When I joined Cisco last year, I was thrilled to be joining a company with a unique culture that’s innovative, talented, and progressive. Soon after, our ranking as the No. 1 place to work was announced, confirming my decision.
This month, we were named one of the top in-house communications organizations to work for by PRWeek. But getting to that point meant identifying areas of opportunity within an already strong communications organization.
Upon joining the team, I was struck by the internal excitement, but I felt that the true message about Cisco had more potential — not just our cutting-edge innovations, but also our commitment to social responsibility and sustainability and the ways in which we have evolved our culture. We had a big opportunity to tell a better story and build upon the strong communications foundation that was already in place.
Our vision was to create the world-class global comms organization that Cisco deserves. One that attracts and develops the best talent, delivers award-winning programs, and drives tangible business impact worldwide. But one that also protects and enhances Cisco’s reputation through thought-provoking storytelling.
Equally important, we needed to have fun doing it! (And who doesn’t want to have fun at work?)
The good news was that I inherited an amazing team. I knew the talent, creativity, and passion were there. But how best to do all that?
- I started by listening — I wanted to get a clear sense of what was working, and more importantly, what we could do better. So, we held roundtables with the comms teams, Cisco SMEs, leaders, and regional teams, and combined all that with a deep dive into metrics and industry insights — including how macro trends were affecting Cisco’s outlook.
- Then we began to plan — and simplify. First, we combined global comms and corporate comms into one organization. Then, armed with our listening insights, we agreed on one overarching global plan: by distilling our key strategies, goals, and areas of focus down to their essence. It’s easy for projects and campaigns to become disjointed. Consistency and alignment with the company’s overall goals became our mantra as we aimed for global scale and maximum impact.
- Next, we agreed on what exactly to create. We knew we wanted compelling narratives that were as visual as possible, and, of course, mobile friendly. After all, 80 percent of what our brains process and remember is visual. So, we needed to uplevel our skills, with rich-media storytelling content that would cut through the noise.
- But that storytelling needed to be strategic. Not just through storytelling, but storymaking. Again, we needed a tighter alignment with the business — their top concerns and biggest aspirations and successes. And we had to share through multiple channels, with a mobile-first approach.
- Our messaging also needed to be experiential — to deeply involve our audiences in emotional and unforgettable ways. Technology is fantastic, but it’s the human stories that resonate best — how it solves problems and changes lives. Whenever possible, we would also share those stories at high-profile events, designed to bring key customers (and potential customers), analysts, and journalists together. Looking forward, we are examining the role that virtual and augmented reality can play in this regard.
- Above all at Cisco, our purpose informs everything that we do. It’s our job in comms to get the message across that we’re making a difference in the world.
Cisco is a workplace where creativity is prized, transparency is paramount, and work/life flexibility is a given. But it’s also a brand that’s using superior talent, innovation, and technology for a higher purpose.
As one of my team members told PRWeek recently, “Cisco empowers employees to reach higher, not only in their careers but also in helping to make the world a better place.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
We truly believe that we’re transforming our customers in profound ways, by reimagining their applications, securing their data, transforming their infrastructure, and empowering their teams. But at the same time, we’re improving lives, fighting inequality, and powering an inclusive future for all.
And that’s where the real fun comes in.
You said, “The good news was that I inherited an amazing team.”
You’ve also inherited a Cisco legacy of ‘commercial storytelling’ that you can build upon. Did you know that Cisco pioneered ’cause-centric’ corporate blogging (long before it became popular)? Although the “Connect Life Exchange” blog was retired and is no longer online, you can learn about our experimentation with Transmedia Storytelling, and the recognition that we received, by exploring the recent history here bit.ly/Cisco-Transmedia
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