Whether because employee communications programs are more often run out of human resources departments than corporate communications, or because the majority of public relations firms have failed to address the strategic internal needs of their clients, employee communications remains a great source of untapped business opportunity for the bulk of the PR industry. But not for Grossman Group (formerly dg&a), which specializes in helping corporate clients communicate with their internal audiences, with a focus management consulting and coaching, change management, employee communication, strategic messaging and communication research and measurement and a commitment to client service it calls “the thoughtpartner philosophy,” and which is now looking to share its expertise more broadly the industry—including potential competitors—to expand the employee communications practice.
Over the years, Grossman has developed a suite of proprietary tools and methodologies designed to help clients address some of their most critical challenges: facilitating changes in leadership at the C-suite level; introducing new ways of doing business, including global performance management systems, customer focus, new cultures and employee behaviors; measuring the communications effectiveness of communications functions and leaders; and tackling tough business imperatives such as improving compliance and environment, health and safety, and challenging long-standing cultural norms. In 2009, the firm also began offering certification on two of its flagship tools: the messagemap (which helps leadership teams align around a key initiative before beginning their communications efforts) and the leadercommunicator platform (which helps leaders develop and articulate their strategy, engage employees and drive change).
The firm celebrated its 10th anniversary with a new name and a book from David Grossman, You Can’t Not Communicate, that spells out the Grossman philosophy. It also introduced a suite of turnkey tools—the Ultimate Leader Tools—designed for leaders at every level to connect with employees and their senior leaders, and drive the right behaviors among employees and leaders alike. The toolkit addresses issues including a lack of communication planning; change; the lack of a clear vision for the future; mixed messages; the widening trust gap between leaders and employees: accountability issues; and more. Clients for the new offer include WellPoint, CVS/Caremark and Cisco Systems. The firm also formalized a new methodology developed with a partner research agency called the Internal Communication Climate Index, which is a cost- and time-saving communication research methodology to measure the health of their internal communications.
Grossman saw fee income decline slightly to around $2.4 million, but there was increasing demand for the new communication research and leadership communications product, and the firm added several new clients including Microsoft, CVS/Caremark, Unum, Heinz, Apollo Group (parent company of the University of Phoenix), Rockwell Automation and LifeScan (a division of Johnson & Johnson), while extending its reach into new areas of business for clients such as Lockheed Martin, Johnson Controls, and Eli Lilly. Other clients include Geisinger Health Systems, Illinois Tool Works, McDonald’s and Shedd.
Much of the firm’s most interesting work grew out of its Climate Index process, which helped one company decide to eliminate a six-figure communication vehicle and more than a dozen low-traffic vehicles, re-allocating the time and financial resources toward higher-impact communications; revealed a significant issue with supervisor communications at another client, paving the way for supervisor training and tools to build more effective front-line leaders; and persuaded the the CEO of a Fortune 100 company to approve the company’s first-ever strategic internal communication and leadership communication plan grounded in data, leading to double-digit gains in overall effectiveness of employee communications and in perceptions of the CEO’s leadership. Other highlights included helping LifeScan come up with a winning communication plan for its president of the North America business, new in her position and facing skeptical employees; helping an internal communications leader at a key division in Microsoft measure and elevate how internal communications happened among the employees in her division; and working with Heinz to create more consistent, efficient operations in its global manufacturing facilities and offices.
“At McDonald’s, relationships matter as much as results,” says Richard Ellis, senior vice president, communications and public affairs, at McDonald’s Canada. “David’s approach to leadership communication underscores the importance of both because it helps business leaders do the right things right. I’ve seen first-hand the power of David’s methods in action through his long-standing work with McDonald’s.” Adds Alison Donnelly, corporate communications manager at Illinois Tool Works: ”Illinois Tool Works worked with The Grossman Group on several messaging sessions that greatly improved our communication approach. As a result of the messagemap The Grossman Group created for us, our communication is clearer and more concise, with a simple, focused message.”
While The Grossman Group works primarily in domestic markets, several major clients are global companies and has firm has experience working with global teams, understanding different cultures and the ways in which communication approaches vary. The firm is also a member of Worldcom Public Relations Group, a leading network of independently owned public relations counseling firms.