Employees at center of today's comms strategies

WASHINGTON: Companies like Kraft, IBM, and Taco Bell have found that the key to success for many of its communications and business initiatives is employee input and participation.

WASHINGTON: Companies like Kraft, IBM, and Taco Bell have found that the key to success for many of its communications and business initiatives is employee input and participation.

When a lawsuit alleged last year that the meat contained in its tacos couldn't be called beef because it was mostly consisted of a mysterious filler, Taco Bell turned not only to its CEO but its rank and file employees to set the record straight.

In commercials, the employees disclosed the truth about the company's beef products. The use of actual staff gave the public the chance to have another “real” person tell them truth about a product.

It also demonstrated to thousands of staff around the country, the sense of importance and pride that the company had in its employees, explained Jonathan Blum, SVP and chief public affairs officer at Yum Brands, which owns Taco Bell, at the National Summit on Strategic Communications on Tuesday, April 17.

ExL Events and Grupp Global Partners hosted the event in Washington, DC.

“If people don't believe in our culture and don't see it, they're not going to follow us,” Blum said.

He cited the strategy as one of the key reasons the company won the PR war incited by the lawsuit.

Kraft

Kraft also placed a heavy emphasis on employees in two recent communications challenges. Employees helped to determine a new company identity after Kraft split from Altria in 2007, and it was staff that picked the new name, Mondelez International, when it announced plans to spin off its global snack brand operation earlier this year.

Employees have put their support "behind this" change, because of their involvement in determining the name, said Perry Yeatman, SVP of corporate affairs at Kraft Food.

Getting employees involved in branding and identity situations is key because they represent the consumer demographic the company is trying to reach, while at the same time offering a greater quality of advice as they work with the company's products daily, she added.

IBM

After IBM sold its personal computer business to Lenovo in 2005, it needed to find a new way to communicate how the company served the public and demonstrate the services it still had to offer.

“It turned out the best way to do that was through its people,” said Kevin Clark, director emeritus of IBM brand and values experience. "The value system of the company became the focus, and the employees went on to become brand ambassadors on a daily basis.”

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