Extreme Networks is combining internal comms & social media

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Data is the new currency — even for internal comms. 

“[Data] enables us to target our communications. Lisa and I… leverage the data points […to] better target our messaging that will impact them.” 

— Jasmine Davis, Extreme Networks

On this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, Chuck Gose is joined by two amazing guests from Extreme Networks, Jasmine Davis, Internal Communications Manager, and Lisa Yeaton, Senior Social Media Specialist, as they talk about the intersection of internal communications and social media, the importance of video content, and how to keep CEOs real.

“…our culture is all about collaborations, being agile, and being transparent. So from the top down, we’re told everything, everyone’s honest, nothing is ever hidden from employees. The whole organization, we all work together as one team. It’s not multiple teams, we all work together.” 

— Lisa Yeaton, Extreme Networks

Double the guests mean double the content! Listen in as Jasmine and Lisa give a unique perspective on how their roles form a ‘dream team’ for reaching employees and how data helps them target and customize what and how they present their content for maximum effectiveness.

Featured in this episode:

  • Hear Jasmine and Lisa’s journeys, and how they each found a home and a voice with Extreme Networks.
  • Learn how beneficial it was to have a dedicated communication application in place, and how it opened a world of opportunities to reach every employee.
  • Jasmine and Lisa explain how having engaged executive teams enables the team to take messaging to new levels.
  • Get the breakdown of how Extreme Networks leverages data to better serve customers and partners, and how the comms teams also leverage data points to curate content to meet employees where they’re at. 
  • Listen further as they detail how video content has helped the CEO to ‘get real’ with employees, by just taking out a phone! 
  • Finally, Jasmine and Lisa talk about how created a foundation for social awareness that reflects the company’s core value of transparency. 

Interested in learning more? 

  • Learn more about how to better connect your CEO and executive team with your employees
  • Explore how to create a unified mission control to distribute information to employees on the channels they already use, no matter where they are.

Culture, Comms, & Cocktails Episode 49 Transcript

Chuck Gose: Hello, podcast listeners. This is Culture, Comms & Cocktails, the podcast with internal comms served straight up. I’m your host, Chuck Gose, senior strategic advisor at SocialChorus. And on this episode of Culture, Comms & Cocktails, we have Jasmine Davis, internal communications manager at Extreme Networks, and Lisa Yeaton, senior social media specialists at Extreme Networks. First time I’ve had multiple guests on the podcast, so I’m excited about this. Welcome to the podcast, Jasmine and Lisa.

Jasmine Davis: Thanks, Chuck, for having us. We’re really, really excited so thank you for the platform.

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah, thank you. Thank you for hosting us today. We’re excited to be your first double guests.

Chuck Gose: It’s a lot to take in. We’ve got a lot of great stories to share, so I wanted to make sure we brought both of you on. I’m going to start things off, Lisa, with you. Why don’t you spend a minute talking about your role at Extreme and your career there, and maybe even a bit about Extreme Networks for anybody who’s not familiar with the company.

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah, so let me get started with who Extreme Networks is. So Extreme is a networking provider, so we provide networking solutions like wifi. If you think about the router in your home, we sell that technology. But instead of selling it to individuals and to homes, we sell it to enterprises and to businesses. So we are the official wifi solutions provider of the NFL and the MLB, for example, so it goes beyond businesses. We’re also doing venues, hospitals, governments, a lot of universities and schools. We have around 50,000 customers and 11,000 partners around the globe that we work with.

I’ve been with Extreme now for five years. My first week at Extreme was actually when we launched the SocialChorus product. We refer to it as E360 at Extreme, so that’s kind of a fun fact. I wasn’t on the team that launched it, but it did launch when I first started. So E360’s been around as long as I have.

