Have a milestone worth celebrating? Unsure how to get your employees singing the same tune?
Every organization big or small has reasons to celebrate important milestones during their journey to energize their staff. Be it the completion of your company’s years of operations, a new product launch, an employee growth success story or even the opening of a new center, such celebrations lead to improved commitment if conducted inclusively.
Incidentally, the Athens Classic Marathon celebrated it 2500 year anniversary this year, Although the event will rope in close to 300 million euros for the struggling nation the event is worthy of celebration.
However the strength of messages and robust positioning are vital to the success of any such celebration.
These milestones are opportunities to market your organization’s work, staff, journey, strengths and commitment to your current employees, new hires, prospective candidates and clients. With the explosion of social media it is also an avenue to consolidate your brand and give employees reasons to celebrate the milestone with their families and friends.
While researching how organizations have celebrated their history as events I found social media tools and ‘crowdsourcing’ take center stage. Apart from consistency in how the event campaign is executed across various media the messages were directed at helping stakeholders appreciate the company’s progress, revisit their values and mission, seek feedback and build employee commitment. Hallmark invited customers to share videos, launched a blog and sought insights on ‘who you think of’, in line with their core mission of helping customers express themselves to commemorate their 100 years as a company. Similarly, Google on their 10th anniversary shared a trivia page, blog and video and looked at what the company would be ‘ten years out’. NASA’a 50th year theme lent itself to a magazine, 50 best images, photo album (crowdsourced), a life@NASA feature and a lecture series among others. Look up their website for information. Cisco conducted a talent hunt among its employees and had a blog for its 25th year celebration.
What can you do as an internal communicator to rally your workforce on such milestones?
Identify the approach: There are potential questions to discuss before the approach is finalized. Is this a one-off event or do you plan to run it year-long? Both have their advantages and disadvantages but my personal preference is to run it long term considering it opens up opportunities to extend the idea to many avenues. Given the attention span to communication it helps to reinforce the messages as a long term campaign. Think of which route you want to take – especially if you are taking the social media option – do you want to allow complete access to create, host, edit content or have controls set in? Are you expecting stakeholders to generate content or you do need to coax and coach them?
Get leadership commitment: Are your leaders invested in the milestone celebrations? Do they value the effort that will go in and the impact thereafter? Can they spend quality time with employees talking about the importance of the event?
One time or long term: It is worthwhile deciding how long you would like your organization to keep the momentum going without becoming overbearing on your employees. Do you want to do a one time event or an ongoing series of events that reinforce the milestone.
Budget for success: While allocating budgets are a given for large campaigns you may also realize that with social media most of the marketing gets taken care of with your employees’ support. The budgets can be used for building internal buzz, recognizing employees and garnering support for the milestone.
Engage your alumni and stakeholders: Do you know how you want to involve your ex-employees or new hires or media? Can they be messages framed that reflect their aspirations? Do you want to leverage ‘user generated’ content or do you foresee content getting generated by leaders and the communication team?
Social media and implications: How do you want your employees to be talking about the milestone? Does your organization want to create a page on a social networking site or do you want to have it hosted on the intranet? Is Twitter a good idea? Are there employees who can be your social media reporters? Do you have a policy that guides employees on how to blog, post images and conduct conversations? How often and who will monitor to check if employees are following the company’s code of ethics and living the culture and values where the post online? Also, do not assume your employees know how to use social media tools and resources. Set up a page explaining how to post photos on Facebook or to use# tag to tweet out messages.
Opportunity to market the event: Such events open up avenues to promote your organization in more ways that one. It will help to step back and understand which audiences you would like to share the message with –prospects, families, media, clients or all of them? The messages in your collateral, e-mails, microsite, newsletters can find a way to reach out.
Beyond the milestone: Most often after the buzz subsides the communication ends abruptly. Have your leaders continue the great momentum with periodic blogs, Town Halls, messages that reinforce the milestone. Understand how you would like people to engage with the milestone beyond the prescribed date.
Approaching the event: Clearly chalk out the internal teams’ roles. Who will manage the milestone, the lead-up, the promotion, the collateral, the post-event publicity among others? Here is what I recommend. The Internal Communication team is to develop messages and rollout, the office administration (called different names in organizations) to work closely on agency relationships and logistics, the leadership is responsible for rallying employees, creating a core team at each office to drive engagement and the marketing team (if you have one) is to support collateral creation and delivery. Usually, a 6-8 weeks window is a good enough time to built buzz and excitement around the milestone.
Manage the message: While individual personalities and creative energies surface it is important for the internal communication team to constantly keep everyone on the same page. The messages should focus on – why are we celebrating, why should you care, what are we doing, how can you be involved, where are we going from here. Keep employees abreast of progress with a weekly or if you have the bandwidth, daily updates.
Measure the impact: Apart from how your employees perceive the milestone it is important to check on impact to pride, commitment and awareness to what you set out to accomplish.
Maximize the outcome: Don’t just end with the celebrations. Think of ways to extend the idea and impact beyond the milestone. Invest in harvesting the photos and videos into showcases, invite employees to share content (you will be amazed at how talented your employees are!) taken on their personal devices, tap those who participated actively to spread the word to family and friends and have leaders talk about how the milestone impacts the workplace.
Finally, what matters is your employees’ experience and how convinced they are with the organization they continue to work with.