What happens when a group of people who have never met in real life, create a fake news channel that inspires people around the world?
The idea came from content creator, Cameron Murray (@CammySutra6) from Glasgow who, tired of the fake news and influencers in social media content marketing took matters in his own hands to create a tongue-in-cheek news network on Snapchat called CNT (Cammy’s News Network) that promised to “put you in the centre of the story”.
Little did he know that when he pitched the idea in Snapchat, that it would inspire a group of us to take on the challenge and report on local and somewhat mundane news stories with hilarious results.
Chelsea Peitz, a real estate marketer based in Phoenix Arizona, Nick Rishwain, a legal technology expert in California, Jo Ann Krall a professional organiser from Boston, Chris Baeirman, producer of OCD Kids Movie and advocate of OCD support resources on social media based in Brooklyn, NY, Bill Flannery, a regional business development manager for a B2B company selling to the hotel and restaurant trades in Washington DC and Helen Blunden, a corporate learning and development consultant from Melbourne, submitted stories for the pilot which aired on Snapchat on Tuesday 22 November.
Although our “virtual news crew” had never met in person, we all knew of each other’s work and had interacted with each other at some stage through the Snapchat. We knew Cammy was able to pull together something that was going to be memorable, entertaining and unique – and we were willing to help make his vision a reality.
Cammy presented an opportunity for us to come together to work on a collaborative and creative project that was going to challenge us. It was a great way to learn more about how we could use and apply Snapchat differently to how others in our fields were using it and create our own media channel.
With a cheeky logo and slogan, the project gained momentum. Ideas generated, character pseudonyms chosen and backstories developed. We created different roles for ourselves such as the anchorman, the anchorwoman, the foreign correspondent, the local news reporters and the meteorologist.
However, we didn’t appreciate what we had created until the program went to air. That’s when the realisation set in.
You can’t work individually on a production. You need a team of people from diverse backgrounds who can spark ideas and imagination to create something unique.
When the program first aired, the feedback was overwhelming and the crew agreed to create a weekly CNT show. Additional social media channels on Twitter and, Instagram were created and with live streaming options across Periscope, Twitch and YouTube for those who did not have access to Snapchat.
The responses to the news channel were positive and encouraging. People wanted more episodes and they wanted to be involved. Some had submitted their own news stories and weather reports from all over the world in the hope of getting on the show.
CNT ignited a spark in people because it was memorable – and it was fun.
But what makes people want to get involved in such projects and what can business do to engage the hearts and minds of not only their people but their customers too?
Build Trust with Your People
To answer these questions we first need to understand the role that trust plays to answer these questions.
Even though the news crew had never met in person, each of them had known of each other’s work through Snapchat. That is, they made themselves, their work and lives visible through sharing their daily stories. Over time, we got to know, like and trust them.
For example, Cammy could be described as a self-directed learner, a continual experimenter and active sharer. His daily snap stories of buskers on the streets of Glasgow interspersed with observations and insights on content marketing, social media and the absurdity of influencers made us appreciate the world that we live in today. We couldn’t look at a busker without thinking of Glasgow. We felt that if we had met in real life, he’d be someone we enjoy to have a beer and a laugh with.
Over the year, we watched his storytelling improve and evolve, however, he did something else. He persistently and generously shared what he was learning about editing and filming so that his community could improve their own stories.
So when he pitched his idea, we wanted to get involved and help him. We were willing to take a risk to see how it turned out. We had nothing to lose and everything to gain from being part of the experience.
Cammy has what’s known as ‘social capital’.
Social Capital is defined as “the value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people with norms and reciprocity” (Dekker & Unslaner, 2001) and it needs to be earned, not bought.
This is where business can become unstuck because in order to gain trust, you need to express yourself in an authentic manner and this means being unfiltered and unstaged.
To a business this may represent a risk because not only is it hard to measure value, you may have doubts or may not trust your employees to share their own stories.
In an online world, the public can see through the hype. Advertisers, influencers and the hucksters stand out so the value of using your employees in your organisational story is that they present a more genuine voice and face to your company to your clients. It’s less about pushing your products and services through advertising and promotion and more about engaging, connecting and collaborating with others to create memorable experiences.
So before you ask your people to be involved, think about your social capital. How much trust have YOU built with them that they want to be involved in YOUR story?
Forced Collaboration Doesn’t Work
For CNT News, we volunteered to participate. Our different backgrounds and various skills in filming, editing and social media helped as we provided advice to each other about how we could improve the show. Collaborating in the Snapchat backchannel meant that we gave as well as received feedback on our individual stories and learned how to improve them by watching each other’s stories.
Businesses are made up of people who have unique stories, talents and voices. Often, these people may be unacknowledged or even ignored. Some businesses don’t even know the skills and capabilities of their own people.
Research has shown that forcing people to collaborate on brainstorming activities results in “cognitive fixation”. This is where people focus on each other’s ideas and block other types of ideas from taking hold. (MacGregor, 2011).
If you rely on meetings and training programs that force your people together to collaborate in structured settings or, where you mandate or control the proceedings whether overtly or covertly, you’re stifling creativity. It’s time for you to start looking at yourself less as a controller, and more as an enabler.
Instead, open up the lines of conversation between people across your organisation so that they can share their stories and make their work visible to others.
Allow people the opportunity – and the time – to get involved in their own projects that are of interest to them so that they can learn from others, build their networks and improve their interpersonal and teamwork skills…
Get Out of the Way & Watch the Magic Happen
One of the best things managers and leaders in business can do is to get out of the way especially when there is creative work that needs to be done by their teams.
Creativity comes from situations where people have the freedom to experiment and feel safe to make mistakes and fail without fear or consequence.
In business, your people are your greatest strength and opportunity. They have the knowledge and the networks between them to solve your organizational problems, especially when given the freedom and the space to do so. Access to virtual, social and digital tools also allow them to connect, collaborate and co-operate with each other across geographical boundaries.
As a manager, you can harness and empower spontaneity and creativity to happen in the workplace by allowing these opportunities to happen naturally.
It doesn’t have to be a fake news channel but you may be pleasantly surprised at what your people come up with that inspires the hearts and minds of your customers.
- Corporate Communications: The Power of Authentic Employee Stories https://www.cebglobal.com/blogs/corporate-communications-the-power-of-authentic-employee-stories/
- Dekker, Paul, and Eric M. Uslaner. 2001. ‘Introduction.’ Pp. 1 – 8 in Social Capital and Participation in Everyday Life, edited by Eric M. Uslaner. London: Routledge
- Dobos, Julius (2017) Importance of Collaboration and Teamwork in the Creative Industry https://cogswell.edu/blog/importance-collaboration-teamwork-creative-industry/
- McGregor, Jena (2011) Efforts to Push Creative Collaboration Might Actually Clog the Wheels https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/efforts-to-push-creative-collaboration-might-actually-clog-the-wheels/2011/10/31/gIQAlMCzqM_story.html?utm_term=.1f7321297f20&wpisrc=nl_headlines
Watch all the CNT Stories
Check out the other CNT News shows on the CNT News Channel on YouTube or live streams.