People First: E&Y Values in Action
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People First: E&Y Values in Action

Ernst & Young designed and executed a public relations campaign to increase awareness of its People First culture, which includes the firm’s commitment to diversity, the advancement of women professionals, training and work life initiatives.

Paul Holmes

Ernst & Young designed and executed a public relations campaign to increase awareness of its People First culture, which includes the firm’s commitment to diversity, the advancement of women professionals, training and work life initiatives. The objective of this ongoing effort is to enhance the firm’s reputation, positioning E&Y as a professional services leader focused on advancing and developing its people to provide the best possible client service.
The firm’s overall approach to developing its people – as well as various elements of the People First culture, including diversity, work life integration, learning and women’s initiatives – has received extensive coverage in trade and business media. Targeted speaking opportunities and media coverage, including a 4,000-word feature on E&Y’s initiatives in The Times (London), is helping to position the firm as an employer-of-choice and a company that maximizes the value of its people to provide outstanding client service.
Positioning E&Y in this manner coincides with the firm’s 19-spot jump on Fortune’s “100 Best Places to Work For” list in January 2003.
 With accounting scandals shaking the core of American business, the team was challenged to develop a way to effectively promote a positive story at a time when public faith in the integrity of our financial system was being damaged. While E&Y was well-known as a first-mover in the areas that comprised People First, the team was now charged with talking about those initiatives in a new context – through that of a corporate culture called People First.
Finally, while the team was confident that it would garner media attention on individual initiatives, it recognized the need to develop an innovative way in which to bring new life to the workplace story. Therefore, it was incumbent upon the team to develop new angles that demonstrate E&Y as a cutting-edge thinker on the subject.
 The objectives were to position E&Y as the professional services leader focused on advancing and developing its people so that they can provide the best possible client service and lead productive and meaningful lives at the same time; and to position E&Y People First executives as thought leaders in their areas of expertise, demonstrating E&Y’s commitment to ensuring best-in-class programs.
 The first tier of outreach focused on the senior-level “People” leaders, including both E&Y’s Vice Chair and Director of the Americas People Team, who would communicate broad messages about E&Y’s People First culture. Tier Two engaged each of the initiative leaders, who continued to communicate specific initiatives integral to the firm’s People First culture.
Additionally, the firm’s Chairman James Turley, and other senior executives would incorporate People First messaging into speeches and media interviews to further position the firm as a thought leader in the area of people issues.
Research and preparation included a competitive analysis to compare E&Y’s People First program with similar programs of key competitors and companies considered “best in class,” or “people thought leaders.” The analysis evaluated the emphasis each placed on people initiatives in their respective companies, including execution of competitive programs, the amount of media coverage each received, and the level of information on their Web sites. This analysis provided the team with a benchmark to help better position E&Y in the marketplace.
Message development sessions were conducted to ensure that key messages were developed and incorporated into overall Firmwide and individual initiatives. Message development extended to each initiative.
Hill & Knowlton media trained key People First spokespeople to ensure they accurately communicated important messages and further developed their interview skills.
The team also developed and updated collateral materials to be used in media outreach, including fact sheets on People First initiatives, an extensive “proof points” document with statistics highlighting the impact of these initiatives, demographic statistics, and bios of key spokespeople.
The first step in generating interest in People First was educating the media about the culture and its components. H&K pitched and secured background briefings with top- tier and regional media, including Forbes, Working Mother, and the Newark Star-Ledger.
Stories on People First initiatives, including diversity and work life integration, were pitched to national and regional workplace and business reporters. Angles included:
· Corporate America’s next stage of responsibility to women in the workplace;
· Retaining employees as the economy rebounds and more job options become available;
· Back-to-school work life integration for parents;
· The value of alumni (former employee) networks in the workplace;
· The value of a sophisticated telecommuting program;
· Diversity mentoring programs; and
· The success of the Andersen integrations, which was due in large part to the firm’s People First culture.
The team also identified and pursued speaking opportunities for key People First leaders at global, national and regional conferences that have a workforce/people component. Interest was secured by several high level conferences including Conference Board’s Diversity Workshop; Conference Board’s Women’s Leadership Conference; Conference Board’s Performance Management Conference; Conference Board’s 2003 eLearning Conference; Working Mother magazine’s Annual Conference; and Working Mother magazine’s Women of Color Summit.
Byline opportunities with national and regional newspapers and trade publications were developed to address issues such as advancing minorities to top leadership positions and what recent graduates should look for in an employer.
E&Y successfully communicated to its stakeholders about its efforts to provide employees with the tools and opportunities they need to excel in an increasingly competitive marketplace and the positive impact of its programs on client service.
Various elements of the People First culture, including diversity, work life balance, learning and women’s initiatives received extensive coverage in trade and business media, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Newsday, Dallas Morning News, Accountancy Age, HR Executive, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Crain’s New York Business, and CBSMarketwatch.com.
The Times, London’s premier newspaper, recently published a 4,000-word feature article on E&Y’s initiatives. Together with other efforts to highlight E&Y’s People First culture, which includes flexible work arrangements and its commitment to the advancement of women, the article recognized the firm’s dedication to providing its employees with the tools and opportunities they need to excel in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
 E&Y’s People First Leadership Team was also sought by premier business and workplace conferences, including The Conference Board and Working Mother magazine.
The firm jumped nearly 20 spots in the 2003 Fortune “100 Best Place to Work For” list, surpassing each of the other Big Four firms. Working Mother magazine named E&Y one of the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers” for the fifth consecutive year, and Catalyst recently gave E&Y its 2003 Catalyst Award, which honors outstanding companies implementing innovative, effective, and measurable initiatives to advance women.
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