CLINTON, MS: WorldCom CEO John Sidgmore signaled a new commitment to PR in his first speech to shareholders.
"We've been through this PR nightmare, Sidgmore told a group of 500 shareholders at the company's annual meeting on June 14. "We have begun to institute a number of things that I believe will restore public confidence."
WorldCom has been plagued with growing debts and a stock price that has plunged from around $62 in April 1999 to $1.42 at press time. After Sidgmore joined the company, he announced layoffs of 3,700 US staff - a 4% reduction of the entire workforce.
"We've believed from the start that the perception of these negative items has been overstated, Sidgmore said. "We must convince customers, employees, and investors of that fact."
Sidgmore took the job from Bernard Ebbers in late April. According to a telecom industry source, Ebbers was "notoriously anti-PR and anti-communications. Under Sidgmore, the strategy appears to be changing.
WorldCom spokeswoman Julie Moore confirmed that PR was a major focus for the new CEO.
The shift could prove an opportunity for new PR agency relationships.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Sidgmore was said "to expect a wide ranging PR campaign from WorldCom. The company has no AOR, but works with The Harbor Group.
The CEO told shareholders that he and other key executives have been talking to employees about their concerns, and that they plan a major customer tour and investment road show within the next few weeks.
"I don't think he is simply paying lip service to that, said Courtney Quinn, senior analyst with Yankee Group. "I've seen demonstrable evidence of them talking to employees, partners, and customers to assuage their fears around the financial situation."