Employee spotlights: show your organisation’s authentic side

Employee spotlights are a great way to engage other employees and tell the world about the good stuff going on inside your organisation.

Want to shout about your amazing culture? Attract the best new talent? Even demonstrate your commitment to sustainability or diversity and inclusion? There’s no better way to do all these things (and more) than by sharing authentic stories from your own people. 

An employee spotlight is any type of content that celebrates one of your employees. It can be a written interview, a video or even a podcast where they discuss something from their career journey, a recent success, or their perspective on a particular topic. 

In this article, you’ll discover how to write or film an engaging employee spotlight. We’ll cover things to consider before you start, what to include and what to ask. Plus, there are self-filming guidelines if you want your employees to shoot their own spotlight video. 

 

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Why create employee spotlights?

First things first. Why bother creating employee spotlights at all? What are the tangible benefits?

While employee spotlights commonly feature in internal marketing and content channels like newsletters or on the company intranet, championing employees in external channels too can be hugely beneficial for reflecting your company culture and values. 

Reasons for creating employee spotlights include:

  • Building trust in your organisation: From an external perspective, a business can seem faceless, corporate and even a little soulless. Employee spotlight content is perfect for showing who the people behind the operation are, so that potential customers and new talent can see the trusted professionals they’d be dealing with. 
  • Creating a more authentic brand: Putting faces and names to an organisation helps to add credibility and authenticity to any internal or external message you’re trying to convey. It’s easier to show your company’s values if you have real people voicing them. 

  • Motivating, encouraging and retaining employees: Seeing inspiring stories of career progression from other employees and showcasing people to look up to in the organisation is great for motivating and encouraging staff. This can lead to greater employee retention and ultimately, work productivity. 

 

Featuring employee spotlights in both external and internal content channels helps to create transparency for both your internal people and your external customers. 

When shared internally, employee spotlights help with morale because you’re recognising and rewarding staff – making it clear that without them, the company wouldn’t be what it is. And sharing the content externally helps to show that the company cares for its people and lives its values, with the audience getting to see an insider’s point of view. 

 

Where and how to use employee spotlights

Employee spotlights can be used for a variety of reasons and in a variety of different places. For example:

  • Newsletters: Either external or internal newsletters are a great place to feature employee spotlights. For internal newsletters, featuring different people’s career stories can inspire others and build morale. And for external newsletters, featuring employee stories is a great way to add a human face to your marketing. Things like ‘Staff picks’, ‘We recommend’ or even ‘Now reading’ features often get good engagement. 
  • Employee recognition programmes: Employee spotlights are a crucial part of internal employee reward and recognition programmes, whether yours is a yearly competition or more of an ‘always-on’ content programme. Highlighting employee success – either a team’s or an individual’s – is a great way to keep people motivated and communicate wins across the business. 
  • Internal and external campaigns: Featuring real employees in external marketing is nothing new – it can be a powerful way to humanise your organisation. Employee stories are a persuasive way to show your values because you’re putting a human face to them.

    In an internal campaign focusing on a specific topic, such as diversity and inclusion, featuring employee stories also gives you campaign advocates. This adds to the power and authenticity of the campaign. Again, it’s always good to have a human face within the campaign content, including on landing pages or in emails.

  • To show your company values: If your website has a section outlining your company values, employee spotlights can be a great addition and show how you truly live by them. Your people’s stories can prove that you walk the walk as well as talk the talk on important issues like the gender gap, mental health and wellbeing, diversity and inclusion, sustainability and training and development. 

 

How to choose people to feature 

Take a journalistic approach to choosing which employees to feature. By this, I mean you should decide what your ‘hook’ is, then find the stories that best communicate that from the people who can tell them best. 

 

Have a clear goal or theme in mind

To decide on your hook, you need to start with a clear goal or theme. For example, if you want to attract new talent to the organisation, find the most inspiring young new recruits to spotlight. People will always recognise themselves in others, so keep this in mind when you’re choosing. 