I started out as an intern and now I moved around the content and communications teams. Now I manage the corporate social media accounts for Extreme and I also help enable the field team, because we are a global company, so we have some core social media channels, but then we have around 30 global channels that our field marketing teams manage, and I help them to enable that. I give them different assets that they can translate in their region and things like that. And then we use E360 as a tool to help enable them as well. So along with Jasmine, we co-manage the E360 platform together.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, I love that we’ve got two of my loves together on one podcast. We’ve got internal comms and we’ve got social media, so I love this marriage. So often those are siloed at organizations, so it’s great to see those come together. So Jasmine, what does it mean to be the internal comms manager there at Extreme Networks?

Jasmine Davis: Yeah, actually this was a brand new role for me. I originally came from Aerohive Networks, so I was a part of an acquisition. There, I was a field marketing manager, so when there was an opportunity at Extreme Networks to come over and do internal comms, I can’t say I was not nervous, but it’s been such a great experience and challenge and I’ve really been able to drive engagement at Extreme. So my role is under the corporate comms team as internal comms manager here at Extreme.

So my job is to make sure that our 3000 plus global employees are informed. And that means with all the latest and greatest happenings from around the company, you ensure that there’s engagement, advocacy and that we’re promoting company culture and just keeping that top of mind. I achieve this by, of course, partnering with… we call ourselves the dream team, Lisa and I… but we also partner with members of our executive team as well as different departments from around the company and using our internal app, E360, as Lisa mentioned.

So with that said, Lisa and I, as she mentioned, we co-manage E360, but I also helped to manage our intranet site called The Source. And I also so hosts a myriad of internal events, such as our employee town halls, as well as departments, all hands educational webinars, we’re sending out newsletters, you name it. So we like to keep it really high pace at Extreme and just making sure our employees are informed on everything and that they have a pulse on what’s going on at the company.

Chuck Gose: I didn’t realize I had the dream team on the podcast today. I could have introduced the two of you have as that. Now, Lisa, I’m going to pass the next question to you, with being, I’ll say the more senior member on here, having been a part of Extreme Networks for five years. In thinking about the culture at Extreme, that’s a key word that we have in the podcast, what are three words that you, Lisa, the social media person there at Extreme, what would you use to describe the culture at Extreme Networks?

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah, so I love the culture at Extreme. I’ve enjoyed it my entire time here. Even as an intern, you didn’t feel like an intern, you felt like a real member of the team. And I think that’s because our culture is really all about collaborations, being agile and being transparent. So from the top down, we’re told everything, everyone’s honest, nothing has ever hidden from employees. The whole organization, we all work together as one team. It’s not multiple teams, we all work together.

And we’re agile because we’re a smaller company compared to some of our competitors and we have to move fast. We have to be able to adapt, and our team does an amazing job of doing that. We’ve managed to remain successful over the past couple of months where things have been unknown and up in the air and it’s because we are one team and we’re agile and we’re able to adapt and move quickly. I think our tag line “advance with us” really sums up what we’re all about because externally, that’s about helping our customers connect to their networks better, be more effective and be more efficient with their operations. And internally it means growing as individuals and as an organization together. So we’re all about advancing our customers and our end users, as well as advancing ourselves.

Chuck Gose: And Jasmine, you’d mentioned this during your intro that you were part of an acquisition coming into Extreme Networks. That’s a unique experience. I’ve been in that environment too. How did you see the two cultures integrate with that acquisition?

Jasmine Davis: For sure. So this is actually my second acquisition that I’ve lived through in my career. So when Aerohive Networks was acquired by Extreme Networks in 2019, it was an exciting and a scary time. I just have to be very honest about that and transparent. So just like with any acquisition, and you’re definitely familiar with that, when you’re being acquired there’s a lot of uncertainty. And actually a couple of employees at Aerohive had matriculated to Extreme prior to the acquisition and they were always talking about how Extreme is just an amazing company to work for, the technology is definitely there, but they really cared about their employees, which I was like, “Oh, wow, that sounds awesome.”

So when we were acquired, I was like, “Hey, we get to be a part of such a great family.” So this wasn’t Extreme’s first go around the block when acquiring a company. So in terms of the culture here, it wasn’t too bad in terms of an integration. Aerohive’s core values kind of aligned also with Extreme’s core values as well. So when we first came on board we were basically the new kids in school, but we all quickly caught on to what Extreme was about, what we were doing. But in terms of the two cultures integrating, it felt really seamless, which was great.

