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Dec 05, 2008

PR Interview: 8 Steps to Roll Out a Successful Employee Relations Campaign + 2 Pitfalls to Avoid

SUMMARY: Cox Enterprises is using an employee relations campaign to reduce their energy use by 20%. The campaign is a significant challenge for a holding company with 83,000 employees in six media and automotive businesses, each with differing environmental impacts. Here are the eight steps the corporation took to roll out its Cox Conserves campaign.
Contact Information

Jami Buck
Senior Manager of Corporate Responsibility
Cox Enterprises, Inc.
6205 Peachtree Dunwoody Road
Atlanta, GA 30328

Communicate Green Initiatives to Employees: 8 Steps

Cox Enterprises wanted to get all of their 83,000 employees in their six media and automotive businesses involved in a campaign to cut their energy use by 20% between 2007 and 2017. Here is how Buck’s team communicated that message to employees.

Step #1. Educate employees about existing initiatives

Cox Enterprises had long been focused on reducing its environmental impact through the leadership of Chairman and CEO James C. Kennedy. The corporation had reached their goal of reducing energy consumption by 10% between 2000 and 2010 early in 2007.

“We decided it was really important to not only do things operationally but also engage our employees,” says Buck. “Our first step was to educate our employees about the results that we already had had so that they were in the loop.”

Step #2. Launch from top down

Buck and her team communicated their green initiatives from the top down – CEO Kennedy. On April 17, 2007, a few days before Earth Day, the team sent an email to employees nationwide. The email included an embedded video of the CEO explaining the Cox Conserves vision.

You can click on “Message from Chairman and CEO” under the “Our Commitment” tab on the Cox Conserves website to see the video.

Step #3. Hold kickoff event

The team held a kickoff event at headquarters in Atlanta on the same day the emails went out. About 500 employees attended to listen to Kennedy, Cox Enterprises President and Jimmy Hayes, COO and Shirley Franklin, Atlanta Mayor speak about the company’s social responsibility on the environment.

Step #4. Ask each location to choose “green” ambassador

A couple of weeks later, the team sent out field kits to locations that couldn’t get involved in the kickoff event. The kits included Cox Conserves posters and tips about how to get their locations involved.

The kits also asked the chief executive at each location to name a Cox Conserves Ambassador within two months. “We wanted to give them enough time to pick the right person,” Buck says.

The ambassadors acted as:
- The main point of contact for all Cox Conserves messaging sent out by Buck’s team at headquarters
- The filter through which employees could send suggestions to headquarters
- The key disseminator of Cox Conserve messaging
- Cox Conserves resource for employees at each location

Buck’s team found that creating ambassadors was necessary because Cox Enterprises’ businesses are so diverse. They include:
-Cox Communications, a cable TV and entertainment company
-Manheim, a high-volume operator of wholesale auto auctions
-Cox Newspapers, one of the top 10 newspaper publishers in the U.S.
-Cox Television, division that includes 15 TV stations in the U.S.
-Cox Radio, one of the largest radio companies in the U.S.
-Adify Corporation, a technology and vertical ad network services company

Each has the best idea of what needs to be done in their particular location, says Buck. Each has a different way to lessen their impact on the environment.

Step #5. Set up email address for employee feedback and monitoring

The team set up an email address for Cox Conserves feedback from employees.

“Any ideas that come in, we always respond within 48 hours,” Buck says. “We refer them back to their ambassadors as well, to build a support network for ambassadors.”

Step #6. Use suggestions from employees, ambassadors to drive future initiatives

Several initiatives have been rolled out as a result of employees’ and ambassadors’ suggestions, with Buck’s team implementing feasible ideas. The electronics recycling program for old computers, cell phones, wires, cables, and other electronic waste is an example. “That’s something we actually heard from our ambassadors,” says Buck. That idea also came from the Cox Environmental Council that’s comprised of top leaders at each business.

Some employees also suggested replacing non-biodegradable containers in the cafeterias with biodegradable ones, for example. The building services department found suitable containers and Buck’s team shared that information with the ambassadors.

Step #7. Get other departments involved in managing employee responses

Buck suggests clearing your calendar at the launch of a green initiative. Give yourself time to properly answer everyone and to keep up the engagement level.

“We had such an overflow of responses that, with a limited staff, it was hard to keep up for a while,” she says. “I’m lucky I was able to call on other team members to help me.” She looked to the internal communications team, the executive communications team, and PR team for volunteers to respond to employee feedback emails.

Step #8. Use all employee-outreach channels to communicate the initiative

In addition to the original launch, Buck’s team used all employee-outreach channels – Cox Enterprises’ intranet site, the company magazine, and annual report – to communicate the Cox Conserves initiative to employees.

“We actually had a whole green issue,” Buck says, referring to the company magazine. “We reached out to our ambassadors for content. We asked, ‘What’s going on in your markets that we could share? Best practices?’”

A brochure about Cox Conserves was sent out with the annual report to every employee that year. The brochure included a link to information on the intranet site and a Q&A with Kennedy. It was printed on Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper.

At the same time the team switched all paper used by the company to FSC-certified, including the company magazine, annual report, business cards, and stationary.

Pitfalls to Avoid

Pitfall #1. Failing to use in-house experts for employee communication

Don’t neglect experts across the company – they will provide great input. Buck’s team worked closely with the operational, materials management, energy management, and fleet teams. This involvement included bi-weekly meetings to assess progress on current projects. From those meetings, Buck extracted news to share with the ambassadors and environmental council.

Pitfall #2. Create an unsustainable environmental initiative

Make sure your company has the resources to maintain and add to what’s being accomplished when launching an employee relations campaign.

“Employee engagement has been a huge part of our success,” says Buck. “They know they’re being listened to and that we’re actually implementing things. The worst thing you can do is start a program and then back off – or get employees engaged and then take it away.”


Cox Conserves has achieved the following, and much more, since 2000:

-Partnered with Redemtech for an eCycling program that has kept 37.7 tons of materials out of landfills
-Mounted waterless urinals in multiple buildings to save more than 2 million gallons of water annually
-Installed recycle bins at each desk at headquarters for multiple materials, not just paper-provided biodegradable food-service packaging
-Participated in toner-cartridge and cell-phone recycling programs
-Upgraded fleets, so that 98% are comprised of Low Emission Vehicles
-Completed solar power projects
-Used recycled paper and soy-based colored ink for printing newspapers
-Used electric fork and clamp trucks
-Reduced electricity by using T8 fluorescent lighting and automatic light switches
-Switched to water-based paints to reduce VOC emissions
-Helped facilities dispose of hazardous waste
-Replaced disposable cups with reusable beverage containers

For the full list, click on “What We’re Doing” under the “Our Commitment” tab on the Cox Conserves website.

Useful links related to this article

Tactics to Maintain and Inspire a Truly Green Attitude in Your Workplace

Don’t Make These Common Green Marketing Mistakes

Going Green: How to Transition Catalog Users to Email & Lift Conversions 19%

Cox Conserves website:

See Also:

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