Avnet engages its staff with focus on corporate legacy
It's not unusual for a corporation to mark an anniversary. But for Avnet, a distributor of multiple kinds of technology, that task wasn't so simple. Since the company was founded as a family business in 1921, it has grown into a conglomerate that has acquired dozens of other firms - 45 since 1990 alone. That has left it with a lack of corporate identity, especially with employees.
"Some folks are still wearing their polo shirts with the logo of the company they came from," says Avnet's CCO, Al Maag. "You have an issue of identity."
Charged with helping to blend its brands into a single image, Maag took the unusual step of creating an anniversary - not from the founding date of the company, but from the date of its 1955 incorporation. "It was challenging at first as to why, but once everyone understood the feasibility of doing it, they all galvanized quickly," he says.
The Avnet team focused on instilling pride in workers by teaching them about the company's rich history. "We have a very interesting legacy, and I thought it was the perfect time to educate our employees," says Maag. "If employees have a sense of legacy, they have a better chance of being proud of the company and more engaged."
Maag and his internal team began working on the project in 2004, but brought Brodeur on board in May 2005 to help with external outreach. Because the key was reaching employees, he felt that anything from the media was just icing on the cake.
"All of the PR is bonus points," he says. There was just one caveat to Avnet's yearlong initiative. "I didn't want to spend a lot of time or money," says Maag. "This is one of those fun projects where we say, 'What can we do with a limited amount?'"
"One of the first things we did was come up with a list called 'The Fab 50,'" says Maag. It featured stories from 50 staffers worldwide who had been with the company at least 30 years. Avnet then focused on creating a book highlighting its history, enlisting financial support from suppliers and business partners.
After completing the book, the internal team transformed a 1,000-square-foot boardroom off the lobby of company headquarters into a museum featuring products it had distributed over the years, from guitars to car stereos. The creation of this museum helped achieve Avnet's goals because excited employees "were sending us photographs and memorabilia," says Maag.
Brodeur also began reaching out to both local and trade press, says Brodeur account supervisor Marcia Chapman. The company also introduced anniversary-branded items into the company store and held an event on the exact anniversary date.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this will enhance our brand externally with our suppliers and customers and investors," says Maag. "But the whole starting point was employees." The campaign was so successful that 500 of those workers turned out at the anniversary party in July, and Maag says he constantly receives positive feedback from other employees around the globe.
Externally, more than 50 suppliers and business partners helped with the book, and about 50 to 75 people per week - including customers, employees, and suppliers - have toured the museum since it opened in July. Some of those tours have gone to press, in part due to the book.
"It was such a great education tool for the local media here," says Chapman. The story has been featured in local outlets like The Arizona Republic and The Business Journal of Phoenix, as well as trade media.
Avnet will continue to work on the campaign throughout the end of this year, with an emphasis on taking it to overseas divisions. Brodeur is also continuing to reach out to media.
PR team: Avnet Corporate Communications and Brodeur (both Phoenix)
Campaign: 50 Years of Making History
Time frame: May 2005 to present (ongoing)