5 Employee Experience Takeaways From Firstup's Attune ‘23

October 25, 2023

A few Brilliant Inkies headed to (very, VERY, VERY) warm and sunny Phoenix for Firstup Attune ’23 this fall. It was my first time attending a Firstup conference and I was blown away!

Firstup brought together communicators from across the country for interesting keynotes, panels and workshops. The agenda was jam-packed, with topics including employee advocacy, digital transformation, employee well-being, AI and reaching frontline workers. I particularly loved that the crowd was not shy – LOTS of people asked questions during the sessions I attended. People were there to learn from each other and I’m here for it! As a kindred spirit, I rounded up a few takeaways, notes and musings. Hope to see you at next year’s Attune!

Personalized Employee Communications and Firstup

Firstup showcased some REALLY interesting features to help IC pros personalize their communications and leverage AI:

In addition to content development support, I was impressed with an offering that will utilize AI to build distribution lists. For example, you’ll be able to enter criteria like “create an audience that includes stores within 10 miles of zip code 44101” and it will create a relevant distribution list. What?!? While it may not be a feature for everyday use, this could be extremely helpful if you’re racing against the clock to get an urgent communication out the door.

Employee Journeys
This offering allows Firstup users to set up communication workflows triggered by their people data. Imagine all the use cases for…

  • Onboarding  
  • Service anniversaries
  • Open enrollment
  • Parental leave  
  • …and so much more!

BONUS: Shout out to Firstup CEO Nicole Alvino for introducing these new capabilities with employee personas. (You can now watch her keynote on-demand where she dives into all the above.)

Speaking of personas…

Using Employee Personas To Personalize Comms

A few members of the Brilliant Ink team (Ann Melinger, Jackie Berg and yours truly) led an unplugged workshop on how to use employee personas effectively. Participants broke into small groups and came up with ideas on how to improve a company’s next Town Hall based on employee personas and exercise prompts.  

We often say that if you aren’t speaking to a particular someone, you risk not connecting with anyone. If you don’t currently have personas – consider carving out some time to prioritize their development. Try starting with two! No matter your approach, a small number of personas (limit yourself to 3-5 max!) and usable content should be your guiding principles. (Read: Your personas shouldn’t be pages and pages of information!).

Time to get personal! Click here to learn how to build employee personas.

Intel, 3M and Employee Advocacy

One of the sessions I attended featured Krista Vogel from Intel and Tiara Kesler from 3M. Each shared tons of helpful background on the advocacy programs they’re supporting within their respective organizations.  

Background on Intel’s Program:  

  • The goal of their ambassador community is “to transform the sharing culture through an integrated social advocacy program that meets employees where they are with a clear value proposition (what’s it in for me?).” Their two key priorities are 1) authentic storytelling and 2) content amplification.  
  • Authentic storytelling: Their Blue Crew Ambassadors program is a core Intel brand ambassador audience that is coached and encouraged to share their own unique content and their authentic Intel stories.  
  • Content amplification: They launched an Intel share hub (on Firstup!) to make sharing content as easy as possible.  

Intel Program Highlights:  

  • They designed an exclusive, three-part workshop series to help ambassadors learn practical tips for social sharing and building their social storytelling skills.  
  • To support ambassadors, they run a Blue Crew newsletter, Yammer community and host bi-weekly office hours.
  • They send out ambassador swag kits! It includes a microphone, ring light, speaker, cell phone tripod, reusable water bottle and $25 Intel store credit.

Background on 3M’s Program:  

  • The 3M Amplify program aims to “empower employees to share company news and insights at scale while building and expanding the 3M brand and employee personal brands.”
  • It was launched in 2019 and to date they have 16,000 registered members!  

3M Program Highlights:  

  • They consolidate content for community members via a global weekly newsletter and Yammer community. Each week they feature a “member of the week” to acknowledge a community member who drives the highest engagements and rewards them with points in 3M’s recognition tool.  
  • In 2022 they launched a LATAM Area-led, localized ambassador program called Voces which features Spanish and Portuguese content and newsletters. It began with 180 members upon launch and has since doubled its community size!  

Juliette Powell and the AI Dilemma

Author, media expert and technology ethicist Juliette Powell gave an incredible keynote on the AI dilemma (also the name of her book). She shared her hot takes on the dilemma of artificial intelligence:

  • Simply put, in the wrong hands, AI is dangerous. In the right hands, it can be beneficial to ALL.  
  • In making the decision of how and how much to engage with AI tools, we must ask ourselves some hard questions – at both the individual level and the org level. What risks do we face by using AI? What risks do we face by NOT using it?  
  • Remember, AI mirrors human biases. As we increasingly rely on AI tools and AI-powered systems to do our work, we must remember that bias IS baked in. That’s why we can’t rely on AI alone – it MUST be balanced with human insights to identify and remove bias. (I encourage you to watch her full keynote on-demand. In addition to the fascinating topic, she’s one of the best presenters I’ve ever seen.)

💡 PRO TIP: For more resources, insights and ideas on how to use AI in the workplace, check out our AI Resource Center to stay ahead of the AI game.

Other Miscellaneous Musings and Ideas I Appreciated:

  • Identify your domain experts: In a conversation between Chuck Gose (Firstup Head of Community), Suzanne Lane (Director of Internal Communications, Cooper University Health Care) and Dr. Mike Kirchoff (Patient Safety Officer, Cooper University Health Care), they talked about the importance of identifying domain experts within one’s organization. Suzanne sought out Dr. Kirchoff in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide partnership on the ongoing updates and communications shared with frontline workers. They also talked about their “Good Catch” program, which fosters psychological safety to improve patient safety. The program encourages and rewards employees who identify potential safety threats before a patient is harmed.  
  • Manager communications: Know, Do, Share: In a session that spotlighted communicators in health care systems, one participant shared that they distribute a bi-weekly manager newsletter that always follows a format of Know, Do, Share to keep busy managers easily informed of actions they need to take.  
  • Reaching manufacturing employees: In a panel about communicators in manufacturing settings, one speaker emphasized that a medley of digital, physical and in-person touchpoints were key for reaching their manufacturing employees. Their mobile app is used by these workers, but phones are not allowed on the factory floor. They suggested not underestimating the value of manager huddles, table tents, posters, roadshows and digital signage.  

Some closing thoughts while I slow clap: Producing a multi-day conference is NOT an easy feat. (I’m speaking from experience here.) A whole lot of work, sweat, and (sometimes) tears go into creating an agenda, confirming speakers, prepping speakers, thinking through signage, selecting catering, deciding on room layouts, the list goes on. Hat’s off to Firstup for producing a beautiful event where we left with brilliant ideas and connections.  

For more bite-sized brilliance, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, The Inkwell, and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!

Becky Sennett

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