Defining a theme is also a great way to make sure your final employee spotlight is engaging and cohesive. 

For example, perhaps you want to drive sustainability within the business. Here, you could find the people in the organisation who are particularly interested in this topic and are doing something in or out of work related to it. Perhaps they have a sustainable side-hustle business, lead a community group, or have a sustainable or nature-based hobby like surfing. Interview them, find out what inspires and drives them, and use them as influencers for their colleagues.

 

Plan the process

For an employee spotlight to be engaging, you need to feature willing, enthusiastic participants who have something interesting to say. But it can be tricky to find people willing to talk about themselves, and it may take some time to find the perfect candidates. The best way to overcome this challenge is simply to plan your approach ahead. 

Here’s a way you could approach the process:

  • Research your colleagues based on their relevance to your goal or topic. Talk to people: email, message and ask around to find out who your colleagues think would be ideal. 
  • Create a spreadsheet with a long list of people you think would be good to speak to, along with their contact details. 
  • Write out a list of questions you’ll ask during the interview. 
  • Start outreach, explaining what you’re doing and why. Share the questions so they can see in advance what you’ll be asking them. Start to gather who is interested and has availability. 

 

How to create an employee spotlight

Now let’s go into more detail about setting up and conducting interviews and creating your employee spotlights. 

Remember, people are busy, so you’re likely to have limited time to hold your interview. Being prepared with questions and having a clear idea about what you want to achieve will help you get the most from the time you have with the interviewee. 

 

Employee spotlight interview question examples

The questions you ask during an employee spotlight interview will depend on your chosen topic and the tone you want. Tailor the examples below based on the formality and style that fits your organisation. You could ask fun or informal questions if that’s appropriate, or stick to more straightforward questions if that’s better for your organisation’s style. 

 

Top tip: Take a journalistic approach to interviewing by starting questions with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. 

 

Questions to ask during an employee spotlight interview:

If you’re creating an employee spotlight about their career journey:

  • How did you first get into [sector]?
  • What initially interested you about [sector]?
  • What’s your favourite thing about your job?
  • Why do you love it?
  • If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?
  • Who inspires you the most?
  • What’s your vision for the future – where do you want to be in five or ten years’ time?

 

If you’re creating an employee spotlight about their perspective of the organisation:

  • What first attracted you to work at [company name]?
  • Why do you continue to work at [company name]?
  • What’s the best thing about your colleagues?
  • What are you most proud of about your time at [company name] so far? 
  • How do you describe [company name] to your friends and family?
  • If you could choose one word that sums up [company name], what would it be?

 

If you’re creating an employee spotlight about a particular topic, hobby or interest: 

  • How and when did you first get into [topic]?
  • Why do you do it?
  • What does it mean to you?
  • What’s the biggest challenge you face?
  • Who else is involved? 
  • What’s your vision for the future – where do you hope this will be in five or ten years’ time?

 

How to write an employee spotlight

Here’s everything you need to know to write an employee spotlight – from defining your format to finding the all-important colour in the story. 

 

Define your format 

Before you start your interview, decide where the content will be published, how long it will need to be, and what supporting content you may need. This will help you prepare your questions so you can create an employee spotlight that will perfectly fit the format. 

For example, if you’re creating a short and snappy employee spotlight for a short section in an employee newsletter or for social media, keep your interview questions sharp and to-the-point. 

Questions for a short and snappy format:

  • What’s your top tip for younger candidates who want a career in [sector]?
  • What’s your favourite work-related book?
  • Who or what inspires you the most?

 

You may be looking to write something long-form, perhaps for a web page or a permanent employee spotlight section on your intranet. In this case, write your interview questions to require more considered, fuller answers. 

Questions for a long-form written format:

  • What’s your work history? Tell us how you got here.
  • Can you describe how you felt when you first joined the company?
  • What are your favourite things about working here?

