Meet the P-Staff

Creating Anna Florence, our corporate puppet

“GUCCI” shirt. That’s me.

Hi! My name is Gabbi. And on my right is Anna Florence, Zendesk’s model employee. Let me explain…

As Zendesk’s Communication Designer, my job is to figure out a way to graphically explain corporate messages to the entire company in a digestible and captivating fashion — it’s a challenge that I really enjoy. About a year ago, our OG, badass, knowledgeable, and theatrical Senior Internal Communications Manager, Hannah Lawrence, said that we needed to get with the Instagram story-times and should start incorporating video into our internal communications. Why? Video is awesome (duh), but the real reasons are that video:

  • Displays nonverbal communication
  • Engages audiences
  • Prompts sharing
  • Presents quick and rich content
  • Incites action
  • Enhances social communication

Also, the last thing people at a tech company want to do is read another email. In fact, 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than read text. (I got this stat from some website of a tool named Panopto…but no mo’ stats, I promise.) However, once we read that, we were sold. Hannah even sent me to an Internal Comms video conference. I saw what other companies were doing, and even though some concepts were cool, they still felt dense and “too corporate.” We definitely wanted something a bit more fun and engaging — Zendesk isn’t like other tech companies, both culturally and aesthetically, so it was hard to relate to anything we were seeing from other companies.

So how could we make corporate videos feel less…corporate-y?

At first the obvious models that stood out to us were news parodies and interviews — things like Saturday Night Live’s weekend update, Vogue’s “73 Questions”, and Behind the Actor’s Studio. We wanted to do it all, but we didn’t know where to start. So, we came up with a solid plan complete with logistics, tools, criteria and a set process. In the end, we decided that we needed a hero — a true brand champion. A sassy, intelligent, funny human…we needed Hannah Lawrence.

She was a clear winner. Just look at this email.

Sadly, Hannah already does enough work as it is. As the senior Internal Comms Manager, she’s responsible for MC-ing our Town Halls, coming up with the content for our monthly newsletter, distributing weekly highlights, and managing various corporate slack channels — and she’s funny and charming to boot. We obviously did need a clone of Hannah.)

So what did we come up with?

After many brainstorms and sifting through ideas, we met with Toke Nygaard (Zendesk’s Chief Creative Officer and Chief Cool-Dude, if you ask me.) We told him about our video dream plans, the need to capture the essence of Hannah without actually having her do the videos, and as it turns out, Toke had a dream of his own… a puppet dream. Suddenly, the stars aligned — the idea of Anna Florence was born. (Hannah Lawrence, get it?)

But who was Anna Florence? To figure that out, we gave her a life of her own. We had to make sure that she wasn’t ACTUALLY Hannah — after all, Hannah would be introducing her at many Town Halls. To simplify things, here’s where we landed:

  • Anna Florence is a model Zendesk employee
  • She works in Advocacy
  • She is SUPER excited about our product launches, corporate announcements and internal news

And yes, okay…, even though she is kind of a kiss ass for corporate values, there is something very real about her. After all, Anna was based on a real person at first.

As a far as the show that we would create, we had a few ideas…

…but in the end, we had a clear winner:

Nowadays, the show has expanded to various parts of the company. And with the help of our badass video team, we have a swanky new episode monthly — we’ve totally upped our game.

So, what do we use Anna for overall?

Here are a few examples

“Slack Etiquette”
ZSPAN has a talk show segment that introduces new C-staff to the whole company.
Here she is introducing InaMarie Johnson (Zendesk’s Chief People Officer).
Here she is introducing Mark Woollen (Senior Vice President, Product Marketing), Shawna Wolverton (Senior Vice President, Product) and Colleen Berube (Chief Information Officer).
“THE Z-FACTOR: 2019 Goals”… I cant elaborate on this one because it’s a secret. But it was hilarious to make. So many outfit changes!
Anna facetiming Hannah to show her the newly renovated floors of our 989 Market Street office in San Francisco.

What’s next for Anna?

TOTAL DOMINATION OF ALL CORPORATE CHANNELS. Jk.

We actually actually have no idea. That’s the best part about it. We don’t force her story. Anna Florence just…happens.

We DO have a green screen though. So we could send her to space soon?

The world is her oyster.

Congratulations. You made it to the end. Check out design.zendesk.com for more thought leadership, design process, and other creative musings.

Zendesk Creative Collection

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

Gabbi Sanchez Mallona

Written by

Communications Designer at Zendesk. Big fan of soup, money and drag queens.

Zendesk Creative Collection

We're a blend of art, copy, video, and product design. We come from different backgrounds, but we share one passion as the Creative team—making compelling work for Zendesk.

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