Tacky Sweater Walk! Post #1

It is no secret that Columbus State University is a staple of the Columbus community. They are an active provider of volunteer manpower, and the Communication department is a major contributor to their community service hours. This year, the second annual Tacky Sweater Walk will be hosted downtown on December 6. It will be an all-day event to showcase the department’s very own Non-Profit and Civic Engagement Center and their partners in the community, including Ride on Bikes and Big Dog Running Company. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. with the mile-long walk, followed by the post-walk party and the best part: the tacky sweater contest! Wear your tackiest, and be prepared to walk with your head high in victory! We’ll see you there!

Jacob Leatherwood – Give the Kids a Shot

December 2

So this is my last post as a part of the internship program. I have to say, it’s been killing me trying to get these posts to work. It’s been a long time working on these projects with Aflac, and a lot of the things I worked on specifically as PR-ish type projects turned into real, fleshed out assignments from my manager and I will wind up working on them well after this internship is over. I have learned a lot about “technical PR” and “corporate PR” through some of my classes and especially seeing the impact of PR where the P stands for “Peveryone but us” Relations. Some of the work revolves around the public and Aflac’s customer base, but a huge portion of what I have done was just finding ways to make sure that my department was presentable and looked good to all the other departments at Aflac. Personally, I still feel like that is a completely valid form of Public Relations.

A while back, I started emailing the woman in charge of Aflac Children’s Cancer Center of Atlanta, and asked if I could help with any fundraisers or anything else. She mentioned that they typically “sponsor” one fundraiser each year, and that if I could pitch a good enough idea, that I could potentially get a sponsorship for my philanthropy and get a plaque on the wall at the Center. I pitched an idea to my brothers in Tau Kappa Epsilon for a pool tournament called Give the Kids a Shot. I am talking to Players’ Pool Hall on Airport Thruway and Veterans and trying to get them to let us use a few of the tables for it for free and let all of the proceeds go to the Cancer Center. I am currently developing a poster for it, and will hopefully be able to put it on in March or April of 2014! I am really excited about this and it just goes to show that even if you don’t get a career in PR, you can still use PR to better your career, your life, and the lives of those around you!

Jacob Leatherwood – My Everything Hurts…

November 21

On Thursday when I met with Tomeika, we decided to wipe the website and start [basically] from scratch. Because this site broadcasts our department, we needed to make sure that everyone who saw it could a. easily maneuver it, b. be able to find what they need, c. understand what our team does, and d. the team could improve functionality and efficiency using it. Holy cow. We talked for probably 2 hours on just the things we needed to update. That didn’t include remove or add, just update. Today I met with her again and we sat down with our main coding specialist, Nehi, and discussed which things we wanted to add and remove. I won’t even try to explain all the changes we are making, but I feel like I’m suffocating. Today alone, before that meeting (at 2pm), I did:

Initial steps for the NNU home site and requested approval

Finished my Power Weeks database access requests

Stood outside the cafeteria selling fundraiser raffle tickets for an hour with Denise

Produced a sitemap for every page of our website

Updated the EFM site to reflect the insights from October

And I still have more to do. I don’t know how I’m going to handle this workload if I am going to be trying to keep up this pace with finals. I will probably die from exhaustion or have an anxiety attack or something.

Department Site Requests

November 12

Today, while I was discussing the views and inputs of the department managers with my divisional head, Tammy, she asked me to talk to Tomeika (my manager) about our department’s site. When the manager who hired me switched divisions, there was a MAJOR overhaul in New Business, which is my department. Basically, it used to be divided into 3 chunks. Now, however, one of the chunks went to another division, and the other two merged under one manager, Tomeika. So our website still has all the information for all 3 departments, with pictures and descriptions. Plus, since my old manager Jeff was the one constructing the site conceptually, now that he is gone a lot of the links don’t even work. Tammy wanted me to meet with Tomeika and discuss how she wanted things to change and what she wanted on the website. I have a meeting with Tomeika on Thursday to discuss things.

Power Weeks!

