Employee Communications Campaign of the Year 2009

Recognizing skill in communicating a merger or acquisition, change in management, rebranding, restructuring, layoffs, or other issue/problem of an internal communications nature.

Winner
Weber Shandwick and American Airlines: Just the fAActs; Spreading The Word About American's Labor Negotiations

American Airlines (AA) enlisted Weber Shandwick to help manage communications while it was approaching another round of labor negotiations with its three unions. It hoped to move beyond the airline's previous traditional tactics, such as newsletters and other printed materials. AA wanted a communications strategy that would not only provide frequent updates on the situation to numerous stakeholders, but also help shape the negotiation conversation.

To accomplish these goals, the agency helped the airline launch its first Web site dedicated to labor negotiations: AANegotiations.com. The site's primary audience was unionized employees that would be voting on their future contracts. It was designed to help explain the company's competitive position, as well as serve as a clearinghouse for information on the process both for employees and the media. AA hoped it would also increase transparency of the negotiations and influence attitudes and perceptions.

Planning included reviewing the sites of other large companies that had sought to communicate with employees during labor negotiations, as well as in-depth talks with senior communications pros about what had, and had not, worked for them. A focus group was assembled, and after weeks of testing the site with them, AANegotiations.com launched a few months after the airline's negotiations with the pilot's labor union began.

Employees could sign up for e-mail alerts on the site and also access information from third-party sources, such as the media, that might influence opinion. The e-mail alerts allowed the PR team to push through up-dates at a moment's notice, even if employees weren't accessing the site regularly.

The program was a “great way to empower employees,” said one judge.

To create a trustworthy resource, the team realized it had to include hard facts and figures, be 100% accurate, and present it in a straightforward manner. To do so, the team got all data for the site from verifiable sources, such as the Airport Transport Association and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Other items on the Web site included Op-Eds by executives and links to news articles on the airline industry.

One judge called the effort an “innovative, effective program that brings an unprecedented level of transparency to labor negotiation.”

The PR team said AA executives noted how the site decreased unsubstantiated rhetoric coming from labor leaders. The site is also regularly quoted in mainstream media, as well as aviation blogs. It was completed with a $200,000 budget and remains active.

Honorable Mention
MS&L and Philips North America: Simplicity Rewards

Philips Electronics sought a consistent way to engage and communicate its brand message of “sense and simplicity” to more than 19,000 employees in North America. To do so, the PR team and MS&L created “Simplicity Rewards,” a customized loyalty program, in August 2007. Employees visit microsite www.philips.com/simplicityrewards to learn about its latest products, record new customer leads, and test their understanding of brands and other topics. As they succeed and take part, employees gain points, which can be cashed in for products, travel, luxury goods, or household services. Participation after the first week was at 32%. By September 2008, it was at 69%. Philips added new elements like Simplicity Rewards Recognition cards that allowed managers to recognize staff in various ways. One judge lauded the effort as a “creative application of a consumer tactic in an employee program.”

Finalists

AECOM Technology Corp.: “The New AECOM” – 41,000 Employees Driving Success in 125 Countries
Burson-Marsteller and Thomson Reuters: Launching Thomson Reuters to Employees: Creating a Foundation for Success
GolinHarris and Piedmont Hospital: This is the Place. Now is the Time
MS&L and Philips North America: Simplicity Rewards
Weber Shandwick and American Airlines: Just the fAActs; Spreading The Word About American's Labor Negotiations

Sponsor: FedEx provides customers and businesses worldwide with transportation, e-commerce, and business services. Consistently ranked among the world's most admired and trusted employers, FedEx inspires its more than 290,000 employees and contractors to remain “absolutely, positively” focused on safety, the highest ethical and professional standards, and the needs of their customers and communities. For more, visit news.fedex.com.

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