Dean Foods retools its internal comms, focusing on staffers

In tough financial times, the country’s largest dairy processor hopes to engage employees in an ongoing conversation.

“You never had control.”

That’s the perhaps stunning, perhaps freeing reality that communicators at Dean Foods, the nation’s largest dairy processor, are trying to come to grips with as it transitions in difficult financial times.

“People are always talking about you and your company,” says Matthew Young, manager of corporate communications.

“You can choose to ignore that, or you can run a totalitarian state, or you can just engage in that conversation, electronic or otherwise.”

Dean is choosing the third option. The company’s communicators aren’t completely relinquishing control of its message to employees, but they’re deputizing executives to be communicators themselves. The company is also doing more to make employee voices heard and productive, though they’re not quite there, Young says.

Equipping executives

“We look at our leaders at all levels, and say, how can we equip them?” Young says. “Our executives—we want to make them communications role models.”

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