Client: Nextel Communications (Reston, VA)
PR Team: in-house and Porter Novelli Convergence Group
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
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