On February 1st, HistoryIT will celebrate its ten-year anniversary, an achievement that got me thinking about how best to mark such an occasion.
We’re used to celebrating personal milestones like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations, but we often neglect to identify and plan appropriately when it comes to significant business and organizational milestones. When you’re running a company, it’s easy to get entrenched in day-to-day matters and completely lose sight of the fact that your thirty-year anniversary is right around the corner. When you’re involved in an organization whose leadership changes frequently, such as a fraternity or sorority, institutional knowledge and long-term plans can easily get lost in the shuffle.
Tips for Planning a Commemorative Business or Organization Celebration
With all that in mind, here are five key steps you can follow to help you plan an appropriate commemoration
1. Identify your upcoming milestones
This sounds basic, and it is, but you’d be surprised by how many businesses and organizations never do it. Take a second and look back to see when your company or organization was founded. Perhaps you know that it was in a certain year, but you don’t know the month – find out. Sometimes significant milestones are still a long way in the future, but at least now you’ll have them on your long-term radar.
For a major milestone, such as a fifty-year or centennial anniversary, many organizations start planning at least a full year in advance. In other cases, however, you’ll realize that a major anniversary is rapidly approaching and that you need to act quickly to capitalize on the opportunity.
2. Decide what your goals and key messages will be
Milestones provide an opportunity to thank your clients, show your employees/members that you value them, highlight accomplishments, rebrand if needed, launch future projects or products, and/or attract new members or customers. Don’t let such an opportunity go to waste.
First, decide which of the above goals you wish to focus on. Then, develop the messages that you want to weave into the celebration. Employees, members, and/or customers should be able to understand from your messaging what you are celebrating and why.
3. Form a committee
You may have founded a company or organization by yourself, but you’re going to need a team to help execute a well-thought-out milestone commemoration. Whether it is a one-time event or a months-long series of social media posts and special offers, you’ll need the extra hands.
4. Gather your assets
In order to tell your story, especially in a retrospective, you will need visual (and digital!) assets that allow you to depict the various stages of your past. Such assets might include photographs, scrapbooks, programs, advertisements, annual reports or other publications, objects or awards, and documents. It will depend on the kind of organization you are and what types of materials you’ve published over the years.
Also, stories from your employees, members, or clients are powerful items to include, especially in the form of proper oral histories. Ideally, you already have a digital archive in which you have been preserving and tagging your materials. That will make this process easier. If not, now is definitely the time to invest so that the effort can continue to bring you value in the future. And remember, this process will take much longer than you think!
5. Formulate a detailed plan
A committee without a plan goes nowhere. You need a full-on content strategy accompanied by a timeline covering the lead-up, the actual milestone date, and any subsequent activities.
Key Questions to Ask During the Planning Phase
Here are a few key questions and issues for your committee to consider while you are planning:
- What do you want to be the start and end dates of the celebration? Is it a year-long one, a month-long one, or just a single day? If your milestone falls on an inconvenient date (such as a holiday), will you celebrate it on that date regardless, or will you find an alternative date?
- Can you create an infographic or timeline of the significant dates in your company or organization’s history? For example, if it’s a twenty-year anniversary, can you identify the top twenty significant moments?
- Who are your employees, members, and/or customers who have been with your company or organization the longest, or since the beginning? Prioritize obtaining oral histories and/or videos involving those individuals and figure out how to feature them throughout your celebratory period.
- Do you want to design a temporary commemorative logo working in the anniversary number, such as 25 for a twenty-five-year anniversary?
- Do you want to produce any commemorative merchandise, either for sale or to give to employees, members, and/or clients?
- Do you want to incorporate some sort of philanthropic element? A hands-on community service event might not be feasible given current circumstances, but what about something virtual, such as challenging each member of your organization to donate $20 (to celebrate your twenty-year anniversary) to a nonprofit that shares your organization’s values?
- Along similar lines, if you are a nonprofit organization, do you want to incorporate a fundraising element, like asking people to donate a small amount of money (matching the year of your anniversary) toward a bigger goal, such as finally investing in the digital preservation of your archive (I know a company that can help you with that)?
- When creating your content strategy, are you exclusively focusing on social media? Consider also creating a special milestone-themed landing page on your website, making one or more special videos, spreading the word through your newsletter, and sending a press release to local media. You can also add a milestone-themed tagline to e-mail signatures during the period of celebration. On a lighter note, you could create a playlist of songs that were popular the year your business or organization was founded and share it as part of your campaign.
- Is there another organization or business that you have a positive relationship with that is also celebrating a significant milestone around the same time? If so, consider teaming up and cross-publicizing your anniversary posts and activities.
- Whatever you pinpoint as the primary purpose of your celebration, do not neglect the fun factor. What do you want to do for your employees, members, and/or clients? Throwing a big party is probably not an option for a while longer due to the pandemic, but there are still plenty of fun things you can do to demonstrate appreciation. In fact, it is vital to foster a sense of esprit de corps and appreciation during a period of extended isolation. You can send them a gift basket, host an online trivia competition about the company/organization, offer a special discount on services, and more. You could even get people involved on social media, inviting them to post photos of their pets or competing to see who looks most like the CEO or organization president.
However you decide to mark your milestone, don’t forget to document it. At your twenty-year celebration, it’s both fun and rewarding to be able to pull up and share materials from your ten-year one.
Congratulations on achieving your milestone and enjoy taking the time to reflect on and celebrate it!