What happens when internal says “yes”? You could get on the evening news

yes-68480_1280When I said “yes” to an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion on well-being in the workplace, I had no idea that the CBS Evening News would come ringing our door to tell a good story featuring Bayer.

Following that experience, our new Bayer HealthCare U.S. headquarters in Whippany, N.J. saw a lot of positive mentions—from coverage in major interior design magazines, to winning local suburban green project and good neighbor awards, and a number of other accolades, including winning a dry-wall installation award (not kidding). All of these led to ongoing positive coverage about the open plan workspace we recently implemented that was built with health and wellness in mind.

The story begins

How does this relate to what I do as head of internal communications for Bayer in the U.S.?  Here’s the story.

I was offered an opportunity by our site’s interior design firm, Gensler, to share my perspective from a corporate point of view of the value of healthy workplaces and the difference they are beginning to make for employees and my company. They asked me because I handled the change communications for this project which involved moving 2,400 employees from four different locations in New Jersey and New York into one new site, and getting the 65% of managers and executives who previously held private offices to not only sign on to a 100% open space plan, but to lead the change.

Engagement and research

I was very engaged in the project and sat on a number of planning committees, one of which went to bat to find enough money in the furniture budget to enable everyone to have electronic sit-to-stand desks. We did our research and listened to our designer and other experts in this area, and we knew the investment was the right thing to do for a number of reasons. With walking trails, a fitness center, a grand café with healthy menu options and an outdoor patio, medical suite and other amenities at the site designed to get people up and moving, we implemented a number of “healthy” options into our workspace—all with our employees in mind.

Making the investment

But, investing in these desks was considered an above and beyond investment in our people that I was proud to talk about. So I did. As a result, I was quoted in a Washington Post blog about the panel discussion which was held during Gensler’s annual “Well-being in the City” program.

Fast-forward about seven months. The CBS Evening News was doing a story on recent research citing the health issues connected with sitting too much—sitting is the new smoking, the research said. In doing their research, CBS found my quote in the blog post and called Bayer asking if they could come on site, talk to a few employees and film our workspace.

Interestingly, Bayer engaged a few journalists earlier in the year in a Meet the Media conversation on the company’s oncology research. One of the attendees was the health and medical producer at The CBS Evening News. That previous relationship with the Bayer Media Relations Team led to a great story on the CBS Evening News about Bayer, singled out as an employer who puts the health and welfare of its employees, center stage, with our standing desks.

The lessons we learned

So what’s the lesson here? There are a few:

  1. Say yes. When asked to share your point of view, do it. You never know when your insights can spur additional positive coverage for you and your company.
  2. Maintain strong relationships. Our project is more than a year old, but I maintain strong relationships with all of the contractors who created the beautiful, modern, best-in-class workplace I get to enjoy every day. And the relationships with the media that my external communication partner works hard to nurture clearly make a difference.
  3. Engage and educate. By engaging in the panel discussion and educating the audience about our philosophies and focus on employee well-being, the effects of what we achieved rippled outside our walls and garnered very positive national network news coverage.

The lines between internal and external are more blurred than ever. I’d even go so far as to say they are practically non-existent. Keep this in mind as you plan your internal strategic communications and have fun giving your work legs and positive exposure externally. It’s good for you, your work and your company.

This article is by Mary Lou Panzano, vice president and head of U.S. internal communications, Bayer Corporation. Bayer is the sponsor of the pre-conference event, the Circles of Wisdom, at the IABC World Conference.

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