Company Anniversaries: Beyond the Mug

As someone who spends a lot of time helping companies celebrate their accomplishments, I was taken aback by a Wall Street Journal article on the controversy surrounding AIG’s centennial. Most company anniversaries aren’t a source of controversy—they’re a cause for celebration, to mark achievements, celebrate success, acknowledge relationships and infuse employees with pride. Much more than having a cocktail party or giving out t-shirts, these are occasions to be viewed as part of your organization’s communications and marketing strategy.

Here are five ways to plan for company anniversary celebrations:

Brand It

Gather your best minds and develop a theme for your anniversary. Consider your overall marketing strategy, taglines, employer brand, CSR program, your “why” or mission statement. What tells a story, makes sense, and aligns with who you are as an organization? Then, as you would for any campaign, develop branding, visuals, signage, graphics, etc. that you will use throughout the year.

Launch It

Thoughtfully roll out the anniversary campaign to your stakeholders to build excitement and buy-in. Think about how and when you’ll engage with them. Consider the needs of your different audiences and the best way to communicate with them about the celebration. Your board, your employees, your customers should all have specific plans for announcing the campaign and communicating with them about it throughout the year.

Activate It

Like any campaign, it should be effectively promoted across all internal and external channels. Your website, intranet, social media hashtags, newsletters, events, PR—even your email signatures—are all opportunities to talk about the anniversary. Consider how it integrates with your other marketing efforts and when/how to talk about it.

Celebrate It

Having a party is a “go-to” idea for marking an important occasion, but think beyond a one-and-done event. Start by asking if a party is in line with your culture and your budget. Then consider scale. Do you have a dozen employees or thousands? Are you in one location or many? Do you want to include valued customers, vendors, friends and family? The answer may be a couple of events for specific stakeholders. If you plan events in different offices, employ broadcast technology to bring everyone together virtually. Small celebrations—like a wellness breakfast or treat on everyone’s desk in the morning—can keep employees engaged in the anniversary.

Remember It

Employees and customers are not likely to rush to purchase your anniversary coffee mug or golf balls. But identifying appropriate, meaningful gifts are an important way to show appreciation and keep the memory of the anniversary alive. A bound book commemorating company milestones with photos is an elegant gift for a board or senior team. Practical items that reflect your culture, branded wellness products, private labeled-wine or desk accessories, presented throughout the year, show appreciation to employees and keep them excited about the campaign.

Whatever shape your celebration takes, ultimately, it needs to reflect your values and mission as an organization. It should be an authentic reflection of your company, its culture and the important relationships that sustain your organization every day.

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