ISSUES & CHANGE MANAGEMENT

EFFECTING WORKER REASSURANCE AND ACCURATE PUBLIC INFORMATION IN A PRIVATIZATION PROJECT
Case Study: Steel Corporation Privatization for the Public Enterprises Reform Commission

The Challenge

The Ceylon Steel Corporation Limited (CSCL) was to be privatized amidst an atmosphere of controversy regarding the transfer of large public bodies to private ownership. The controversy had already given rise to politicization and manifestations detrimental to foreign investment and had the potential of undermining the government's programme of privatization, creating politically adverse fallout.

Our task was to help ensure that information to the media and the public was effectively managed together with worker reassurance so that the divestiture of CSCL takes place with the minimum of labour unrest.

The Strategy and Program

The campaign was an exercise in issues and change management and media relations aimed at communicating positive and accurate information to various groups which included CSCL workers, trade unions, opinion leaders, the media and the general public. A media conference with a comprehensive press kit and backgrounders were used to minimize sensationalist news coverage. Various communication tools such as press articles, interviews in the press and electronic media, question and answer and phone-in programmes on TV and radio, and press advertorials were used to address the issues and reassure workers. These complemented direct communication material such as a question & answer brochure and corporate video of the foreign buyer dubbed in the vernacular to give workers a clearer perspective about their future employer and prospects.

The Results

Despite inevitable unrest incited by trade union and political factions, the conveyance of accurate and reassuring information helped to minimize the negative fallout and controversy by building up a pro-privatization coverage, showing the workers the benefits to them and paving the way for the smoother implementation of the government's privatization programme.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT AND EFFECTING WORKER REASSURANCE
AND PUBLIC INFORMATION FOR POSTAL REFORMS
Case Study: Postal Department Corporatization for the Public Enterprises Reform Commission

The Challenge

The Government's proposal to corporatize the Postal Department, to meet investment and modernization needs, was met with trade union resistance and employee uncertainty and concern, with further fuelling by the government-critical media. The ongoing process of negotiations broke down and trade union resistance led to a national strike. The challenge for Rowland was to provide best available and accurate ongoing information to workers and the general public, to move consumers and workers from indifference and resistance to understanding and support, and also to open channels of communication that would circumvent the distortions of the trade unions, so that change process could be managed effectively with eventual acceptance.

The Strategy and Program

The campaign was an exercise in change and issues management. The strategies adopted were to project a 'vision' for the proposed new Postal Corporation, that would give the general public and consumers something better to look forward to and effectively move them from apathy and acceptance of the status quo to positive support. For the workers too, the "vision" strategy aimed to show a better working environment and more opportunities in the future. A high-appeal advertising campaign was used, on TV and press, together with posters, editorial coverage, documentaries and media interviews, including a phone-in live interview on TV. Regular newsletters were used to keep the postal workers in the know and to answer their questions. A press kit was produced for media conferences and information. New elements of corporate identity, such as the new logo, livery and uniforms, were developed and revealed, to present a more modern, forward-looking image. An innovative telephone hotline service was developed by Rowland Telemarketing to establish a direct communication channel for employees to obtain answers to their questions without going through the trade unions.

The Results

The advertising campaign made a tremendous impact and received numerous mentions in the media and in letters to the editor. (The unions even copied the ad campaign to do a retaliatory poster campaign!) The hotline was a great success and several inquiries and worker questions were given immediate and informed responses. There is now a greater sense of acceptance of the change, and legislation has been introduced to parliament.

SRI LANKA AS A SAFE DESTINATION
Case Study: SriLankan Airlines

The Challenge

With the war in the North and East of Sri Lanka taking a turn for the worse following the Elephant Pass debacle tourist arrivals and SriLankan Airlines' traffic showed a sharp and continuing decline. The perception overseas, when war fallout was highlighted in the international media, was that the whole country was a war zone and that travel to Sri Lanka was unsafe. This was despite the reality that, at that time, the fighting was limited only to the North & East and most other places were safe for tourists to travel.

The strategy and Program

On the premise that third party testimonials were the most credible form of PR, the Agency conceptualized and produced a video titled "Sri Lanka through foreign eyes" featuring nearly 70 foreigners from over 30 nationalities - including visiting cricketers, celebrities and VIPs, foreign journalists, western expatriates living & working in Sri Lanka, tourists, NGO workers. The captured their reassuring testimony which was distributed for overseas use.

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