One of the challenges of planning your company’s anniversary is rallying company leadership.
Pitching your company’s anniversary to your boss or your boss’s boss should be handled no differently than any other business venture or investment. When approaching the leaders of your company, come prepared with a clear framework, plans for defining and measuring success, and the expected return on investment.
This post will provide you with a framework to build a business case presentation, close the sale, and start working on that company anniversary program with gusto.
Sure, it’s exciting to celebrate your organization’s milestone. But that isn’t going to be enough to convince your leadership that it’s a worthwhile investment. You need to show how this anniversary campaign can bolster your organization’s current business objectives.
As a starting point, consider how you can use this anniversary to support your top strategic priorities between now and the anniversary year (ideally you’re starting two to three years out) as well as extending beyond the anniversary itself. The last part is critical, because longevity can help you sell your anniversary beyond your milestone year.
In order to create a lasting impression, make sure your anniversary goals are actionable. They should begin with a verb, such as “to strengthen,” “to build” and so on. A common mistake is to write goals that read more like messages. Below are a few examples of some strong anniversary goals:
- Strengthen relationships with our customers and business partners
- Extend our organization’s reach and visibility as an industry thought leader
- Increase pride among our people
- Position our organization to attract and retain talent
- Strengthen our local communities through meaningful, visible and lasting contributions
- Act as a springboard for organizational change
As Lockheed Martin approached its 100th anniversary in 2012, it saw an opportunity to use the milestone as a way to amplify its brand among key audiences. The company relied on its history to authenticate the core message pillars of the brand. These messages were then translated into a series of campaigns and programs that helped to create more brand awareness, such as executive communications; exhibits; digital content, such as social media, websites and timeline entries; and an award-winning ad campaign.
Whatever your strategic goals and priorities, chances are good that the anniversary program can help you attain them.
Now that you’ve defined what you want to accomplish with your anniversary campaign, it is important to prioritize audiences. Who will you need to influence in order to achieve the goals you just defined? Here are a few potential audiences to consider:
- All employees
- Corporate employees
- Field/branch/plant employees
- New recruits
- Prospective employees
- Trade media
- Industry leaders and associations
- Other influencers
Next, prioritize your audiences so that your marketing and communication resources can be used efficiently. One way to prioritize is by weighing the importance of internal versus external audiences. If you had a dollar, how much would you use to influence each of these audiences? 50:50? 80:20? Then look closer at each broad category to rank the importance of the audience, relative to your goals. The more focused you are on your core audiences, the more you’ll be able to spend on their engagement.
As the Special Olympics prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary in Chicago this summer, the organization recognizes multiple audiences that make its annual events come to life. While the athletes are center stage each year, the organization also recognizes the role of volunteers and families, not to mention the business partners who have helped make the Special Olympics such a tremendous success.
Imagine for a moment that your company’s anniversary is over. The hard work is done, and you can finally exhale. While it wasn’t perfect—because nothing ever is—the anniversary was perceived as an unequivocal success. When you look back on it, this will be one of the highlights of your career. Your leadership is thrilled. You and your team have been recognized for an amazing effort.
Merely celebrating an anniversary is not a success in itself. When the initial excitement wears off, how will you determine whether the anniversary truly was a success?
Make a list of what would define a successful anniversary for your organization. Try to identify which goal the success measure corresponds to. If it doesn’t track back to one of your anniversary goals, consider whether the success measure is important enough to be captured in the business case, or if a new goal should be created to account for it.
Here are some examples of strong success measures. Remember, each organization measures success differently based on their individual goals.
- Employee and talent metrics (perception surveys, retention rates, etc.)
- Market share growth
- Increased brand awareness
- Increased employee program engagement
- Increased earned media coverage
- Corporate social responsibility metrics (volunteer hours, philanthropy, etc.)
Pacific Life used its 150th anniversary to bring to life one of its core values, community, through corporate social responsibility initiatives across the organization. In March, the company reported that “more than 1,400 Pacific Life employees packed over 8,300 reading kits that went to nearly 20 Title I elementary schools” in California, Nebraska and Virginia.
Pacific Life’s anniversary campaign had clear quantitative results. The number of employees engaged. The number of kits made. The number of schools and areas affected by their work. It’s important to make your success measures specific enough so you can see measurable results.
This is where you use your company’s unique history to tell targeted and authentic stories to your identified audiences. These stories should use moments from the past and present to bolster your future goals. Has your company had a history of innovation? Are you particularly adept at managing change as economic cycles vary? Can you demonstrate where the founder’s values have been passed down from generation to generation?
Renowned paint company Sherwin-Williams celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016 with a campaign rooted in the values of its founder, Henry Sherwin. The campaign tagline, “What Is Worth Doing Is Worth Doing Well,” was inspired by Sherwin’s own words at the company’s 50th anniversary celebration. Early in the company’s history, Sherwin and his team devoted years to the development of high-quality premixed paint. Sherwin’s message authenticated the company’s longstanding goal of superior quality above all else and provided an authentic reference point for the program that took place 100 years after he said those words.
Not all messages are for all audiences. While transformative innovation may be a key message directed toward customers, this message may not work among change-resistant employees. It is important to keep the tone of the message in mind as you package it so it appeals to different audiences. Consider organizing by audience or specifying the audience in your messaging.
Other important considerations in anniversary planning include current events and issues that may have an impact on planning and implementation. These might include:
- A competitor’s activity, which could include a competing anniversary
- Any recent or upcoming repositioning or rebranding efforts
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Leadership transitions
- New product or service launches
- Changes in regulatory environment or other challenges
Greek yogurt company Chobani used its anniversary as a platform to launch its rebranding initiative. “As we approached 10 years as a national brand, we spent the past 10 years focusing on the impact our company can and does have on communities across America, using food as a force for good,” said Peter McGuinness, Chobani’s chief marketing and commercial officer. “That’s framing how we’re looking at the next decade, and our new packaging is the first glimpse into that. It’s a beautiful translation of our brand and our purpose that moves us closer to becoming a food-focused wellness company.”
To raise awareness of the rebranding and connect with new consumers, Chobani launched a marketing campaign that offered a sample of the product with the new brand packaging. This campaign also enabled Chobani to compete with larger food competitors, as more than half of Americans still haven’t tried Greek yogurt—another key consideration.
Goals, success measures, audiences and key considerations. Each of these factors will help you determine what kinds of programs and activations will best suit your company’s needs for the anniversary campaign. Rather than retroactively fitting a bunch of different tactics under a holistic program, a business case will tether all your programming to defined goals that were established at the very start of the process.
By the time you finish building your presentation, your leadership team may tear it apart and completely change the goals, audiences, and so on. That’s OK. You got them to think about an anniversary campaign in these terms, and they will be more committed to the investment by the end of the process. You accomplished your goal of building out a case for investing in a company anniversary program and helping leadership understand see the benefits of the program.
For more ideas about how to mark your corporate anniversary, check out our comprehensive Guide to Celebrating Your Company Anniversary.