the high caliber of creativity Anderson and Lustgarten exhibit in the episodes week after week.
"They've set the standard so high that I'm always worried about the next week and how they're going to outperform what they did the previous week," Masjedi admitted.
But they do, and the two continue to top themselves with each and every episode, he said.
For other companies looking to create better in-company engagement or support their culture initiatives, Masjedi recommends starting small.
"Understand where you are, and don't assume 30 things at the same time and expect it to revolutionize your company's attitude and culture overnight," he advised. "I think it's a work in progress."
For Nextiva, the culture is never "done," he added.
Every day, company culture is something the team works on.
"I don't think culture is necessarily having a nice office and food catered every day of the week," Masjedi said. "That's a perk. But it really starts with the people, and it just can't be one person. There really needs to be buy-in from every level within the company."
When it comes to using different tools that can help enhance culture, Anderson said companies shouldn't shy away from using video. The power of seeing people on-screen — especially familiar faces — can be huge, he added.
Even if you're using a cellphone or an iPad for filming without editing clips, that video is better than nothing, Anderson said. This is something Nextiva experienced with their social media video responses.
"The quality does not need to be there," Anderson explained. "It's more the fact that you're actually doing it — it's more about the content than the quality. Don't be afraid to use video for any aspect of your company because there's always a way for it to be used to help enhance your company."
Video enhances Nextiva's culture and morale every week through NexTV.
"People look forward to seeing this every week, and it boosts morale throughout the company," Anderson said. "So whether that is giving hard facts or information about the company internally, it's a really great tool to bring everybody together."
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