Chiquita addresses layoffs with internal comms push

CINCINNATI: Following the October 29 announcement of a major company restructuring, including layoffs of about 700 employees, Chiquita Brands International is in the midst of an internal communications campaign.

CINCINNATI: Following the October 29 announcement of a major company restructuring, including layoffs of about 700 employees, Chiquita Brands International is in the midst of an internal communications campaign.

Only five minutes after a press release went out at 9am that day, additional detail was sent to its 25,000 global employees, followed by a 10:30am video conference with CEO Fernando Aguirre.

One-on-one meetings with affected staff members are taking place through November 6.

"This is a financially material event, so it has to go out broadly," said Michael Mitchell, director of corporate communications, who helped develop the strategy. "With respect to employees, it's a combination of broad written communications, video communications that allow some interaction with [the] CEO, as well as cascading to managers and their teams."

Along with the layoffs, Chiquita will close facilities in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Florida, and has shifted roles and responsibilities for top staff members who report to Aguirre. Of the layoffs, about 160 (or 21% of Chiquita's staff at the highest levels) will be management positions.

The restructuring is part of a strategy unveiled in 2004 that seeks to transform Chiquita into a healthy, fresh food and snacks company.

Mitchell said the campaign aimed to convey a uniform message. "Whenever we have a major announcement, we try to make sure we're aligned on what the core messages are, what the objective is we're trying to achieve, and look at the specific audiences that are affected," he said.

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