The major tax legislation passed by Congress was big news last week. At least one major brand chose to grab a bit of that spotlight. AT&T made headlines by promising to dole out $1,000 bonuses to more than 200,000 US workers once the tax bill is signed into law and enacted.
$200 million in dedicated support certainly signals strong support for the recently passed plan in the offices at AT&T. Some are saying it goes one step further, working as an “olive branch” reaching out to the Trump administration after the Justice Department blocked AT&T’s takeover of Time Warner.
In a statement released to the press, AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson lauded the deal as great for his business and for job creation, saying the plan will “create good-paying jobs.”
But calling this move any kind of political “olive branch” may well be reading way too much into it. It’s safe to argue the timing on this is about positive PR for the company leading into the New Year. If that’s the case, it’s a smart, well-timed move. All eyes were on the tax bill, whether the people were pro or con. But nobody can really complain about a company dishing out $200 million to its employees, especially at this time of year. Even if AT&T workers have to wait for that money, the brand gets PR points immediately … and they will again, once they start cutting checks.
That makes this PR move a potential positive double-whammy for AT&T. Once again, that’s a smart move. They have, essentially, put a positive batch of headlines in the bank to be used at a date to be named later. And they can pull them out at any opportune time.
What we do know at this point is that the bonus payments will be distributed to “all union-represented, non-management and front-line managers…” which turns out to be more than 200,000 employees.
Who the bonus is going to works in AT&T’s favor as much as the total donation does. Any time a major company decides to “give back” to the rank-and-file, it’s a positive PR opportunity. To do so in such a sweeping manner is sure to put smiles on people’s faces. So, all in all, it’s a smart PR move by AT&T to strike while the iron is hot and the attention is focused, and it’s even smarter PR to set yourself up for even more goodwill down the road.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.