November 7

Next Monday is the start of the Fourth Quarter Power Weeks here at Aflac. Power Weeks is what Aflac calls their end of quarter and end of year three week periods. Power Weeks is when the employees do their best to get as much information in as possible, to get as many policies and claims filed and sorted and squared away for our quarterly metrics. To help with that, Aflac actually makes it a special occasion, through the use of special food days, “Blue Jeans Week” where employees who bring in the right numbers get to wear blue jeans all week instead of just on Friday, and many other fun ways to make sure the employees are happy and can do their best work. For me, Power Weeks means a huge spike in surveys. When I do the EFM site to analyze the survey responses, it usually takes me about 3 days to create the new page to update for each month. This includes adding all the coding, reading and sorting each response into the correct category, and then analyzing the categories for insights about the month and Aflac’s processes as a whole.

During Power Weeks, it will probably take me closer to 5 days, as the last Power Weeks we had an increase in surveys from 300, the average number each month, to almost 1,500. I’m a fast reader, but reading 1,500 people say what they did or did not like about Aflac takes a LONG time. On top of all of that, I still have my other duties within my department, like doing web access codes for other departments and business process improvement and redesign methodologies. I think the worst part about Power Weeks is that they are the middle 2 weeks in November for the end of quarter, and then the middle 2 weeks in December for the end of year. This means that I will have Power Weeks responsibilities during three of my finals for CSU. That’s really gonna put a hurting on my time.

NNU Home Site Request

November 5

In my work at Aflac this semester, I have been in charge of maintaining the sites that govern our survey responses from our customers. This has involved designing our SharePoint site for EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) as well as updating it and creating new ways to get the information across the board to the employees and management in our division. The managers of my department use my website and my results every week in the meetings with their managers. The head of the division saw what I had done with the SharePoint site and asked me for a meeting. I was so nervous, I had no idea why she wanted to meet with me and started panicking thinking I had some something wrong!

When I met with her, she told me that she really liked the work I had done on the EFM site, and she asked me if I would be willing to design, implement, and maintain the “home site” for our entire department. I was blown away! This assignment means that anytime someone needs access to the SharePoint site for any of the departments in our division, they would visit my home site to find the page they needed. I’m still super nervous about it! Last Friday, I held a meeting with all of the department heads to get their input on what they wanted to be on the home site, since it would be easily accessible to higher-level management. The goal was to decide which information should just be on the division home site (important metrics, the dashboard with our goals and insights for the year, etc.) for each department. This is a huge honor, but also a huge risk because if it’s terrible, I will be the one in trouble. That’s one of the reasons I put together the meeting with the department heads, I feel like their input was invaluable for putting together a website that broadcasts our department in a positive light.

Christmas is for Kids

October 28

In December, my department will be hosting a fundraiser called “Christmas is for Kids” which will help the children of the Atlanta Cancer Center. When I heard about the event, I quickly went around and found out who was in charge of it and offered to help. We came up with some posters to match the T-shirts that had been selected from the drawing for designs. Aflac allows children from 6 years old and older to submit their ideas for the T-shirts. I helped my coworker Denise put together a poster, and organized the actual fundraiser: a raffle where you can win a handful of cool items like a 60” TV, an iPad, or even just paid time off and the tickets were 1 for $5, 3 for $10, or 8 for $20. Personally, I have no idea why Aflac chose those prices and those gifts (I spent $20, and have 8 chances to win an iPad when I’m the only person from my department who bought any, I imagine the other departments are very similar), but the fundraiser ends on December 6th, and we are already at well over $500 raised just out of our building (Paul S. Amos building, one of 5 in Columbus). I have posted the fliers in all of the break rooms, restrooms, the cafeteria, outside each building division (A-F), and have them plastered all over my cubicle. I want to meet with the header of fundraising at the Aflac Children’s Cancer Center of Atlanta and see how else I can help them with things like this.