Chuck Gose: Coming in as the internal comms manager, what did it mean to have E360 already in place and how was that used during that acquisition and transition time?

Jasmine Davis: Yeah, so literally the first day on the job, I was in our San Jose office and all I saw were the pop-up banners of E360 and two minutes a day and why it was so important. And once I got to actually look at the application, I was blown away because I had never seen anything like that. Of course we had, in previous companies, our regular share points and your basic emails, but I was like, “Wow, there’s just so many different opportunities for you to really get plugged in.” So I was just really blown away about that.

And I know we’ll probably get more into this later on, but I was just so surprised at how our executive teams were engaged and we got to hear directly from them. So when coming on board and learning more about the platform and its structure, it was great. And my job was basically to take it to the next level and Lisa, as well as the others who were managing the platform before I even came on board, they were just doing such an excellent job. So I was just hoping and praying to compliment what they were doing and just take it on to the next level.

Chuck Gose: Well, it certainly sounds like you have. In an earlier conversation, Jasmine, we were on, you use this great line. And I said I was going to ask you about this when we did the podcast. You used this line, “Data is the new currency.” I had never heard a communicator, or really anyone, use that in that way. So explain where that comes from and what does that mean to you?

Jasmine Davis: Yeah, and that’s such a compliment, thanks Chuck. So I love that line, but I will not take the credit on that. That quote actually comes directly from our CEO, Ed Meyercord, and simply put data tells the story. You have many data points, but ultimately what does that all mean, right?

Extreme as a cloud networking company, so from a product perspective, our CEO always highlights the importance of data and how we can leverage that to better serve our customers, our partners, and ultimately their customer base. So we leverage data points to advance their operations and enhance their day-to-day function.

From an internal comms perspective, if we take that approach, we have data points as well about our employees. So there’s such things as where are the employees located globally? What region they’re in, are they remote? Do they report to a particular office? Which department are they in? Who are their direct reports? And the list can literally go on and on. So with that said, where Lisa and I come in to leverage the data points for that currency piece, is how can we better target our messaging that will impact them, our employees, and the most… So for curating the right content, we want to make sure that the content is what they want to see or hear or read and making sure that it matters to them the most and it meets them where they’re at. So if that’s via mobile, email, or internet site, Microsoft Teams, Slack, we’ll get it to them. But the data, in terms of being the new currency, that’s how we’re going to do it. So that’s how we leverage the data here at Extreme.

Chuck Gose: Lisa, let’s stay on this data track. How has the data that the organization’s gotten from E360, how has it transformed communications? When you think back to what it was five years ago to now, how has communications at Extreme changed? And that some of it still stayed the same because you were doing the right things.

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah. As Jasmine said, data is key. It’s key to everything that we do. When we first launched the application, we were just getting involved with single sign on and stuff like that to make it seamless for employees to get onboarded. But after working with SocialChorus, after a year, we found a way to work with SocialChorus and our IT team to pull in and utilize even more data. So now SocialChorus is pulling in data from our internet sites and from our Oracle instance, and now we can tell who an employee is, where they’re located, what department they’re in, what their job level is. If they’re a manager or a VP, an individual contributor. What region they’re in. Which executive they lead up to. So we have all of this data and now we’re looking to add more in as we are launching more ERGs and stuff like that.

It enables us to really target our communications because before we just have so many channels and they were open to everyone, so everyone could follow every channel or they’d go in and pick and choose them. But some channels really weren’t applicable to some people based on what department they were in. So now we have these private channels that are for certain departments and for certain office locations when we’re in the offices.

