3 PR Lessons from the Grand Poobah of PR at Ben & Jerry’s

October 06, 2020

Sean Greenwood, Grand Poobah of PR at Ben & Jerry's is speaking at the 12th edition of the Crisis Communications Boot Camp on October 15th & 16th. 

Sean is the grand poobah of PR for Ben & Jerry’s, a title he has earned one scoop at a time. Starting in 1988, Greenwood has seen triumphs and tribulations during his many years with the company, from experiencing Flavor Graveyard creations like Sugar Plum ice cream to flavor sensations like Cherry Garcia. Greenwood took interest in sharing Ben & Jerry’s good news and mission, namely, that organizations can thrive when they lead with their values and consider more than making a profit. In his PR position, Greenwood has created programs, helped with flavors and managed relationships Sir Elton John, Stephen Colbert and more. He led communication strategy for the company’s global climate “Save Our Swirled” initiative and flavor, the equity and EmpowerMint campaign to highlight systemic racism, the launch of The Tonight Dough starring Jimmy Fallon on on the show’s first anniversary, and the unveiling of Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy/vegan line of products. When not poobahing, Greenwood serves as director of public relations and communications at Ben & Jerry’s headquarters in Vermont, resulting in billions of annual impressions served.

Here are his top 3 PR lessons learned from his work at Ben & Jerry's.

Stand for Something

Right now, leaders are facing an ‘arms race’ for the next generation of talent. The new generation has high expectations for corporations and wants to see organizations assume a bigger purpose. If organizations don’t meet those expectations, the new generation takes action.

By having a bigger purpose, your organization can be better equipped to navigate in times of uncertainty. Remember, your organization’s mission and values should be what drives the business every single day. 

Bad things happen. Be prepared to handle negativity.

Often, companies create a mission and vision but neglect what they stand for in everyday behaviors. 

Use your mission as a touchstone. 

It’s inevitable that bad things will happen. By remembering to live by the values flowing from the mission and vision of the company, communicators and leaders will have a direction to guide them in times of crisis. By anticipating a crisis by showing that the company is prepared to do the right thing before there’s a problem, problems can be mitigated early on. 

Focus on the company values daily. Walk your talk to gain and maintain the trust of your stakeholders.

Get Outside of the Echo Chamber

It’s easy to think that everything is great at your company when you’re surrounded by people who share the same beliefs. Go outside of the bubble, and listen to what other people say about your company. Listen to what customers are saying, search social media for mentions, conduct research, and have conversations with other departments outside your headquarters. 

Employees can anticipate when something bad is going to happen. If your leadership creates a culture of open communication, you can empower employees to think from an “our company” mindset by encouraging them to speak candidly like owners and valued members of the organization. 

Actions speak louder than words, and employees are going to hold your organization accountable to do the right thing. Nobody knows an organization better than its employees. If the organization walk doesn’t match the talk, employees will be the first to tell you. 

To hear more from Sean, reserve your ticket for Crisis Communications Boot Camp 12 here.


crisis communications public relations sean greenwood