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Special Project

Special Project
From the 13th Annual Shorty Awards

Together When We’re Apart

Entered in Community or Employee Engagement


The world’s worst pandemic of the last 100 years has affected nearly every aspect of our lives. The same holds true at Hormel Foods, one of the largest global branded food companies in existence. As company leaders huddled to devise a plan to keep team members safe while continuing to make and get food in the hands of consumers, members of the corporate communications team had another important objective in mind: How do we stay together when we must be apart? The resulting initiative – Together When We’re Apart – used online platforms to deliver virtual entertainment and gathering opportunities to 20,000 Hormel Foods team members (plus partners, friends and family). At the same time, the events served as vehicles to raise money to fight hunger, one of the key philanthropic missions of Hormel Foods and a problem only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Strategy and Execution

During 2020, we created a series of online events under the Together When We’re Apart banner. We kicked off the initiative on April 3 with the first Virtual Concert of Hope & Thanks. Our headliner, Chris Kroeze, already had a following. He was the runner up in Season 15 of “The Voice” and is a friend of our company. Chris and his young family live near one of our Jennie-O Turkey Store locations; his dad is a team member there.

Given that we were navigating what for us was uncharted water, we weren’t sure what to expect. We used traditional internal communication channels and online platforms to publicize the event. We developed branding and designed a poster. We made sure senior leadership was on board and had a role in the event. Our CEO emceed the concert from his living room in Austin, Minn. On the night of the event, we used YouTube, having published our link via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. To our delight, people were singing and dancing; others left messages to us and fellow watchers in the chat function. As the audience grew (and grew and grew), we knew we were on to something. In the end, we captured in excess of 20,000 views – at least one for each Hormel Foods team member. In addition, this was the first time – but far from the last – when we would step up to help those less fortunate. Hormel Foods and its team members donated enough money to provide 200,00 meals to those in need.  

We then set to work to plan other virtual gatherings – three more concerts and other programming designed to entertain us and keep us connected. Perhaps Hormel Foods Chairman, President and CEO Jim Snee said it best. “Let’s face it – we weren’t meant to interact like this – behind masks and dividers, staring into computer screens for hours on end.”

But as Snee also said, when the going gets tough, the team at Hormel Foods creates solutions. Thus, we celebrated with 2020 graduates (team members and their children) via a virtual event that included a plane flying overhead with messaging, shoutouts from celebrities and spotlighting winners of Hormel Foods Charitable Trust Scholarships, a long-standing program. Musical entertainment for this show was geared to the younger set.

At times we simply decided to do something completely different. For example, we set the stage for the creation of a virtual choir. Before that, we took on the task of contacting Guinness to see how to go about setting the world record for the largest virtual pizza party. The event included entertainment, donations to food organizations and – drumroll – a new world record!


By various methods of measurement, Together When We’re Apart helped us achieve our primary objective of creating connectedness during the pandemic. The activations resulted in more than 115,000 views across YouTube and Facebook, not including the World’s Largest Pizza Party which had 1,800 unique participants on Zoom. Together When We’re Apart has been the most successful online employee engagement program in the history of Hormel Foods. In addition, a recent internal engagement survey showed our communication during the pandemic has a greater than 90 percent approval rating.

Our secondary objective – to support our communities and do our part to alleviate food insecurity – was likewise successful. As a result of Together When We’re Apart, we donated more than four million meals to hunger-relief organizations throughout the United States.  

Finally, we believe an engaged workforce is a productive and motivated workforce. If financial results are any indication, our team has pulled together during this time of separation. Hormel Foods recently reported record sales for 2020 and announced the planned purchase of the Planters® snack and nut business, the largest acquisition in the 130-year history of Hormel Foods.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Hormel Foods


Entry Credits