Now, since we have those groups, we can also send targeted email communication, so it doesn’t even have to be published to a specific channel in the application. We can just target them with an email or a push notification. And then data that we’re getting from all the reports on the usage in E360, without that data we wouldn’t know that posting on Mondays and Tuesdays, those posts always perform better than posts on Thursdays and Fridays. And then we also know that on Sundays, surprisingly, it’s not a work day, but our employees go in and they check the application on Sundays. So we have this idea of what days of the week we should best post our content, if we want it to be seen and engaged with, to give it the most potential to reach the audience that we’re trying to get to that week.

And then we also know that when we have an executive update, it performs better with video because we’ve been able to run tests and compare the data. If we didn’t have the data, we wouldn’t be able to know that the videos from our executives always perform better than just a long two paragraph post that came from the executive. So we’ve been able to show this data to our executives. Now, our executives are completely on board with doing the videos. They know now that anytime we have a major update, they want to do the video because in the past too, when we first launched the E360, it was because they wanted to cut down on the number of company-wide emails. That was one issue. And then the second issue was people weren’t even reading the CEO’s emails. They were doing banana tags on the emails and they saw that only 20% of the workforce was reading them.

So now we’re doing these E360 posts with videos. It’s a two minute video and now we see that 80 to 90% of the employees watch that video. That’s far more than that 20% from five years ago reading… And it was still an important update, but now it’s just we’re getting to the employees the way they want to be communicated to you. And that’s what’s made the program so much more effective.

Chuck Gose: I know that that inside SocialChorus, the Extreme’s leadership videos, your team may not even know this, we talk about them all the time because it’s the tone that we want other customers to share. So Lisa, share a bit for everyone else what these videos are like and what makes them a bit unique compared to other typical leader videos that are out there?

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah. I think what makes them different is our CEO will just pull out his phone and he’ll just do a selfie video. It’ll be moving the entire time or it will only be part of his head. He’ll also do videos sometimes when he’s in an Uber. He’ll be in an Uber driving from the airport to a customer site. He’ll actually take a video with the Uber driver. And he’ll just come to us once a month or a couple times a month, it’ll be a short video like that of him on the road when he was traveling.

He’s just real with the employees. He just comes out and he tells us what’s going on and what it is, and it’s really authentic and genuine the way the executives do it. They don’t beat around the bush. They take out their phone and they just tell us the message. It’s just being real and it’s having that collaborative and being on that one team. They really make that shine in the videos that they send out to all employees.

Chuck Gose: I know that communicators out there right now are insanely jealous hearing that. That you have leaders that will just do that simple video. That they don’t need the big production, they don’t need the big studio, fancy green screens, teleprompters. That’s what employees want from leaders. They want to see them, they want to hear from them in the moment. I love that it’s in the… The examples I’ve seen, your CEO was in the backseat of an Uber going to a client visit. Or coming back from a client visit, what did they just see? What did they hear? That’s that’s the gold standard, I think, when it comes to leadership videos. Anybody can go and produce fancy ones. It’s those leadership driven, in the moment videos. Like I said, other communicators out there are insanely jealous hearing that you’ve got that type of leadership engagement.

Something else that I’ve heard though, is that the organization recently has received some recognition for your COVID communication efforts, which again, every communicator everywhere has been top of mind for. Jasmine, why don’t you detail the work that went into that, and why do you think it’s being held in such high regard?

Jasmine Davis: We just celebrated the one year anniversary of the announcement of the global pandemic and being locked down. We took early action to communicate with our employees regarding the coronavirus pandemic, and that started in early January in terms of the engagement. We not only used our E360 platform, but we used our internet site, The Source, where we literally uprooted a site overnight, and within 24 hours that was just a dedicated site for our global updates around the pandemic. So we were constantly keeping that updated.

As well as when employees were still in the offices, we also leveraged Zoom signage as well. So again, we try to meet them where they were to ensure that they received the appropriate keynote communication. So again, our first engagement was in late January. We alerted our global teams that the company was aware of the virus that was rapidly spreading around the globe and that the situation was being monitored, taken very seriously.

