CHICAGO: The Tribune Co. is conducting a multifaceted outreach effort to consumers, employees, advertisers, and vendors to explain its December 8 Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.
The media company hired Edelman for the effort. Its internal PR staff is stressing a message of continuity to key stakeholder groups, said Gary Weitman, SVP of corporate relations at Tribune, which is the owner of more than 30 media entities and the Chicago Cubs baseball club.
“We are trying to help people understand that, for us, the restructuring process is about debt and does not affect the day-to-day operations,” he said. “It's important for those people who rely on us to know that there won't be an interruption in service or a diminution in the quality of information and entertainment they receive.”
He added that media coverage of the filing has been “in a large part pretty fair.”
Tribune has communicated with the public through the launch of a Chapter 11-specific Web site, and open letters from management published in its publications and on its Web sites, Weitman said. The company also posted answers for a list of FAQs aimed at specific-interest groups on its corporate site.
A large part of the communications effort was directed at employees, he said. Weitman explained that Tribune's internal staff communicated with managers at the local level via conference calls, and provided GMs and publishers with guides to communicating the filing to employees and their localities.
Other employee-focused efforts include town hall meetings at all of its media entities, internal e-mails from chairman and CEO Sam Zell, a Q&A dialogue on its intranet, and additional postings to its corporate site.
Outreach to advertisers commenced the day of the filing when sales personnel and members of Tribune management began to call key account-holders directly. It conducted a similar outreach program aimed at vendors, and opened a call center and toll-free number for both groups, according to Weitman.
Edelman has provided strategic counsel for the response at large, and communicated with the company's real estate stakeholders, said Jeff Zilka, EVP at the agency. He noted that Tribune has considerable real estate holdings. Both parties declined to specify when exactly Edelman was hired.