About the Association

Annual Awards for Communications Excellence

How AACE is Judged

There are five judges each year. An effort is made to procure outstanding, knowledgeable people, from different sizes, types and locations of companies, both male and female, and both management and line employee owners. Four judges are new, with the AACE Chair returning for continuity.

The judges only know what you tell them, so be clear in your commentary. Anecdotes are welcome! Organization, presentation, free items, etc. count, but above all else is content. The big question is, how well and how often are you communicating ownership?

Tips on Winning an AACE

  1. Notice everything you do/have with the words “ESOP” or “Ownership”. Start a file early on, and keep it current.
  2. If you haven’t already done so, start putting “employee owned” on everything; business cards, stationery, invoices, signs, trucks, advertisements, job applications, web sites, flags, product packaging, etc.
  3. Keep a camera on site. Designate a photography buff to take lots of pictures, and put them in the newsletter, on the web, on bulletin boards, & in the AACE entry.
  4. Consider making company events “ESOP” events, such as a picnic or a brown bag lunch, a parade float, or Employee Owners of XYZ Company working for Habitat for Humanity, or the Animal Shelter.
  5. How much and how often the ESOP is mentioned counts, such as in a newsletter, in the educational structure, the brochures, the web site. Does ownership permeate the company culture? Tell the judges.
  6. In printed materials, clear, easy to read information and good graphic design counts (not necessarily expense). Ownership communication content is paramount.
  7. Education about ESOP counts. The more informative, fun and creative the better.
  8. Tap into your funny, creative people. Fun and good humor are very powerful. Best of all, upper management with a sense of humor is invaluable, a huge asset.
  9. Consideration for the employee owner counts. Respectful feedback for suggestions is important. Is there a forum for concerns? Write it up as an asset.
  10. Employee owner involvement in the ownership aspect of the company, as well as in actually preparing the AACE entry counts.
  11. Having a theme can make it easier to plan a series of events, or a whole campaign. A fun theme often sparks creativity, and spins off ideas in new directions. It also makes things easier to remember.

Not an AACE Tip, But Important

  • Setting up lines of communication and building credibility in the good times makes it far easier to communicate in the bad times. Honesty is important.
  • Not communicating is still saying something.
  • According to research, ESOP companies who communicate ownership well are among the most productive companies.

A Few More Things to Remember

Have someone who always has access to a camera at all events. However, a flood of pictures really is not necessary; usually some good pictures, with a clear explanation of the event and how it tied into ESOP/Ownership understanding is better.

Judges love a theme --- i.e. a “team theme,” a cruise theme, a game theme (although The ESOP Association usually tries to avoid promoting a gambling theme), a farm theme, etc. That sometimes makes it easier to plan events as well. The more fun you can put into it the better, while still educating (i.e. ESOP “Jeopardy” with a really nice prize). Mixing “old” and “new” ESOPpers to do a skit is a possibility. Someone did a silly (but wonderful) skit on Dorothy & the Land of Oz (ESOP) one year, including upper management.

Speaking of that, if you have management behind the communications effort, you have a “leg up” on the ladder. Their sincere belief in the ESOP goes a long way, and plays well in a video, as long as the employee owners are featured as well. (Avoid “talking heads” in a video as much as possible). If you can “mix up” the new/old employee owners and not just introduce the management to the new ones, it would probably mean more.

A lot of events can be labeled “ESOP” events, such as picnics (games with ESOP items for prizes?), Eggs ‘n ESOP, a team of employee owners helping Habitat for Humanity, an “ESOP Run” for charity, etc. High visibility of the ESOP logo, posters, cups, etc. is a good reminder. Don’t forget stationery, business cards, brochures, ESOP on the web and advertisements. And food!

Sometimes something simple can have great impact. In one company, only the management had their own ceramic cups for coffee. Everyone else had generic Styrofoam cups. When they introduced the ESOP, everyone got a ceramic cup, appropriately labeled. This was very symbolic, and was very successful. Another new ESOP company this past year had a meeting at which little black boxes tied with gold cord were given to the employee owners as they arrived, but they were told not to open them. At the end of the presentation, they opened the boxes to find a little mirror engraved with “Owner.” It was simple but to the point.

If you have a mentoring program, you might feature the program and how it works. A lot depends on the culture of your company and the proximity of other possible locations.