Then our executive team decided to uproot a COVID-19 task force. So that encompassed a lot of our different departments, so legal, facilities, comms, HR, our product org, which is our second largest organization here at Extreme Networks, and a couple other different departments. So it was a huge valiant effort to make sure that our employees were well-informed. We even created a couple of E360 channels that helped our employees get acclimated to working from home. That was one, as well as a COVID-19 updates channels. So we really use that.

And again, video really played a very key part and our COVID-19 response. Again, it was just such a crazy time. It’s not too much to read an email, but to hear from our executive team on how they’re trying to ensure that we’re well-informed and that they want us to make sure that we’re staying safe and healthy, it really meant a lot. But it was just an additional touch to making sure our COVID-19 comms was top notch in that our employees were informed.

So yeah, we’re finalists and we’re really proud of the work we did. And of course it would be nice to win, but the most important thing, and it still is, is that our employees were well-informed.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, I think at this time of year, I believe that every communications team should be recognized for the work that’s been done around the pandemic. And another big effort that a lot of communicators have been presented with this year is around social justice, diversity inclusion, and quality efforts. And this has also been a critical effort for Extreme Networks. So I’m going to have you both talk about this, but I’m going to kick it off with Jasmine. What was the approach that Extreme Networks took around the social justice issues and diversity inclusion?

Jasmine Davis: Yeah, absolutely. So last year when there was a lot of social unrest, it was hard to not deny what was going on in the world. One thing I really do love about our Extreme executives is that they know the importance of making sure that we know, as employees, where we stand as a company. So with that said, they are very attuned to what’s going on in the world because it will ultimately affect us internally as well.

So with that said, we would, just like with everyone else when the George Floyd incident happened over the summer and there were a bunch of protests during the time, our CEO did communicate to us via video what’s going on in the world, how we will all stand together to fight social injustice, but as well as what Extreme Networks is doing to help internally to do that. So they laid down a foundation of what’s to come, and guess what? They actually did it. Which I know that might sound a little crazy, but we hold our executives to a high regard and when they say they’re going to do something, they definitely do it.

They started up a DNI organization. We have a head of DNI, we literally, Kimberley Basnight, she uprooted literally seven ERGs in eight months. She has such a passion for that and it is backed by our executive teams. So it’s just so important to have that kind of support.

And most recently with the Capitol riots at the US Capitol, again, we let our employees know that that was not right, we’re not with that. We just heard directly from our executive team. So it’s always really nice to get that type of support. I know myself, as being a Black woman, I really appreciated it. And we also had people within the company that also supported it as well. To me, it just really means a lot, and that goes to show for our core values of transparency. They’re very transparent here at Extreme Networks, whether good or bad or in-between. So that’s something we really, really appreciate here.

Chuck Gose: Yeah, certainly words are just words in certain times, so it’s great to see action then being taken. And Lisa, having been a part of Extreme Networks now for five years, and having been an intern, and probably when you interned I don’t know if you had any idea you would be involved, still working at Extreme, let alone during a pandemic, let alone during social injustice. What was your take on everything that was happening?

Lisa Yeaton: I mean, exactly what Jasmine was saying. I think the executives being out in front of all of those things was really good because it helped people. Everyone was stressed out. I know I was seeing the news and I was like, “This is just crazy. I can’t believe that all of this is happening.” But I didn’t let it affect my work because the executives communicated to us, they understood what was going on and they let us know that they were there for us and they really set the tone to keep everyone together to continue moving on our path forward. So I really appreciated that. I thought that that helped us all get through the difficult times.

Then I would want to say to that over the last 12 to 18 months, the organization has really taken quite a few steps to enhance our corporate social responsibility, as well as the diversity and inclusion efforts that Jasmine was mentioning. So they’ve made a lot of progress in this time as well. The women’s council was first launched years ago, and that was sort of the first ERG that we had, and it’s laid the groundwork for all of these new ERGs that launched this year, which has been really fantastic because the women’s council has seen a lot of progress.

