A company anniversary is an important milestone and a valuable reputation-building opportunity. The achievement of longevity conveys a message of success. These 8 recommendations will help you to prepare adequately. Your goal is to deliver the right messages and reach the broadest audience. Executed properly, your anniversary will give people more reasons to build a beneficial relationship with your brand.
Build a Team
Assign a team to conceive and plan the anniversary celebration. Its leader will report to the CEO and/or the board. He or she should have experience with internal or external communications and a broad understanding of the company’s many facets. The team must also include a person with a long history with the company and a new, young employee with aspirations for a future in it. Cross-departmental membership is another requirement for the team. That insures that the anniversary’s activities and messages will appeal to all stakeholders.
Craft a Message
The team should write a list of the most important “take-away” messages. Writing that list is the responsibility of the whole team. It may be executed through brainstorming sessions using whiteboards or post-it notes. Start by asking, “Why is it important to celebrate your company’s anniversary?” Keep an open mind. Accept a lot of ideas. You may want to survey the entire company using an email campaign (or a site like Survey Monkey) to generate a large inventory of ideas. That will get the whole company thinking about the anniversary. From those results, the team will be able to analyze what types of ideas are surfacing to the top. Next, group the ideas into three categories: past, present and future. That will give the team both a historical and an aspirational perspective. The editing-down process must consider your company’s mission/vision and present business strategy. Be sensitive to the tone of messaging. Ensure that it represents the best of your corporate culture. You should end up with a dozen key messages and one central idea.
Design a Bold Identity
Hire a designer to create a logo and a unified graphic style for your anniversary celebration. A unified look delivers the biggest impact and conveys a celebratory effect. The take-away messages the team created are central to the design briefing. With a consistent look and message, you now have the starting block for an anniversary campaign that can be deployed across all mediums.
The logo should be related to — yet different from — your existing corporate identity. It is representing a one-time event and must distinguish itself for the duration of the anniversary year. It also must harmonize with your existing logo because they are often used adjacently. The logo must embrace the qualities in your existing identity that reflect your brand values. When designing it, view both side-by-side. The designer should provide solutions for a visual “lock-up” when used together.
He or she must be comfortable with the production of branded environments, which utilize multiple mediums to execute such campaigns. The designer will need to create a coherent look across large environmental graphics, video graphics, invitations and even the logo on email signatures. When the design works seamlessly across mediums it makes a statement of quality and professional thoroughness. This designer will be valuable in planning lead-time schedules for the different elements, essential for coordinating the master calendar of events.
Paint the Town with Environmental Graphics
Banners and wallpaper murals around your premises will create an inescapable, engaging message. Everyone will see them and know that it’s your anniversary. These mediums are very effective in creating a festive environment. After all, an anniversary is similar to the birthday concept, which people naturally associate with festivity. The look and feel of these graphics must also integrate with the existing conditions of your organization’s physical environment. The colors must harmonize and the style should complement. The cost of banners and photo-murals are relatively low, and they are generally easy to install. A branded environment designer can provide you with other creative installation ideas that are aesthetically pleasing in innovative ways. Three-dimensional environments or video installations, for example, can impart unique experiences that are tailored to your brand message.
The installation of all environmental elements should be planned to work with the launching of the anniversary campaign. Because of their high visibility, it is the perfect way to kick it off.
Display Your Heritage in a Timeline
The anniversary is an educational moment for employees and stakeholders. A timeline display will help employees learn about the history of the company in greater detail and accuracy. They will absorb anecdotes that they incorporate into their own discussions about the company. In this way, they will become better ambassadors for the company. To encourage engagement with this history lesson, the company may hold a trivia contest about the timeline. During an anniversary activity, the employees who answer questions related to the timeline win a prize. The better the prize, the more closely everyone will study your organization’s history. Visitors and stakeholders will also learn from the display, and find reasons to support a deeper relationship with your brand.
