The Dow Chemical Company of Freeport, Texas, won the Stevie® Award for Best Communications or PR Campaign of the Year in Community Relations in The 2011 American Business Awards. (The 2012 American Business Awards are now open for entries. Request your entry kit.) Here we look at how the communications awards recipient, Dow Texas Operations, enhanced its reputation in the local community.
The PR awards winner is not only the largest integrated chemical facility in the Western Hemisphere but is also Freeport's largest employer. In 2010, The Dow Chemical Company, sought opportunities to recognize Dow Texas Operations’ WWII veteran retirees in a way that would also benefit its community relations. With its more than 6,000 near neighbor retirees, including several veterans, the communicator awards receiver decided to join forces with Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that transports veterans to memorials.
Dow Texas Operations established three community-relations goals:
- to thank Dow retirees who are WWII veterans for their honorable service,
- to strengthen outreach to Dow retirees in Brazoria County and;
- to increase the positive reputation of Dow Texas Operations in the local community, especially among key influencers in local government.
To meet these goals, Dow:
- Got their employees involved
On September 27, 2010, 74 Dow WWII veterans—along with 43 Dow “Guardians”—flew from Lake Jackson, Texas, to Washington, D.C.
- Used social media to spread the word
By establishing a Facebook page, Dow was able to engage thousands more in the experience. More than 340 images were posted to the page throughout the day. By week’s end, nearly 1,300 people “liked” the Facebook page (slightly more than the target of 500). Of those “likes,” more than 50% lived within 50 miles of Texas Dow Operations. There were 8,761 photo views on September 27, and 18,540 page views during September and October.
- Organized a Heroes’ Welcome to involve the community
At the end of the Honor Flight day, Dow hosted a “Welcome Home” party. The veterans were escorted down a red carpet, and were honored by more than 700 local elected officials, other Dow retirees, Brazoria County veteran groups, and family members, all waving flags or holding patriotic signs.
- Reminded local residents of Dow’s history in the community
Dow Texas Operations posted service photos and personal war stories of the veterans to the Facebook page. Dow also chronicled the company’s role in WWII by posting newspaper articles from the 1940s about its efforts to mine seawater for magnesium as part of the war effort.
A Grand Success
By any measure, the business in the community awards winner's event was a grand success. Hundreds of positive comments were posted to the Facebook page. Dozens of expressions of gratitude were voiced in community forums, including the Dow Community Advisory Panel and local Rotary Clubs, and at Chamber of Commerce meetings. A survey of influential people in the community, conducted one month after the Honor Flight, indicated an 82.4% positive perception of Dow’s corporate
The Brazosport Chamber of Commerce honored Dow Texas Operations with a special award in recognition of outstanding community support for honoring WWII veterans/Dow retirees. The local newspaper, The Facts, carried extensive coverage of the trip, including an ad-free special section, a first for the newspaper.
Gary Hockstra, who was at the time the Vice President and Site Director for Dow Texas Operations, was one of the driving forces behind the project. On learning that it had won a Stevie Award, he commented:
“Those of us who took part in the 2010 Dow Honor Flight know just how special it was and we are honored by this national recognition from the American Business Awards. It was an amazing initiative that brought our community together to provide some much-deserved appreciation to these heroes. It is wonderful to be receiving such a prestigious award for the project.”
Hockstra has since been promoted to Vice President of Dow’s Advanced Materials Division and is now based in Philadelphia; however, before departing for his new job, he initiated and participated in a second Dow Texas Honor Flight, in 2011. “We cannot do enough for these men who were willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom,” he said. “I am very proud that my company provides them with the opportunity to see the memorial that was built in their honor.”
About Gary Hockstra
Gary Hockstra is the Vice President of Dow’s Advanced Materials Division in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Until 2011, he was Vice President of Dow Texas Operations in Freeport, Texas. Before being named Vice President and Site Director for Dow Texas Operations in December 2007, Hockstra worked in various manufacturing roles for the company all over the world. Hockstra joined Dow in 1980 after earning a degree in Chemical Engineering from Michigan State University. He considers the Dow Texas Operations Honor Flight one of the greatest community projects he has had the opportunity to work on during his Dow career.
About Dow Texas Operations
Texas Operations is Dow's largest integrated site. The three major complexes—Plant A, Plant B, and Oyster Creek—operate as an integrated unit serving all eight of Dow's Global Business Groups. Texas Operations manufactures 44% of Dow's products sold in the United States and more than 21% of Dow's products sold globally.
Dow combines the power of science and technology with the “Human Element” to innovate what is essential to human progress. The Company connects chemistry and innovation with the principles of sustainability to help address many of the world's most challenging problems such as the need for clean water, renewable energy generation and conservation, and increasing agricultural productivity. Dow's diversified industry-leading portfolio of specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences, and plastics businesses delivers a broad range of technology-based products and solutions to customers in approximately 160 countries and in high-growth sectors such as electronics, water, energy, coatings, and agriculture. In 2010, Dow had annual sales of $53.7 billion and employed approximately 50,000 people worldwide. The company's more than 5,000 products are manufactured at 188 sites in 35 countries across the globe. More information about Dow can be found at www.dow.com.