CAMPAIGNS: Internal Communications - Candid CEO helps internalcomms

Client: Nextel Communications (Reston, VA)

PR Team: in-house and Porter Novelli Convergence Group

(Washington, DC)

Campaign: NextEvolution

Time Frame: January 2001-ongoing

Budget: About dollars 500,000

After executives at wireless service provider Nextel Communications

developed a three-year strategy for the company, they had only one

problem - none of the employees knew what it was. So they turned to John

Clemons, Nextel VP of internal communications, to help get the message

out to the 16,000 US employees. Clemons coordinated the project with the

company's agency of record, Porter Novelli Convergence Group in

Washington DC.


The overall goal of the internal effort is to help each employee

understand their role in the company's evolution. To help grow the

company, employees are taught to appeal to high-end and business

customers, differentiate between products, improve quality and

establish business practices that will lower costs.

The idea was to inform top management, then flow the message throughout

the company, says then-SVP at PN John Jordan (He has since left the



NextEvolution was launched at Nextel's first senior leadership meeting

in Orlando, FL. PN counseled Nextel on the agenda, drafted executive

speeches and developed Q&A sessions.

The atmosphere was animated and interactive, with the 150 participants

having almost unlimited access to CEO Tim Donahue and other senior


The conference was videotaped, packaged as a 'meeting in a box' and sent

to managers in smaller markets, who then presented the information to

their subordinates. Donahue and his deputies spent two months hitting

the 10 largest markets on a road show. All managers used the packages

for follow up.

'It's absolutely critical to hear these messages from the top officers,'

says Jordan. 'We look for daily direction from our own managers. So it

is essential for the managers to deliver the message in an open, candid

way. This way there's good feedback.'

It was the first time many employees would meet the big boss. 'He tells

employees, 'You are the most valuable engine that Nextel has,'' Clemons


Just after the road show got underway, Nextel's dismal 2000 financials

were released. Revenues were only half as big as the company's debt and

the stock price was falling. Did Donahue's visits become less like pep

rallies? Not really, Clemons says. 'Now that the news isn't as good, he

tells them in a palatable way, 'Here's where we are, where the

competition is, and what you need to do to react to it.''

Especially during rough times, isn't management worried that the mood at

these meetings will turn mean?

'People feel that the top guy flying around spending half a day with

them really says something,' says Jordan. Plus, the candid, open mood

lets employees get worries off their chests.


Post-meeting surveys were being tallied at press time. Early results

show high approval ratings, good understanding of the new strategy and

overall employee satisfaction.


Clemons and PN are plotting the next stage of the campaign. Plans

include upgrading the Intranet for employee feedback, using the

company's wireless devices to deliver messages and continuing to poll


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