In 1873, Cincinnati Bell became the first company to literally connect people in the Queen City, providing direct communication between the city’s homes and businesses.
In 2018, leadership realized an internal opportunity to repurpose our company’s core mission of connecting people. Recognizing the value of our corporate culture’s diverse employee base, they started by giving rise to Employee Resource Groups (ERGs).
These ERGs would allow employees to connect and join together based on shared characteristics, interests, or life experiences. The groups would become safe places within the work environment and would give our employees the opportunity to become a part of something they believe in while enhancing their personal and professional development.
“My job is to build an environment that brings the best out of people. And to bring the best out of people, I think you have to be comfortable.”
- Leigh Fox, CEO, Cincinnati Bell
Within nine months, the PRIDE Employee Resource Group was formed with the mandate, “Diversity Creates Dimension.” Our PRIDE ERG set out to raise awareness and create equality for LGBTQ+ staff, allies, friends, and family. It rapidly grew and the group sponsored a successful fundraiser for Lighthouse, an organization dedicated to making a positive impact on the lives of LGBTQ+ youth in crisis.
“I have been here for a while, so I’ve seen the culture change. I think what’s most important and what I respect the most is that it’s coming from the top.”
- Tangee Edmonson, technical support lead, Cincinnati Bell
Our PRIDE ERG wanted their first major PRIDE initiative to be inclusive and encouraging of all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, to get involved and help create real change.
The concept started with an idea to create a unique, public art installation. The desired result–to speak volumes to the immediate community about equality and spread that message across North America through social media and public relations.
The final decision–a colossal Post-It® note mural covering seven floors of the Cincinnati Bell building. It took some serious planning, 100+ people, and 26,000 3M Post-it® notes to create the seven-story PRIDE statement in the windows of the downtown HQ. It went up in one day.
Another crew mapped out how to color coordinate the exterior lights to ensure that our office building (illuminated in PRIDE rainbow colors) would be viewable by the entire city at night. Our graphics department decked out our logo in rainbow fashion. And, Cincinnati Bell PRIDE signage went up in retail stores throughout the city.
T-shirts were printed. Cincinnati Bell vans and trucks were wrapped in PRIDE messaging. And a spirited troop held awareness events in the office, as well as at local venues, to drum up excitement for PRIDE.
“If you would have told me 17 years ago we would have PRIDE flags in downtown Cincinnati with our logo on it, I would have said, ‘No way.’”
- Michelle Hall, senior director, digital product marketing, Cincinnati Bell
Internally, a collaboration site was created for employees to share and find information in a safe space within our corporate community. An entire week was reserved for employees to come and share their stories on camera. The videos would be used for an in-depth social media campaign sharing testimonials from staff and leadership explaining what PRIDE means to them and why the time for change is now.
Our marketing team built out an extensive content calendar for Cincinnati Bell and CBTS and kicked things off with a short video on June 3rd for PRIDE month. Our social media teams remained on call to post pictures and videos around the clock to make sure the message of love and acceptance was heard loud and far in real-time.
Fueled by the impact of their efforts, our PRIDE ERG mobilized a small army of 100+ people to begin preparations for the 2019 Cincinnati PRIDE Parade. This marked the first time in history that Cincinnati Bell and its technology division, CBTS, would participate in a PRIDE parade.
“It’s vital to us, as such a longstanding member of this community, that we lead by example and show that these are the types of values that we feel are important.”
- Eric Miller, vice president of marketing, CBTS
This was not a moment, it was a movement.
“If you look at the history of Cincinnati Pride, there were more protestors than there were people just 20 years ago.”
- Katie Meyer, Smart City policy advisor, Cincinnati Bell
Our PRIDE ERG was 100+ people strong marching in the Cincinnati PRIDE parade, led by CEO, Leigh Fox, COO, Tom Simpson, and our PRIDE ERG leader, Michelle Hall.
“Having the folks there from Cincinnati Bell, observing the hugs, the pictures, the support–it makes me incredibly proud. That’s what I want our brand to represent."
- Leigh Fox, CEO, Cincinnati Bell
Our PRIDE ERGs Post-It® note installation received national attention as CNN, 3M, and local news outlets shared our PRIDE story. Our message of equality and inclusion gained a potential reach of 460+ million people across the nation.
The result–29,000+ people engaged with the news of our PRIDE initiative. Internally, the PRIDE campaign received the most views and engagement we have ever witnessed.
Aside from the metrics, our employees recognized that we are forever allies. They know that we celebrate all of their uniqueness and support every single one of them in an effort to promote their personal and professional development.
The communities created by our PRIDE campaign continue to grow. We connected people, our voices rang clear, and the values engendered by this initiative continue to be shared.
“You can blow out a candle, but it's pretty tough to blow out a fire.”
- Andy Kaiser, chief financial officer, Cincinnati Bell
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