ASHBURN, VA: As SVP of corporate communications, Brad Burns wants to make sure everyone knows WorldCom's ambitious reorganization is more than skin-deep.
The scandal-hit company, beset by accounting malfeasance that led to the biggest federal bankruptcy case ever, changed its name to MCI last week in one of several moves designed to start the company down the long road to recovery. But for Burns, it's about more than just a name change.
"[The name change] is a reflection of the changes that have been made over the past few months," said Burns. "But we are also focusing on corporate governance, and reengineering the way we do business. So now is the right time to change the name, and time to put the past behind us."
But Burns knows it will take more than just a new moniker to accomplish that.
"From a communications perspective, we're stepping up the frequency of our communications with employees, the media, and our customers. Over the past 100 days, we've devised extensive campaigns not just to communicate the brand change, but the way we do business. We said 100 days ago we would act with an outrageous sense of urgency, and we have done just that."
Helping MCI is Hill & Knowlton, which is working with the company on an "ongoing basis." MCI previously worked with APCO Worldwide on a project basis.
"They bring a breadth of insight on both the domestic and global levels," said Burns of H&K. "They do fantastic work."
Because the public is removed from the day-to-day processes of a bankruptcy, people often look to what the media and other third parties are saying, explained H&K SVP Vince Hulbert. That's why MCI is focusing its communications on employees, the media, and customers - key audiences that influence perceptions of the company.
MCI is taking several short-term measures - such as introducing new products, reducing its cost structure, developing a new business plan, and filing its reorganization plan - so that it can quickly point to those goals and "communicate to various audiences that they did what they say they would do," explained Hulbert. "These initiatives are about action more than communication. We're putting a megaphone to what has actually happened, so people know about it. When you see the management team making smart moves, that enhances confidence."
Burns and Hulbert said they also want to establish MCI and its executives as thought leaders, particularly in the area of IP convergence - where all voice, data, and internet services converge into one network and, ideally, one provider.