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PepsiCo Makes Employees Social Ambassadors

PepsiCo is turning a bit of its intranet inside-out--making selected internal newsletter articles available to post externally.

PepsiCo is turning a bit of its intranet inside-out--and that's a good thing.

By making selected internal newsletter articles available to post externally, Pepsi is providing employees the opportunity to share something unique about the place they work on their social networks.

In a 2010 survey of PepsiCo employees, 65% said that friends and family ask them questions about PepsiCo or its products, and more than half said they would like PepsiCo to provide them with information to share across social media channels. That led to a program aimed at educating employees on what they can and can't share and what questions they can answer on social media, as opposed to referring them to PepsiCo's official communication channels.

"We wanted people to be able to talk about PepsiCo as ambassadors, but we also wanted to do it safely," said Sharon McIntosh, senior director of global internal communications at PepsiCo. One way to do that was to provide an assortment of content that went beyond standard company press releases, but could still be approved for external distribution.

[ Following the changes in Twitter? See Twitter Redesign: Cheers And Jeers. ]

It turned out that about 85% of the content in the company's PEPline internal newsletter could be used that way. The rest was either inappropriate for public release, or simply not likely to be interesting to anyone outside the company (purely internal matters like benefits updates).

"We put the focus on the kind of content people might want to share with their friends and family," McIntosh said, and then tried to make doing so as easily as possible.

Since the newsletter is published daily by email, it generates a lot of sharable content. Now employees can share articles such as the one on Chief Executive magazine ranking PepsiCo #7 among the best companies for leaders or another about mobile phone to vending machine integration at PepsiCo's operations in Turkey.

Once the idea won management approval, PepsiCo's IT staff was able to quickly customize the email newsletter publishing software to simultaneously make the articles fit for public distribution on pepsico.com, McIntosh said. "Within minutes after we hit send on an email, it automatically appears." The articles include social sharing icons, making it easy for an employee who sees something interesting in the newsletter to share it on a social network.

Pepsi is an active pioneer in social media and digital media in general, experimenting with gamification and social vending machines, as well as programs to encourage digital media innovation.

Published to a section of the website called the Inside Scoop, the employee-shared articles have generated about 30,000 hits since the program launched in July--modest, but on par with traffic to the corporate site's press release pages. McIntosh said the subject matter sometimes overlaps with things being promoted through PepsiCo's marketing and public relations, but the PEPline article will often take a different angle. In those cases, PepsiCo is effectively doubling its traffic by providing another hook into the same story, said David Weiner, a digital and social media manager for the project.

Some of the content that gets shared the most is also very local, like the announcement of a product launch in Egypt, or personal, like a story about a reward or recognition that an employee shares with friends and family, Weiner said. PepsiCo also been careful to focus on making it easy for employees to share articles they want to share, on their own initiative, rather than pushing them to share on behalf of the company, he said. "We don't send out emails saying, 'please tweet this' or 'please retweet this,' that's not what this is."

"That actually is one of the main tenets," McIntosh agreed. "We want it to be authentic."

Follow David F. Carr on Twitter @davidfcarr. The BrainYard is @thebyard.

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