How Anadarko Uses Videos to Humanize Leadership
Anadarko Petroleum Corporation experimented with executive leadership videos in the past, and they were what you might expect. Formal. Business-focused. Staged.
But Stephanie Moreland, the Supervisor for Employee and Digital Communications, had an idea about how to rewrite that script.
What if they created more casual videos that took a more personal look at company leaders?
Moreland thought it might the perfect way for Houston-based Anadarko, one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas exploration companies, to help employees dispersed around the globe get to know their top executives as real people.
The very first video, which featured Executive Vice President and General Counsel Amanda McMillian, did precisely that. When asked what picture was on her smartphone home screen, McMillian pulled out her mobile device and showed an impossibly cute photo of her two daughters – when her oldest child was meeting her newborn little sister for the first time.
It was a melt-your-heart moment.
And, yes, the “Quick-Fire Questions” video series was an instant hit.
“When Amanda showed her kids, I think people saw what matters most to her,” Moreland said. “You get to a see a side of the executives that you might only glimpse in a small setting, and those opportunities are so rare. If you work in our field offices, you might never get that opportunity. That’s what we’re trying to capture.”
Perhaps just as important, they contribute to building greater trust in leadership.
Recent Edelman Trust Barometer surveys have shown that faith in government, the media, and major brands can be in short supply. But the 2019 report also found that people now hold more trust in “My Employer” than any other institution. Edelman noted that when employees trust their employer, they are far more likely to be engaged, committed, and loyal.
Anadarko wanted to tap into that well of goodwill and reinforce the community feel of an organization that traditionally has been known as one of the best employers in the Houston area. The videos help achieve those goals by giving Anadarko’s 4,700 employees and 4,000 contractors an up-close look at leadership.
“It wasn’t overly produced,” Moreland said. “It felt really informal. His responses and facial expressions were just so authentic. So, we found the right person to pilot a series and borrowed the idea.”
They didn’t just copy it. Anadarko has improved on the concept.
The company has an award-winning, in-house video team. But for this series, Anadarko made a conscious effort to cut back on production values so that the videos don’t have a slick, staged appearance. Moreland, who sits off-camera, peppers executives with a series of questions that are a mix of serious and silly.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? What do you consider to be the key to success? How many times have you seen “High School Musical?” What’s the best party you’ve ever thrown? Because Moreland does her homework, she usually knows what questions to ask to draw out her subjects and maybe even catch them a little off-guard.
The responses are edited down into two-minute videos featuring fun graphics and music. The result? Interviews that are light-hearted, warm and, well, real. They open a window into what executives are like as people.
Views and comments soar when videos are posted on APC Go, the Anadarko internal communication platform powered by Dynamic Signal.
When one executive said she was on her college fishing team, employees immediately started asking in the comments for her advice on the best lures. Another said that his first car and his dream car were one and the same – a 1989 orange Toyota Tercel.
A vice president in finance casually mentioned that he once was a finalist to appear on the TV show “Survivor.” (His video also had a snippet of him getting caught on the big screen at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park proudly wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers jersey – and getting loudly booed by the crowd.)
“Some of these officers are people I’ve worked down the hall from, and I never knew they had such personality and great stories,” Moreland said. “We need all of our people to see that.”
Employees do want to see that. The metrics tell that story.
“Four of our top five posts on the platform are Quick-Fire videos,” Moreland added. “The engagement has been tremendous.”
For instance, when the video of Vice President of Corporate Communications John Christiansen was posted, it received more than 1,000 views, 142 likes and 25 comments in just the first week. (Christiansen revealed that in his first career as a radio news anchor, he had a theme song: “Big Bad John”)
The video that sits in the No. 1 slot features Bob Gwin, which was posted with the announcement that he had been promoted to president. Moreland believes this is because employees crave insight into what makes their leaders tick and how their life history might inform their decision-making. Also, it’s just human nature that when you feel more connected to someone, there’s more likely to be a higher level of trust.
The videos also have helped set a tone for APC Go as the place to get company news as well as share in a sense of playfulness that reflects Anadarko’s culture.
For Moreland, that kind of engagement is especially gratifying. Her passion for employee communication is rooted in impacting how people feel about coming to work and being genuinely invested in the company mission of providing safe energy.
“Just hearing our employees talk about some of these executives in the halls in ways they would never have before has been very rewarding,” Moreland said. “That’s a big step in building trust, being fun and engaging, and being the best place to work in our industry.”
Five Tips for Great Executive Videos from Anadarko
- Do Your Homework. Moreland is a good sleuth who uncovers fodder that makes for revealing interviews. When she sits down with an executive, she usually has about 15 questions prepared.
- Authenticity Counts. Part of the charm of Anadarko’s videos is they don’t look too polished. You don’t need the best equipment to create compelling videos.
- Add in Music and Graphics. Little extra touches go a long way to make every video unique to each person.
- Brevity Is a Plus. The videos should be a snapshot of a person, not a full-length documentary. Be ruthless in your editing process.
- Make Them Fun. No explanation needed, right?