This Friday, the majority of Viacom employees put on their out-of-office autoreplies, made their way to a community service project of choice, and rolled up their sleeves to do something good – as is tradition on Viacommunity Day, our company-wide day to give back. All around the world, droves of Viacom employees dispersed across hundreds of volunteer sites — another year of record numbers, as participation steadily grows. This year, employees worked on everything from packing goody bags for Boston First Responders, to rebuilding sites still devastated from Hurricane Sandy, and conducting mock interviews for the unemployed in need of such training.
In honor of Viacom’s service on Viacommunity Day, Viacom President and Chief Executive Officer Philippe Dauman and a group of employees rang the NASDAQ opening bell Monday morning. Following the bell ringing, I sat down with Dauman to hear his take on the Company’s corporate conscience and why this day of service is so important. Here’s what he had to say.
Was this your first time ringing the bell at the NASDAQ?
PD: Yes, it was. I’d rung the bell at the NYSE when we were listed there. And Viacom has rung the bell before, but this is the first time I’ve done it, and I am really thrilled to do it in connection with Viacommunity Day. We decided since we were going to ring the bell for Viacommunity Day, we were going to also bring people that worked for various organizations on Friday. We put out a note saying “first come, first serve” to come to the bell ringing, and we had the 40-or-so quota filled almost instantly. I talked to one of our people at the NASDAQ bell ringing and he said, “I jumped on it right away to make sure I got in there.” It was fun. Everybody was on the big billboards in Times Square, so we were all looking up at that.
What did you do for Viacommunity Day this year?
PD: Every year, I go around to various sites that we have people working on. I try to check out different organizations in the mix every year. This year I visited an animal rescue center, God’s Love We Deliver, an outdoor event in Times Square held for Second Chance Toys, and Gay Men’s Health Crisis.
Over the years, I’ve personally come to discover a lot of worthy causes that we are involved with and it’s always so invigorating to see our people’s enthusiasm. At many organizations, we have employees who are very actively involved and sponsored the project. The one aspect of Viacommunity Day that I’d love for more people to appreciate is that all these organizations, for the most part, were brought to our attention by the people who work here and get added to our list. If anyone at Viacom is involved with an organization, I urge them to suggest them for the day. The reason I do is that it’s a way for other employees to discover those organizations and get involved year-round. Because that’s really the objective – to get people involved not just for the day, but to get involved either in the particular organization or more generally on a year-round basis.
Why is it so important that we take part in Viacommunity Day every year?
PD: We see every day that there are a lot of problems that need to be addressed in society – from education to health issues to voting and hunger – the world, as we saw unfortunately last week, needs a lot of improvement. There are all sorts of worthy causes. Our veterans are coming out of the military service without jobs. Spike and its employees work on that cause. If we don’t get engaged as human beings, nothing’s going to improve. Our job as a company is to really expose our employees to organizations that come to our attention.
What are you most proud of this year?
I’m very proud of the fact that, once again, for several years in a row, we set record participation levels. More than 5,000 people participated in Viacommunity Day on a global basis. When you consider that we have 10,000 employees in the whole world including all our international locations, and we have a lot of employees who have to be at the office because we have to have our networks up and running — this new record is a testament to how involved our people are in their communities and how much they want to get involved. I’ve noticed over the years that we have a more and more engaged population – I think it has to do with a lot of the young people coming into the company. This is a generation that wants to be more engaged, and it fits right into our culture here. So I’m very gratified. And it’s not just in the U.S. – we had perfect attendance in Amsterdam, for example.
How would you say Viacommunity Day reflects our overall business or overall commitment to giving back?
PD: We have a special responsibility as a media company to address our audiences in a way that reflects our lives, and we have a responsibility to improve people’s lives and to improve the world community. We have a megaphone. So in order for us to be credible in doing that, we should also be engaged in our own personal lives. Viacom’s been recognized as one of the top 50 pro-social companies out there – I think we rank very high in that top 50, my personal opinion. That’s why we have so many programs here – we have mentoring programs that we put in place a few years ago – and opportunities to engage. We reflect that on our air and in personal lives and work lives. And that’s how it should be.
Right – and this week, Viacom launched a volunteer match program, for employees to find volunteer projects in their areas at any time.
As a company, we get more opportunities presented to us. People come to us and would like us to be involved, so we make those organizations available to our employees. We don’t require people to do anything; we just make it available and then it’s up to people to follow their own consciences. And in following their own consciences, they’ve been very socially responsible. I’m very proud of our employees, of the level of participation, and we should all be proud of what all of us collectively are doing. It makes a difference, and the combination of all our individual efforts are making it such that Viacom is making a difference. And that makes me very glad.