Reason Codes and PR

October 24

This week, I have been working with a program called TPX with Aflac. I was in charge of updating and reviewing the Reason Codes for Aflac. These codes are the “reasons” why people may be declined for their applications or policies. This job has been eye-opening for me, because I had the opportunity to see over 1,000 different reasons why applications and policies were declined. I have kept a small log on different post-its at my desk that were some of the more common reasons or grouping. I worked on updating them so that they matched the company’s national records, and had to review the numbers on each reason. I have spent the last few weeks working on an enrollment/setup survey for new customers to Aflac, and working with these reason codes gave me an idea. My goal now is to add an additional survey that matches this new demographic’s concerns:

I want to do a survey to ask people who currently have Aflac how their experience is.

Part of me knows that the majority of the responses will be like my dad’s was when he got in his accident: nothing but praise. But I really want to see how people feel when their claim is declined. I want to see the responses we get when we ask people who are declined for a policy what they think. I think that a big step in understanding how Aflac’s customers (not just new customers, but active ones too) feel about our products is to hold surveys for them annually. One of the recommendations I made for Underwriting (read my last post) was to add a survey. Not for metrics, but for understanding. Our NNU (New Business, New Account Setup, and Underwriting) survey is directed at new customers and we use it to track how the new customers feel and keep track of our numbers. For Underwriting specifically, my recommendation was to add a survey so that they could see the common frustrations that customers had. This would give their department a new view of the way customers see the claim process. Naturally, the department should not use the survey for metrics since most of the responses Underwriting gets will be negative because they are the ones who review the application when something is wrong with it and are the ones who actually choose “accept” or “decline”. However, I think it would be good for them to have a survey for the chance to find that one person who says “I wish you would do this” and then maybe, the department will have the opportunity to truly improve their processes to increase customer satisfaction.

Underwriting: The Last Step Impression

October 22

This week has been pretty busy! I was given complete control over our EFM (Enterprise Feedback Management) site, and people keep asking me for survey responses and I was actually involved in a meeting where I was asked which areas could have the largest impact on customer perception of our enrollment process!

I was asked to tag team with our underwriting department to find a way to increase their “maturity”, or the level at which their department operates. I am focusing now on improving their claims site. My big move on this one has been an FAQ for Underwriting. Because Underwriting is the last step before an application is decided, I added a “Next Step” option to their return emails. This recommendation for their department gives them the potential to seriously increase customer ratings because if they do not get the policy or claim that they wanted, this automatic response offers suggestions of other claims or policies similar to the one they applied for. I got an award of recognition for my work on this project this week, and if my idea works the way I think it will, it will greatly increase our survey scores.

The way my idea works: When a customer applies for a policy or claim and it reaches underwriting for some reason, they receive and email from the team explaining that their policy/claim was denied. My idea adds a ‘signature’ to each email when it is declined that has FAQ’s with common questions asked about why it might have been declined. Beneath that, there is an option to show similar requests made, so even when someone does not get what they want, they can be confident that they still have options.

An Innovative Tool

October 15

My managers are struggling hard at work because the team I am interning for is a support group. What they are struggling with is the fact that anytime another department has an issue that they want us to work on, there is a routine. They send someone to our department to ask us to work on it. The problem with this is that the other departments do not typically go through my managers. Because of this, our personal site has a collection of assignments that are inserted by my team members and the managers don’t get a chance to approve or oversee the assignments unless they religiously check the dashboard collection. My managers have tasked me with identifying a way to get around this problem without costing us anything in time or efficiency.

Even though this is not technically PR, it is a great example of corporate communications as I am working to actively better the efficiency of everything in our corporate work place. My idea was a formal and official request form to be found on our department’s SharePoint site. This addition to the site needed proper testing and as such I have been working all week on what fields are necessary and what needs to happen behind the scenes. My final product looked a little like this:

Whenever someone submits the form, they get an email receipt with their name, the date of submission, the title and description of the request, and the ID number for the request.

Then, when my manager sees the request and assigns it to someone on our team, the team member gets an email saying they have been assigned a new item.

When the item is complete, an email goes to my managers and the person who submitted the request, letting them know that their request (by title and ID number) has been completed, and who it was completed by.

I really believe that this is going to increase the efficiency of my team and give greater power and interaction between the departments. I think that if this form works as well as I want it to, we will have a more fluid process of requesting aid, and more will get done.