They actually just did a study and they showed that three years ago when it launched, our female population at Extreme was around 17, 18%. And now less than years later, we are up to 25%. That’s a 30% increase in three years, which is really fantastic. And their mentorship program that they’ve been growing during that same time is now off to new heights as well. It’s really great because it doesn’t just help the younger people at the company, it helps anyone in their career that’s looking for a mentor for someone to learn something different. So I think it’s great that the company has these tools out there, and now that the woman’s council has been doing this, they’re rolling it out to all ERGs, so now all ERG have a mentorship offering. I think it’s just really good because this is what companies need now, today. This is what employees need today, to have those resources available. It’s just key moving forward. It’s going to keep employees at your company.

Chuck Gose: Thirty percent is great. That’s great to hear. But I’m sure the both of you, I want you to keep holding that company accountable.

Lisa Yeaton: Oh, absolutely.

Jasmine Davis: Absolutely, absolutely.

Chuck Gose: Keep improving, right? Absolutely. One of the things I loved about this conversation, I haven’t had the privilege of working directly with Extreme Networks in any way, but obviously I said the examples of the leadership videos and the success Extreme has had is almost legendary within SocialChorus. Thank you for all the work that both of you do day in, day out, both as customers of ours, but also as communicators out there. I’m going to put my proud communicator hat on here. I love seeing examples, love seeing communicators step up and help lead organizations. So thank you both for that.

The podcast is called Culture, Comms & Cocktails. So we’ve talked about culture and we’ve talked about communications. Lisa, I’m going to have you go first on this one. What is your cocktail recommendation, or do you have a special pandemic cocktail out there?

Lisa Yeaton: So I would say my go-to cocktail has always been a vodka cran. I love Tito’s and I know it goes by the name Cape Codder. I don’t know if that’s just because I live in New England, maybe that’s why I like it. I prefer that one. But I do have to say, summer is coming. I’m counting down the days to my pool opening. And once it’s open, I do plan on having a Miami Vice and my hand, down enjoying the water and the sun. So that is one of my favorite summer drinks that I would recommend to people.

Chuck Gose: Lisa, you have just detailed my favorite pool drink, is the Miami Vice, hands down.

Lisa Yeaton: Really?

Chuck Gose: Miami Vice, favorite pool drink. I await the invitation for your pool to open, Lisa.

Lisa Yeaton: Absolutely, yeah.

Chuck Gose: When we can all travel.

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah, come up to to Boston.

Chuck Gose: I will enjoy Miami Vice. What about you, Jasmine?

Jasmine Davis: Yeah, so it’s my belief that you can never go wrong with a tequila sunrise. So Casamigos, OJ, a splash of Grenadine with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry to garnish. It’s just a beautiful drink and it’s delicious. And like Lisa said, summer is upon us, and I don’t know about y’all, but I’m ready to get out there to the beach more specifically for me. And to the Miami Vice theme, one of my favorite beach CDs is definitely Miami. So I’m hoping to go down there very soon. I’m in Atlanta, so it’s not a very long way in terms of a flight to get down there. But that’s definitely my cocktail choice.

Chuck Gose: Tequila sunrise is good, Jasmine, but I’m going to raise it up a notch. I’m not much of a tequila drinker. I blame college for that.

Jasmine Davis: Exactly.

Chuck Gose: So what I’ve discovered is a Kentucky sunrise, which is basically the same with orange juice and Grenadine and all that, but with bourbon instead of tequila. Equally delightful. Equally delightful, I’ll throw that out there.

Jasmine Davis: I’m going to have to try that, Chuck. Thank you.

Chuck Gose: Well again, thank you both for coming on the podcast, sharing your stories, sharing all the great work you’re doing at Extreme Networks.

Jasmine Davis: Thanks, Chuck, for having us again, and thanks to SocialChorus as well.

Lisa Yeaton: Yeah, thank you. This has been a blast.

Chuck Gose: If you enjoyed what you heard from this episode and want to check out others, find Culture, Comms & Cocktails on Apple podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you like to listen. And when you, do hit that subscribe button so you don’t miss any future episodes. This has been Culture, Comms & Cocktails, internal comms served straight up. Thanks for listening.

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