Effective Communication In A Time Of Crisis

Interview with: Lambro Patce, Public Affairs & Communications Manager at Pivara Skopje

Published on: September 1, 2020

  1. How does your company respond to a crisis situation (what type of plan do you have, what are the tools and resources you use, etc…)?

Being part of the Coca-Cola HBC and HEINEKEN systems, for us at Pivara Skopje, means understanding the importance of having robust crisis management and communication strategy. An integral component of our overall business strategy is the process that addresses the way how we prepare for and respond to issues that can adversely impact our reputation, business operations, and brands. In support of our crisis management response, we have developed a special program called the Incident Management and Crisis Resolution (IMCR) Program. This program contains our overall approach to crisis management and communication that guides us in standardizing our response to various crisis situations, according to best practices in Corporate Governance. Of course, the team goes through comprehensive training through various corporate materials and with the support of experts in the field. Each member of the team undergoes a process of validation of their knowledge once per year. All this is done to prepare the whole team to successfully deal with each of the challenges that the business will face.

The process of planning, organizing, and communicating in times of crisis is managed by a special IMCR Team, consisting of decision-makers and managers, who manage all operational functions and sectors in the company, headed by the IMCR Coordinator. This team makes regular analyzes of the overall functioning of the company, as well as all internal and external developments and factors that might affect its work and can be a threat to its tangible assets: people, our brands, production, company infrastructure, information, financials…

The team is guided by the following daily principles – protecting the wellbeing of our employees in every aspect, as our top priority, and providing business continuity in the new changed environment while supporting and serving our customers, consumers, and communities.  At the same time, we are looking for effective ways for the company to help our business associates and partners, the community, especially the most vulnerable and affected groups of citizens, as well as the institutions involved in resolving crisis situations, such as this one caused by Covid-19 virus.

2. What type of weaknesses/strengths you have identified during the last crisis situation? Would you please share with us how these issues were resolved?

The current crisis caused by Covid-19 placed the whole world in front of a serious test and made literally all of humanity find effective ways to reduce the consequences and eliminate the cause of the crisis. Thanks to the efficient crisis management system of our corporations, which constantly monitor the situation and potential crises around the world, from the very beginning at the appearance of the virus in Wuhan, China, our company received significant information about the Covid-19 crisis. This enabled our IMCR Team to coordinate and synchronize activities with other companies in the Coca-Cola HBC and HEINEKEN systems and prepare an appropriate crisis plan on how to act and communicate if the crisis affects our country.

Therefore, we started the necessary preparations for a possible expansion of the crisis even before the first case of the disease in our country. During this period, it was most important to share with our employees all the information and facts about the virus, as well as the ways and preventive measures for protection, using every available internal communication channel. During this preparatory period, all protocols for the safety and health protection of our employees in production, administration, as well as those from the distribution and sales departments were created and updated. The task was to make sure that every employee in Pivara Skopje would receive, understand and apply all preventive measures to protect their personal health and the health of others.

One of our biggest challenges was preserving the safety and health of our employees, especially the ones that are in the risk category. We had to act fast and immediately reset our priorities with a preliminary focus on the wellbeing of our employees, but at the same time, having in mind the wellbeing of our company. We adopted immediate preventive measures and protocols, ensuring all necessary tools, equipment, and materials to protect our people and limit the potential spread of the virus developing backup contingency plans for different scenarios.

A big challenge is that we work harder than usual, putting in a lot more effort because we are faced with situations that we have never faced before. Of course, in parallel, we did the standard work, which shouldn’t stop.

We also immediately started intensive communication with the health and other institutions at the central and local levels, responsible for resolving the crisis, and offered our support to the medical staff and members of the security forces who were directly engaged during the emergency crisis. Together with The Coca-Cola Foundation, we have supported many of the Red Cross’s activities as a direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Together, we have activated mobile teams to support vulnerable categories of citizens and donated the necessary materials for the largest hospital for patients with Covid-19 in the country. Throughout the crisis, we maintain communication with our business partners, customers, consumers, and citizens. Thus, in the days when the first wave of the spread of the virus was introduced and the restrictive measures led to the closeout of all restaurants, Pivara Skopje in partnership with Grouper.mk started an initiative through which together with our consumers provided support to the hospitality sector, the most affected sectors in the global pandemic. Our team visited over 1100 sales units across the country to thank them for their cooperation, conveying the message that we are with them even in these difficult times. Together with our business partner Burger King we donated our drinks for the daily meals of the medical staff in hospitals. We continued implementing the free training program “Skills for Success” online as part of the #YouthEmpowered platform, which helps young people learn new business and life skills that can increase their employability after the crisis.

3. Why is important for companies to have an effective crisis communication strategy?

The Covid-19 pandemic has shown that crises can occur suddenly, anywhere, affect everyone, and cause huge consequences, leaving little room for reflection.

In order to avoid panic, which can often happen, it is necessary for the company to set up a system and create effective crisis management and communication strategy that will include an appropriate plan of specific activities at all stages of the crisis. This strategy should enable key decision-makers within the company to receive prompt notification about the crisis and manage effectively to minimize the damage to company operations.

An effective strategy should clearly identify and help companies maintain close cooperation, coordination, and communication with their employees, customers, consumers, business partners, institutions, and the community. Good cooperation and communication in times of crisis help to create the security and confidence that are necessary “ingredients” to successfully solve each crisis and reduce its consequences.

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