 

Next, consider if you’re going to need assets for numerous different platforms. For example, you may want to produce a long question-and-answer-style interview but also create short assets to promote the piece externally on LinkedIn, or internally on Yammer. Think what questions you can ask for the long-form piece that you can also pull out as short social captions. 

 

Consider if you need to write a profile

A profile is a short descriptive article, often featuring quotes from the person being profiled. This can be a good format to introduce a new senior leader, such as a new CEO or innovation lead, to the rest of the organisation.

A profile is mainly a description of that person’s background and an outline of why they’re here and doing this new thing. You’ll include the highlights of their career so far, including any impressive things they’ve done and why they’re going to be a great addition to the company. 

It’s a good idea to interview your subject in person if you’re doing a profile on them, so you can gather interesting quotes and observe them in their natural environment. But it’s best to write up the bulk of the article as a written description, rather than in pure question-and-answer style. 

Here are some tips on writing a profile (but a lot of these also apply to any interview strategy):

Research your subject: Find out as much about them as you can, including career history and personal interests. 

Write questions for the interview: During your research stage, write questions that you want to ask them based on what you find interesting or intriguing about them. 

Interview: Hold your interview somewhere they’re relaxed so you can get the best out of them. Record the interview on camera or as audio, so you can refer back to it when you’re writing it up. 

Find the story: Consider what the main ‘hook’ of their story is. Have they done something groundbreaking? Are they from a background that’s different to most other people’s at your organisation? Do they approach their work in a refreshing way? 

Incorporate direct quotes: Once you’ve decided what your story is, choose quotes that illustrate and support the story. 

 

Add colour to the story 

One of the most important things to remember when you’re interviewing someone is you want to draw out the colour of what they’re saying rather than focus only on the facts. In this context, colour refers to the emotional impact of an event. 

For example:
I was made redundant in my last job = fact
I felt scared I’d never find anything else = colour

Facts can be boring. But they’re necessary: we need them to move a story forward. Colour is what makes people lean in, pay attention and care. 

Often, when someone is telling a story, they will focus on the facts and may need encouragement to tell you the more interesting details. Try to draw more from their answers by asking follow-up questions. 

To tease out the colour of someone’s story when you’re interviewing them, you can use the Think/Feel/Do model. So, ask them:

  1. what they thought
  2. how it felt
  3. what they did as a result. 

 

The way your interviewee answers these follow-up questions will often provide the things you want to focus on for the write-up. The detail in these answers is what you’ll probably want to lead with and highlight as quotes. 

Look for the story to tell. If someone has overcome something difficult, succeeded against the odds or redeemed themselves after hardship, this is going to make a more engaging read (or watch) than something without colour. 

 

Include a photo

Always include a photo. Putting a face to a name helps people connect to your interviewee better. A simple, professional headshot is all you need. These pointers will help you snap or request the perfect headshot.

The subject should:

  • wear neutral, simple clothing – avoid patterns that can be distracting
  • have a neutral, plain background – a white or neutral-coloured wall is best
  • be lit from the front, not the side or the back
  • have just head and shoulders in the frame
  • smile!

 
Employee spotlights: the hardworking content that engages employees, attracts new talent and shows potential customers what you stand for. Here’s how to create them, via @EmphasisWriting Click To Tweet
 

Filming employee spotlights

If you have video equipment (or just a decent smartphone camera), you could consider filming some employee spotlights, or asking your subject to film their own. 

You’ll still need to consider what written content you need to accompany the video. You could add either a short teaser outline of who’s in the video and what it shows or the full written questions and answers alongside it. 

For example, maybe you’re creating employee spotlight videos for a landing page on your website about diversity and inclusion, showing different people from across the organisation and their unique stories. A landing page allows plenty of space for both video and written copy, so you could add a few paragraphs of text to each video. This copy can introduce the person and give a synopsis of their story. Then readers can skim the story and go on to watch the video if they want to. 

