CovidComms Awards Ireland

Irish Distillers’ Virtual Christmas Choir

Virtual Christmas Choir
Irish Distillers
Winner: Editor's Award
CovidComms Awards Ireland

More than 600 people work at Irish Distillers, where the prevailing culture means that they all feel part of a family united in their passion for whiskey. In March 2020, 40 per cent of the workforce moved to remote working, ten per cent were furloughed while the balance continued to work on production sites, where they were classed as essential workers.

To keep everybody engaged and feeling connected, during the early stages of the pandemic, the internal communications team organised virtual visits to the company’s archives, live cocktail making classes and a series of interviews with colleagues from each one of Irish Distillers’ sites, sharing tales of how their lives had changed.

As Christmas approached, the team organised a ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign on the intranet. Employees were invited to send in pictures of themselves as children at Christmas, stories of their favourite present from Santa Claus, photos of their Christmas trees or children’s artwork for the chance to win prizes.

But the main event was a virtual Christmas choir, put together by internal communications manager Alicia Hannon. Colleagues were invited to rewrite the lyrics to Merry Christmas Everyone, and then record themselves either singing or performing and dancing to the song. The final version was unveiled during a Christmas townhall, which kicked off with chief executive Conor McQuaid trying to get updates from his leadership team, who were either distracted playing golf, hanging out of their window trying to get a signal or sampling competitors’ products.

Colleagues said the video had brought tears to their eyes and expressed their admiration for the leadership team’s acting skills. It was so well received that Pernod Ricard, the holding company of Irish Distillers, shared it on their global intranet, broadcasting the choir to 19,000 colleagues worldwide.

Hannon said that lessons had been learned along the way.

  • Colleagues are usually enthusiastic spectators than willing participants
  • Local relationships and champions are key to encouraging teams to contribute
  • Cocktail classes – or any virtual content – cannot compete with good weather
  • Do something that captures the spirit of the organisation