Employees may also be asked to participate with the development of the timeline. They may make valuable content contributions with photographs and quotable comments. Museums often use the method called “Public History” where members of the community provide stories and objects to a history exhibit. It is an effective way to attract more visitors to their institutions and become engaged with their exhibits. Having more people involved makes the story bigger. It also expands relevance to a wider audience. The story is about all of us, including suppliers, stakeholder and local community. These contributions will give greater authenticity to your story and affirm your brand’s merits.
If your company is decades old, it should display original artifacts from the time of its inception. Nothing is more illustrative of the progress of time like a product or document that is older than most of your employees. The passage of time is reflected in the physical presence of the artifacts. They confer gravitas to your story. Dominos Pizza went as far as recreating their first pizza shop for its anniversary celebration. Upon encountering the 3D-built display, nearly all employees commented, “Look how far we’ve come.”
Tell a Good Story with a Movie or a Book
A movie is a great storytelling medium. It is entertaining and delivers messages with human warmth. Sharing captivating anecdotes will make you company memorable in the hearts and minds of viewers. The movie can premiere during a company activity and later be formatted for use on the web. Be forewarned, however: a professional-quality video is more expensive than what most people would assume. A 7-minute movie with original material and quality graphics will cost above of $25k. An alternative is a slideshow video presentation produced by a graphic or web designer. In this case the slideshow, should embody the character of an info-graphic presentation rather than try and be a movie. Avoid using low- quality video production. Anything below TV standards will be viewed negatively by the audience. Think of cheap car dealer ads and the effect they have on you as a viewer. The movie must convey the quality that your brand represents.
A book provides space to tell the company’s story in full, and to honor the founding figures with the dignity they deserve. It is also an elegant gift. The executives who played a part in the history of the company will appreciate it the most. After the anniversary celebration, the book can serve as a tool to attract candidates and contribute to your organization’s on-boarding program.
Books have several price points. Short runs start at around $30 per hardcover book, with quality as good as digital printing can produce. For runs of over 500 books, it makes more economical sense to use offset printers. The quality is superior, too. Before you embark on this path, ensure you have sufficient stories and visual material. The production and editing of a book is a full-time job. You should expect a planning lead-time of many months.
Anniversaries are a time to think strategically: how did you get here? What lies ahead? As Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation once observed in the Harvard Review , “It’s an ideal time to ask people to think together about why their work matters and how it should move forward. Anniversaries provide the context to focus on what makes work meaningful.” It is a good time to create a participatory exercise that invites employees and stakeholders to contribute their thoughts and ideas regarding the company’s mission and vision. Their focus should be to shed light on who you are as a company.
Display, amplify and celebrate their findings with grand enthusiasm. A designer can shape their responses into an engaging display, exhibition or installation to be shared on your premises with both visitors and employees. This type of activity makes the anniversary more than nostalgia. In Judith Rodin’s words, it “imbues your commemoration with the understanding that looking back can be more than mere nostalgia for the past. It can inform a whole body of work for the future.”
Have a Party
Hire an events planner to take care of the catering, tables and audio-visual equipment while you focus on the messages, activities and the brand experience. It is essential that the event deliver the key messaging of your anniversary. The décor of the hall should refer or allude to the themes that were developed in your take-away message exercise. The visual theme of the event should reflect the graphic identity of the campaign. Balloons cannot be the most important visual element. (They eventually deflate.) A memorable anniversary party will reinforce the values that strengthen the corporate culture you want for the future of the company. Think of the party as a performance of your culture. A designer can help you create the setting to properly execute the show on brand and on message.
These steps combine practical suggestions with core ideas on how to make your anniversary celebration meaningful. Employee pride must be nurtured to grow, and your organization’s culture will be enriched by their contributions toward an intentional future. The anniversary is the perfect moment to achieve both…and much more. In any organization, the day-to-day is about tasks and problem solving. An anniversary is a time to pause, reflect and dream collectively about what you want to be.
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