Cooper Lefler, Veterans United

Cooper Lefler, Veterans United

Want Strong Culture & Engagement? Have a little fun!

Cooper Lefler headshot

Cooper Lefler

Culture Team Lead

Be silly when you can. It goes a long way.

Get to know Cooper

How did you get started with a career in communications?

My journey into communications began in the radio business. I started as an afternoon on-air talent (fancy word for a DJ). And over the course of a decade in the radio business, I became a program director, production director, commercial writer, music director, and more. I’ve taken the skills I learned through creating advertising campaigns and writing ads and promotional materials into my current career as Culture Team Lead. That title is a little deceiving, but my team handles internal communications for a company with over 5,000 employees nationwide.

You are so creative with your communication and engagement programs. What are a few you’re really proud of?

After a few years of thinking it over, we finally started our own internal “TV network.” VUTV premiered in the spring of 2021. Currently, we have three shows that air twice a month. Each run for approximately 20 minutes with one or two hosts, guests, and a game of some sort. We have a show, New@VU, which is aimed at new hires that have only been with Veterans United for 18 months or less. Wellness Wednesday is for everyone in the company and provides tips on health, fitness, exercise, diet, and activities to do around the city. Good Morning VU is also for everyone and aims to hit on company related news, events, and addressing rumors. Guests have included our CEO and CFO, a hiring manager, and our Diversity & Inclusion manager.

Our employee app, Outpost, was a big hit when we launched it in March of 2020. We have varied in adoption, ranging from 63% to 75% depending on hiring and company events. We are also able to interact with the whole company or specific departments at any given time through Outpost. We’ve had great success with trivia nights, Outpost exclusive videos, and contests and giveaways.

We actually just wrapped up Cyber Security Month this past October. Wait, you forgot again!? We asked how could we make cyber security a little more exciting and came up with a month-long campaign called Keeping Cyber Security Sexy! It was a big hit that included one of our Security Analysts and our Chief Information Officer in wigs and sunglasses “playing” smooth jazz on a saxophone while candles and dry ice filled the room. We made four videos, all under two minutes, with those guys sharing cyber security tips. It’s one of those “you have to see it” kind of things, but people really liked it.

Veterans United has a great culture. What tips do you have for other communicators in building culture with communication?

  1. A great workplace culture can start anywhere as long as it starts! If it comes from the top-down, that’s great. But it doesn’t have to. Is it a little easier if it does? Yes, as long as it’s genuine, not forced, and not patronizing. 
  2. Use your communication channels to be upfront and honest with employees. We have found that being transparent and upfront about rumors, changes, or company news is always appreciated. 
  3. Always assume positive intent from leaders and co-workers. 
  4. Communicate often and in different ways, even if there is nothing to promote. Just have fun. In my experience, over-communicating with employees is usually better than not communicating enough.

You started VU Radio at your company. What makes for a successful internal comms podcast/radio show?

Brevity, honesty, and likeability. Keep it short, and don’t bore people. Also, not everyone is good on the air or in videos, so pick your guests wisely. And invite guests that know what they are talking about. The phrase “I don’t know” should rarely be heard. The host or guests are the “experts,” that’s why they’re there. If they don’t know an answer, admit it and make it a point to find out and share next time.

What advice do you have for other internal communications professionals?

Ask for input from those on your team and people you trust. Be confident in your decisions and admit mistakes or ideas that didn’t work. Also, be silly when you can. It goes a long way.

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