You may have even more space, such as in a company-wide email introducing a new senior member of staff. Here, you could include a video interview and a written profile describing their career so far and outlining their key achievements. 

 

Employee spotlights: self-filming guidelines 

If people aren’t used to producing videos, it’s best to provide guidelines on the fundamentals of creating something that’s visually and audibly clear. 

Here’s what to include in your self-filming guidelines: 

 

Section 1: ‘What we need from you’ 

Start with a section that outlines what you need from them. This should include background information on the project or campaign you’re working on. Note how long the video should be, outline what you want them to say and tell them where the video will be used, eg social media, websites, during meetings and so on. 

 

Section 2: ‘How to film your video’

The next section needs to be clear instructions on self-filming. Here, include any specific filming guidelines they need to adhere to, from what background they should have to whether to film in portrait or landscape. Portrait mode is great for social media, whereas landscape is best for presentation decks, emails and websites.

Here are some examples of these guidelines: 

Find a quiet space
Find a quiet space to film yourself at home or at work. Aim for no background noise so your voice is clear. 

Make sure your background is neutral
Remove any clutter from the background of your video – this can be distracting. Film in front of a blank wall if possible. 

Position your phone at head height
To frame yourself well and to avoid shaky footage, either use a tripod or prop your phone up against something steady so it’s facing you at head height. 

Frame your face and shoulders
Position your head and shoulders within the frame. Make sure you don’t have the phone too close: try placing it at least an arm’s length away from you. 

Record in selfie mode
Record in selfie mode using the front camera, if you have one, so you can see what you’re recording. If you can’t do this, use the back camera, but get someone to check that you are framed in the shot. 

Light from the front 
To make sure you’re in focus and well lit, it’s important that the light source is in front of you, not behind you. Avoid sitting in front of a window where you are backlit, as you will appear in silhouette or the background will be overbright. 

Technical tips

  • Don’t cover the microphone while filming.
  • Don’t add any filters to your footage. 
  • Be yourself! The more relaxed you are, the better you’ll speak.

 

Section 3: Talking points for the video

Finally, touch on anything specific you want them to say, so they can suitably frame their response. List questions or simply talking points relating to the topic. 

For example, for a video about their career journey, you could ask them to cover: 

  • your career progression – where you started and why you’re where you are now
  • the reasons you’re proud to be in your position and team
  • what you like about the company culture. 

 

You can grab a template version of these self-filming tips that you can edit and send out to your colleagues – just click the button below: 

 

Employee spotlight example

Let’s take a closer look at a great example of a company that’s doing all this really well. 

Professional services firm Deloitte use employee spotlights to show all the different types of careers you can have with them.

 

Deloitte careers hub page with headshot and text 'Tej’s story: Working in the Mergers and Acquisition Tax team, Tej says it’s the people at Deloitte that make the job so enjoyable.'

Click image to enlarge in new tab

 

Deloitte is a huge global organisation, with nearly 412,000 employees worldwide. So they put a lot of time and effort into recruitment. The UK portion of the company has a careers content hub where there are many employee spotlights in both written and video formats. They use these to reinforce the topics that are important to them as a business – like supporting women in cyber and promoting diversity. 

They’ve published a series of personal written stories on the ‘Meet our people’ page to show what the company is like through the eyes of its employees. They also have a series of short video interviews on the Deloitte UK YouTube channel. The channel is dedicated to showing potential talent what it’s like to work there, the career paths they could take, and what young recruits say about their experience at the company.

 

A video on the Deloitte content hub with accompanying text under the heading 'What surprised our people about Deloitte?'

Click image to enlarge in new tab

 

Showing your organisation’s authentic side

Employee spotlights are a brilliant way to show your authenticity as an organisation and to highlight the things you care about – and how you stand by them. 

Whether you’re showcasing career paths and your commitment to learning and development or your diversity and inclusion goals, employee spotlights can add a warmth and a human touch to your internal and external communications.

 

Image credit: Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

 

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