When Warner-Lambert and American Home Products announced a planned merger in early November, Warner-Lambert employees didn’t need to turn to CNN or CNBC to get the details. The company used its corporate TV network to broadcast its own press conference to its headquarters campus, as well as to several plants.
When Warner-Lambert and American Home Products announced a planned
merger in early November, Warner-Lambert employees didn’t need to turn
to CNN or CNBC to get the details. The company used its corporate TV
network to broadcast its own press conference to its headquarters
campus, as well as to several plants.
The former Chrysler Corp. took the same approach last year when it
announced its merger with Germany’s Daimler-Benz. Chrysler has had a
corporate TV network, now composed of 10 channels, since the 1980s. As
of September 1, the operation became known as DaimlerChrysler Business
TV, reaching more than 420,000 employees in 36 countries.
Business TV networks aren’t for everyone, those involved are quick to
point out. But for companies with multiple locations and large numbers
of employees who don’t have access to personal computers, they can be an
important part of the overall employee communications toolkit.
’There’s not one technology that’s an answer to all your communications
needs,’ notes Harold Sieloff, manager of the Ford Communications
Network, Ford Motor Co.’s TV operation. Business TV can be one of the
technologies that makes sense for employee communications, if companies
have done their homework in determining the objectives for such a system
and in analyzing the cost versus alternative technologies.
Business TV, with monitors put in places such as break rooms, cafeterias
and reception areas, can convey and reinforce important company messages
provided through such avenues as newsletters and intranet sites. It also
can be used for training classes and for spotlighting employees and
projects. Such soft news can help build a sense of pride in a
Major systems like those run by DaimlerChrysler and Ford can cost
millions of dollars annually for equipment, satellite time and
personnel. But other companies have found cheaper routes. Those include
relying on video slides rather than live commentators, and contracting
with outside providers that can furnish content and the staff and
equipment needed for occasional live broadcasts, such as an important
company press event.
At Warner-Lambert, for example, Judy Bello, SVP of colleague
communications, is budgeting dollars 50,000 a site to cover TVs and
wiring costs to expand her network. She uses PCs to supply video slides
to her system and buys other information from an outside vendor to fill
time between company news and features. Phyllis Ely, marketing director
with Target Vision, Rochester, NY, the vendor Warner-Lambert works with,
notes that a very basic business TV setup, which includes an editing
system, a display system and several TVs, can be had for roughly dollars
Some, like consultant Don Sheppard, CEO of Sheppard Associates,
Glendale, CA, contend companies might be better off investing that money
in PCs and Web-based systems. Sheppard notes that the interactivity of
company intranets can make them more effective than TV broadcasts for
such things as employee training courses.
But others note that much of the work force still has no access to PCs.
DaimlerChrysler, for example, has tens of thousands of blue collar
employees without PC access, says Mike Gonda, senior manager of business
television. ’The farther you get from the corporate headquarters, the
more valuable the TV is,’ he adds. And the Internet is still less than
ideal when it comes to showing video.
Companies considering business TV, or those looking to enhance the
effectiveness of existing systems, should first consider what they’ll
show. Employees expect information to be fresh and relevant to them,
says Nicholas Kalm, SVP at Edelman, who has worked on many employee TV
DaimlerChrysler runs five minutes of company and auto industry news,
followed by five minutes of what it calls technical slides - text-only
screens on quality initiatives, new employee information and the like -
followed by a five-minute feature on a particular plant or employee, and
another five minutes of slides. It repeats this 20-minute cycle three
times an hour, 24 hours a day. A second channel is used for
Ford runs a five- to seven-minute news and information show followed by
five to 10 minutes of what it terms ’sponsored programs’ - features on
such topics as health and safety issues or new technology. Those regular
shows are repeated throughout the day with text slides run
Both companies will cut to live press briefings by company officials
when events warrant. The goal of such specials is to make sure employees
hear what’s happening at their company from the company rather than from
Replaying company news throughout a 24-hour day also helps make
late-shift employees feel like they matter to the company, adds
Warner-Lambert’s Bello. Roughly three-quarters of Warner employees have
no PC access, she notes, and, in many plants, company literature given
out at the start of a day is often gone by the time the late shift
arrives. ’The first shift knows everything and the third shift knows
nothing’ is a common employee complaint, Bello says.
But the whole point of a business TV system is to impart information in
a non-invasive way to make everyone feel included. ’It’s just a great
medium to get the news and information to your employees first,’ says
DaimlerChrysler’s Gonda. ’They feel like they’re part of the team.’
DOS AND DON’TS
1 Keep content fresh and relevant to employees.
2 Use business TV for training programs and instructional videos.
3 Show employees at work to bolster morale and create a sense of
4 Explain why you have the system to employees.
5 Use business TV to broadcast newsworthy company information before
employees hear it elsewhere.
6 Use it to reach constituencies outside your work force. Automakers use
their TV networks to reach dealers as well as employees, for
1 Use employee TV as an excuse to eliminate other forms of employee
communications or face-to-face contact with senior management.
2 Use only professional on-air talent. Workers like to see each other on
3 Leave screens devoid of information. Blank screens will turn off
4 Leave on screen out-dated information about company events, training
5 Think you’ll need to spend millions to maintain a network. Cheaper
approaches can be used.