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Aflac - Communications, IR, or PR Executive of the Year


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Company: Aflac, Columbus, GA
Entry Submitted By: Fleishman Hillard
Company Description: Aflac is a Fortune 500 company, providing financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. When a policyholder or insured gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fairly, promptly and directly to the insured. For nearly six decades, Aflac voluntary insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Communications, Investor Relations, or PR Executive of the Year

Nomination Title: Jon Sullivan, Corporate Communications

Tell the story about what this nominated executive has achieved since January 1, 2016 (up to 650 words). Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

Aflac, the 60-year-old supplemental insurance giant, is one of Fortune’s Best Places to Work and World’s Most Ethical Companies. But in spite of these accolades, its successful business and brand were not translating to well-earned recognition for corporate social responsibility (CSR) – at least not beyond its Georgia HQ.

Jon Sullivan, Aflac director of Corporate Communications, knew there was no ducking this deficit. The business impact of public relations is notoriously difficult to measure. But as any PR pro knows, measuring the success of a communications campaign is critical to demonstrating the business value of the work and, in this case, the value of Aflac’s CSR initiatives to consumers and investors.
In 2016, Sullivan led a robust PR campaign -- industry research, internal reporting and thought leadership – to showcase Aflac’s commitment to CSR.

Through his relationship with Reputation Institute (RI), Sullivan obtained data to evaluate the company’s RepTrak Pulse score for its reputation, which had fallen below the optimal levels that most heavily impact consumers’ view of the company. RI research shows a direct correlation between company reputation and business imperatives like stock price, consumer interest, talent recruitment and employee engagement. Sullivan used this data to design his PR plan, focusing on key dimensions for CSR reputation (citizenship, workplace and leadership).

He led development for a national scientific survey of consumers and investors, gaining insights about their behaviors toward CSR and philanthropic efforts. The results provided a yardstick with which Aflac could compare its own initiatives and a platform to position its executives as CSR thought leaders.

In addition, Sullivan led a team to research and review award-winning CSR reports, identifying important considerations regarding program organization, initiative selection and results reporting.

Such research and analysis revealed four categories most relevant to consumers and investors: ethics, workplace, philanthropy and sustainability. These pillars became the outline of Sullivan’s CSR public relations campaign and formal report to the community:

-Ethical leadership: Raise awareness of Aflac’s accolades for ethical business conduct and corporate governance; position Aflac executives as thought leaders in ethical practices of corporate America.
-Diverse workforce: Elevate Aflac’s reputation for attracting, retaining, and promoting minority leaders and staff.
-Philanthropy: Raise awareness of Aflac’s long-standing commitment to childhood cancer research and treatment, including recently surpassing the $110 million milestone for contributions over 20 years.
-Environmental sustainability: Communicate goals set and steps taken to reduce Aflac’s environmental footprint.

Success of the campaign would be determined by an increase in Aflac’s RI Pulse score, interviews with executives about CSR initiatives and social engagement with Aflac’s online CSR content. Sullivan led the following campaign executions:

-Developed both paid and earned media campaigns to discuss implications of Aflac’s CSR survey results and placement on Ethisphere Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, positioning SVP of Corporate Communications Catherine Hernandez Blades as Aflac’s CSR spokesperson as well as a general expert in CSR.
-Secured sponsorships for high-profile cancer awareness events: The Washington Post’s Chasing Cancer Summit, an executive roundtable focusing on commitment to the cause; and CureFest, the nation’s largest gathering of organizations and families supporting childhood cancer research.
-Hosted and publicized four childhood cancer Duckprints events nationwide in which Aflac spotlights champions in childhood cancer treatment and research and pledges donations dependent on social media response.
-Developed a comprehensive annual Aflac CSR Report (microsite, videos and PDF) describing CSR activity within the four CSR pillars: ethics, workplace, philanthropy and sustainability.
-Released Report at an internal launch event attended by Aflac executive leaders and staff.
-Developed social posts and other digital assets highlighting the report, survey and events for CSR.
-Launched holiday helpers, a campaign where Aflac worked with various bloggers and influencers across the country to donate a combined $50,000 to families in need
-Developed a LinkedIn campaign to highlight Teresa White, president of Aflac U.S., as a thought leader on diversity in the workplace.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief accomplishments of this nominated executive since the beginning of 2016.

-A comprehensive 2016 report from the Reputation Institute (RI) revealed a 3.4 point increase in Aflac’s overall Pulse score, moving the company from an “average” to a “strong” reputation ranking in all areas.
-Citizenship and Workplace RI scores increased by 5.2 and 4.5 points, respectively.
-CSR media placements, featuring Aflac SVP Catherine Hernandez-Blades, netted more than 200 million impressions.
-Aflac's Corporate Facebook page experienced significant traffic boost due to CSR-related posts: 1,002% increase in average monthly Facebook reach, 454% increase in average monthly Facebook page impressions, 392% increase in monthly Facebook page engaged users and a 12% increase in page likes, from 35,086 to 39,380.
-#Duckprints use for cancer events garnered 900,711 social media actions, resulting in Aflac donation match that exceeded the fundraising goal of $115 million for the first time
-The Holiday Helpers campaign, which earned coverage in publications like US Weekly and, generated 485 million+ impressions.