By, Michael Merk
Chief Communications Officer, designvox
As communication professionals, we have learned to handle any critical situation on a 24/7 basis. We’ve trained our teams to listen, respond and monitor the relationship with our stakeholders. We’ve prepared our executives and guided them through mission critical situations and have done the fire drill for any potential incident to protect or build corporate reputation.
We know every business problem can be traced to a communication breakdown and are masters at preventing harm. We do this in our sleep.
But when it comes to the most demanding – and rewarding – moments that are unique for a communication professional, we seem to be wholly unprepared. We are perplexed sometimes with where to access the specific toolbox to help us navigate and take advantage of unique opportunities. Leading a corporate anniversary is one those time.
Preparing for the 100th Anniversary of Steelcase Inc., a Fortune Most Admired brand, I found myself facing such a situation. Although the opportunity to lead this campaign was the reason why I moved from marketing communications to a corporate communications leadership position, I realized quickly how little information was available to benchmark to help me prepare my organization for what was to come.
Fast forward, the event was very successful on many levels. One way is how it transformed how I view corporate communications. For two profound reasons, I decided to share my insights, experience, and toolbox with those preparing to lead an anniversary:
- Such a significant anniversary is a strategic moment you cannot waste! Every company is on a journey, and this is a moment when everyone listens to you, for a short time, to tell your story and blow the candles –it’s your birthday! You want to be very thoughtful about how you use up this credit. Is the timing lining up with any major transformation project, product launch or merger? Are there any culture activation or change management initiatives requiring the activation and attention of your global or regional workforce? There is always something about to change, and this event is a gift to fix it or set your organization up for the future.
- It is also a particularly great opportunity for you to showcase your leadership skills. Activating the stakeholder system of a global corporation in today’s complex communications environment and leveraging such a moment to drive change, requires the participation and support of many people who will work on the anniversary over a long time. It starts by getting your leadership to understand the opportunity and align on direction. Then it is about forming a team and aligning around resources and a powerful plan to action that is embraced around the world.
The Centennial was a privilege to lead and a defining moment for the company. In my interactions with peers over the last seven years, I learned how to effectively align leadership and cross functional leaders set up is the single most obstacle. It was the foundation of alignment helping me to rally an organization around an idea shifting the focus form the past to the future and do what I would have never been able to do on my own.
Therefore, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to share my planning tools and approach to developing such a plan as a part of supporting Anniversary University™ during The Anniversary Forum on April 30, 2019, New York City.
My presentation and a set of discussions are targeted to understand the core tools to get your management team on one page as your foundation to activate your organization and network.
Our role as communication professionals is to propel our companies by creating stakeholder belief, trust, and advocacy. This a significant moment to experience the power of one message in a relatively short moment taken to the next level by your stakeholders, and you want to be ready to leverage that moment strategically.