Brewing up engagement with social media

Molson Coors Canada connects with employees through various online platforms

Beer is social, so why didn’t we create Facebook? asks Dave Perkins, president and CEO of Molson Coors Canada in a YouTube video for employees.

While the brewing company might not have created that invention, it’s certainly been innovative in avidly embracing social media, in all its forms, to communicate with employees and the larger community.

“Our company is very social fundamentally — the products that we make and distribute, and the activation that we do in the market are social in nature, so it is part of our DNA,” says Sebastien Charbonneau, director of internal communication at Molson Coors Canada in Toronto. “We’re social at heart, so it’s who we are.”

For several years, the company has been busy promoting itself internally and externally through blogs, tweets, social networks, videos and fundraisers through platforms and sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Yammer.

“Social media was definitely internally, I would say, a great way to encourage what’s already in our values or in the way we want to engage and communicate with our stakeholders, being our employees,” he says.

And the 3,500-employee Canadian arm is leading the charge for social media at the 10,000-employee company, which includes Molson Coors in the United Kingdom, United States and Central Europe.

“To this day, we’re actually still leading and coaching the rest of the organization into best practices of social media in their local markets,” says Charbonneau. “So, the story started, really, in Canada.”

The company began exploring social media in 2008 and initially approached it more as an external proposition, he says, with a blog talking about various activities employees across Canada were involved with in their communities. The site is regularly updated with information about initiatives such as new advertising campaigns or fundraising efforts and also features a Twitter feed with more than 6,000 followers.

Yammer launched in 2009

From there, Molson Coors Canada evolved to start using the enterprise social network Yammer as an internal channel in 2009. The company’s strategy and philosophy is to promote transparency, openness, conversations and dialogue, so Yammer was an enabler, another way to encourage that, says Charbonneau.

“It gives us an ongoing dialogue and access to each other,” he says. “We use it to share pretty much every piece of information and news that we have in the organization, as well as using it as a place for employees to raise their hand and say, ‘Hey, I have this thought or this idea or opinion about XYZ.’ And somebody else will jump in and say, ‘Here’s my take, we’ve done this...’ and collaboration happens.”

Yammer allows employees to share files, videos and pictures so there is a lot of multimedia access in promoting the Molson Coors brand and products, which can include sneak peeks of new commercials or advance notice of new products.

“It’s the only communication channel really — other than the real water cooler chatter — that is owned by the employees,” says Charbonneau. “The content is theirs, it’s not from the top-down. It’s really employees who own the platform, they get the information they want. We put information there but they also put a lot of material on it that helps each other.”

Brand ambassadors

Molson Coors has two networks on Yammer, one for all employees worldwide and a sub-network for Canada called Club Molson Coors Canada that is also open to retirees.

“(Social media) also allows us to stay connected not only with all of our employees, no matter where they work, physically or in which department or team, but also allows us to keep our alumni connected as well,” says Charbonneau. “The fact that the organization includes former employees in this, gives them the option to join in, has been very well-received.”

Employee engagement has always been very high at the organization and people feel really connected to and passionate about the company, he says. Having been around for 126 years, the company has a strong legacy and it’s not uncommon to find up to four generations of the same family working there, he says.

The retirees can also act as solid brand ambassadors, by offering advice, so Yammer is a way for them to represent the brand.

“For them, it’s a huge part of their life and it’s definitely important for them to stay connected,” says Charbonneau. “They’re still very active in their circle of influence.”

Yammer Happy Hours also allow employees to connect with leadership. These are virtual town halls that involve senior staff answering questions from employees on a defined topic, such as quarterly results discussed with CFOs across Canada, the U.K., U.S. and Central Europe, or employee survey results with “chief people officers” in HR.

“It’s unfiltered and it allows every employee to share and collaborate with each other but also ask questions to senior leaders and get an answer without having to go through different layers of the organization,” he says. “We do definitely promote, encourage openness, transparency and two-way communications and, for us, social media does just that.”

Yammer is also used to engage employees in other ways, such as the “Every Drop, Every Ripple” campaign that challenged people to learn about ways to reduce water consumption, both at home and at work. A survey tool helped employees calculate how much water they used and people could make pledges to conserve a certain amount of water in the coming year, which were shared on Facebook and Twitter.

The campaign also included a YouTube video showing Molson Coors employees saying “cheers” to water by passing a bottle of Coors Light to each other, around the globe. Employees are also featured on the site

Employees have a say

The social media platform is kind of micro-blogging, says Charbonneau, as employees can write whatever they want and share it with others. There is no screening process before posts go up internally; however, the company is just finalizing global guidelines in place to train employees, such as salespeople or marketers, to mention their work on their own social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

“We’re training them to make sure they understand what it implies for them to be talking about our business on public platforms but more (it’s about) guidelines and supporting them versus telling them what to do and not to do.”

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