Executive Q&A

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you began planning?

 
A: “Executing the anniversary required a much greater investment of time and resources than anticipated. While we had a small dedicated anniversary team in North America, many other employees were needed in the planning and execution and this work added to daily responsibilities. We learned that from the beginning it would have been important to determine the scope of each planning team, clearly set roles and responsibilities, and establish realistic expectations. Doing this would have helped to effectively balance work/life demands while producing high impact, high quality events.”
Robin C. Rotenberg/BASF

A: “When we began planning the 125th Anniversary it would have made all the difference in the world to begin by defining our ultimate objectives and the outcome.  This would have had a great impact on how we planned and organized.”
Edward J. (Ted) Ryan/Coca-Cola Company

A: ”Expect a certain amount of backlash or an attempt to criticize your celebration and prepare for it by being open, transparent and collaborative with all partners inside and outside of the company.  Expect it to cost more than you planned but also be prepared to measure the value in ways that show the return is greater than the increased cost.”
Carmen Ferrigno/Saint-Gobain Corporation

A: ”That your work will impact more people than you think. Embrace it. Anniversaries are moments that have a gravitational force and capture people personally. Also, others will likely do much of their planning around yours. Plan and prepare for that and your campaign will be stronger for it.”
David French/National Parks Foundation

A: ”I wish I’d anticipated better the enormous enthusiasm and grassroots participation that inspired a tremendous number programs, events and activities, independent of what we had already planned. Fortunately, these added elements harmonized beautifully. But understanding this institutional dynamic would have lessened the pressure for the anniversary office and allowed us to work on other projects and initiatives.

And looking back, we would have focused much sooner and more intently on co-branding and sponsorship opportunities with external institutions and corporations. Doing so would have been very beneficial.”
Matt Weismantel/Rutgers University

 Anniversaries are challenging because…?

 
A: “One of the challenges for the 150th Anniversary was striking a balance between celebrating BASF’s contributions to science, innovations and sustainability while at the same time making the year fun and engaging for employees.”
Robin C. Rotenberg/BASF Corportation

A: “They feel old.  The purpose for any business today should be to use the anniversary to reinforce the best of what they do while making the company feel current and retro. “
Edward J. (Ted) Ryan/Coca-Cola Company

A: “You have to look forward and not backward.  They must give you the context to explain why you are relevant today and well into the future.”
Carmen Ferrigno/Saint-Gobain Corporation

A: “There are competing and countless interests, numerous influential parties, and only one budget. You’ll be challenged every day to stay true to your goal(s). You may even find yourself listening to the chorus of questions focused solely on what happens come the anniversary date. Don’t take the bait. Think long term. Anniversaries are catalysts for change.”
David French/National Park Foundation

A: “Institution wide conversations about the anniversary brought up unresolved issues and concerns such as internal political and organizational issues to historical controversies such as institutional complicity in slavery and racism. A careful assessment ahead of these potential landmines is important so you’re not blindsided.”
Matt Weismantel/Rutgers University

Top 3 pieces of advice are …? 

 
A: 1. “Over communicate – It’s important to have regular check-ins and meetings among the planning teams, as well as conversations with key stakeholders, so there’s steady and consistent information flow and assumptions of work progress can be avoided.”

2. “Be flexible – Always keep the end goal in mind but know that changes and setbacks are inevitable. It’s imperative to allow extra time to plan for the unexpected.”

3. “Have fun! The goal of any anniversary is to celebrate achievements and emotionally engage people in hopes that everyone will experience a remarkably memorable moment.”
Robin C. Rotenberg/BASF Corporation

A: 1. “Plan Early”
2. ”Level set expectation”
3. ”Budget appropriately”
Edward J. (Ted) Ryan/Coca-Cola Company

A: 1. “Start early, like three years out early, to set the CONTEXT.”

2. “Build long term partnerships rather than planning for a party.  These partners must say you are the best they’ve ever worked with.”

3. “Commit to demonstrating your value as a company to your employees, your customers, your communities and your investors.  Value is not about you or your company. It’s about them.  Let them give you credit rather than you trying to pound your own chest.”
Carmen Ferrigno/Saint-Gobain Corporation

A: 1. “Do your homework. Conduct research. Align on clear, definable, and measurable goals – and always come back to them.”

2. “Make friends. Create a platform that is easy for others to get behind. You never know where your next great partnership could come from.”

3. “Take some chances. Anniversaries are the opportunity to set the trajectory for the future, not just honor the past.”
David French/National Park Foundation

A: 1. “Make sure to get leadership to support and approve your direction and plans early in the process.”

2. “Allow for a long period of brainstorming and free conceptualizing by the community as part of your overall plan. This process is critical and cannot be rushed. The outcome will pave the way for consensus, buy-in and commitment to actualize final plans.”

3. “Keep the celebration period from 12 to 15 months to avoid the inevitable anniversary fatigue within your community.”
Matt Weismantel/Rutgers University

What was one of the most positive and unexpected outcomes of your anniversary?

 
A:  “The unprecedented participation with our Global Volunteering Program “Connected to Care” was outstanding and unexpected. The company received more than 500 different project proposals and BASF was able to support 495 of these community projects around the world.”
Robin C. Rotenberg/BASF Corporation 

A : “One of the most positive and unexpected outcomes was how engaged the executives were.  For the 125th participation was slower to get started but dramatically increased when it came time to focus on the coke bottle 100th executive buy in began very high.”
Edward J. (Ted) Ryan/Coca-Cola Company

A: “Our partners and employees told our story better than we did.  They knew we cared about them and they returned the favor with passion and credibility.”
Carmen Ferrigno/Saint-Gobain Corporation

A: “Awesome partnerships, sometimes in the least expected places. When you have the unique opportunity to create something that isn’t bought, but rather built, you need as many partners as possible. So build a big “tent” that’s easy for people to join. You likely will have a partner that surprises you and helps set your anniversary a part. Even better, you build a movement of organizations and individuals rallying behind you and your message.”
David French/National Park Foundation

A: “The positive energy and widespread participation throughout our community was astounding. There were few if any naysayers and even institutional critics attempted to connect themselves with the anniversary. All of this was part of the tremendous success of the anniversary.”
Matt Weismantel/Rutgers University

If you believe learning from your experienced peers at the The Corporate Anniversary Forum would have been a valuable experience when you started, briefly state why.

A: “Attending The Corporate Anniversary Forum would have been a great way to gain insight with how companies choose to approach and celebrate their anniversaries. To have been able to connect with peers for key learnings and advice would have been an invaluable.”
Robin C. Rotenberg/BASF Corporation

A: “Had we known about The Corporate Anniversary Forum we would have attended.  It’s always important to learn from what others have done before.”
Edward J. (Ted) Ryan/Coca-Cola Company

A: “Collaborative economics is the future of reputation management.  Everyone benefits if you share best practices, pitfalls and potential opportunities.  The Corporate Anniversary Forum would have reinforced our confidence in our plan and we might have been able to expand the quality of our efforts in a few key areas like recruiting and talent development.”
Carmen Ferrigno/Saint-Gobain Corporation

A: “It is always valuable to learn from other’s experiences. Gaining knowledge before an intensive process like this can only pay positive dividends, allowing you to learn from others, avoid costly mistakes, and advance your ideas even further.”
David French/National Park Foundation

A: “Yes, it would have be enormously helpful. Although we did benchmarking it was time consuming and not always effective. The Anniversary Forum is a much more effective way to understand what is important for a successful anniversary.

In addition, making connections with other universities and corporations who are also having an anniversary would have been an invaluable way to open up doors for co-branding and sponsorship opportunities.”
Matt Weismantel/Rutgers University