PepsiCo revamps comms structure

PepsiCo's restructure of its communications function has helped to increase efficiency and connectivity among the company's PR team.

PepsiCo's restructure of its communications function has helped to increase efficiency and connectivity among the company's PR team.

PepsiCo's global headquarters in Purchase, NY, defines itself through its appreciation for original ideas, as evidenced by the collection of modern art masterpieces lining its lawns.

While many visitors to the company's headquarters stop and admire the sculptures of Auguste Rodin and Joan Miró, few know about the unique redesign undertaken by the global communications team.

Following her hiring by chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi in late 2007, Julie Hamp, SVP at PepsiCo communications, began plans to revamp the way in which global communications at PepsiCo operates.

Breaking communications out of business unit silos, Hamp created a “basket weave” – or more integrated – structure for internal and external communications and provided several points of contact for PepsiCo's communications team.

“[Previously], there were a number of inefficiencies,” she says. “One was the structure itself, which didn't enable people to work together in an integrated fashion and a structured way.”

For example, in the past, corporate communications was responsible for news like the annual report and shareholder meetings, whereas individual business units processed brand work and media-specific communications.

Dividing responsibility
After the restructure, the key SVPs of the four business areas, PepsiCo International, PepsiCo Americas Foods, PepsiCo Beverages, and PepsiCo Corporate, were given responsibilities for at least one of the five “centers of excellence” or strategic areas, including digital, sustainability, media bureau, internal communications, and crisis management.

Dick Detwiler, SVP of public affairs, has had oversight for international business communications since 2003. In that time, his role changed both in terms of the way the global business is structured, as well as his responsibility for sustainability and media bureau.

“Having this sector responsibility, as well as these corporate functions, weaves me together with more groups,” he notes, “It's important we know what's going on in other parts of the business and are able to communicate with each other quickly and also be consistent with what we say around the world.”

More emphasis is now placed on how to drive business and communications across the entire enterprise, rather than within a particular business unit, says Mark Dollins, SVP of public affairs and global internal communications at PepsiCo Americas Foods.

This ability to work together across business units has also driven one of the company's larger challenges: increasing awareness of PepsiCo's corporate identity as a high-performing company with a diverse brand portfolio, as opposed to just an offshoot of Pepsi-Cola, Hamp says.

“It's natural to say Pepsi [as opposed to PepsiCo],” says Nancy Murray, SVP of corporate communications. “Our challenge as communicators is to help people understand that the Pepsi part of our world is just that: a part of our world.”

The company has sought to underscore its mission of driving connectivity “from the inside-out and the outside-in,” particularly through its digital efforts, Hamp adds.

“In January 2008, [digital] was the first agenda topic, and it was a complex change within the company,” she says. “We're highly decentralized in PepsiCo. So, [from] a centralized approach to being effective digitally... there were no easy solutions.”

Fundamentally changing the IT architecture, the company “revamped its intranet, in addition to partnering with marketing on digital media summits and game planning for entering the digital space,” Hamp says.

“We're using those tools as a group to figure out the common areas, where we share information,” Murray adds. “And, it's not just a library, it's an actual working tool because we're always in different locations, and talking [about], ‘How do you share best practices?'”

Within the past year, the company launched a new global internal portal for its several thousand associates, including a CEO blog and other collaborative technologies, according to Dollins. Translations of CEO podcasts in multiple languages are also in the works.

Providing feedback
Another communications challenge for the team is to prepare to respond to questions that arise anywhere in the world.

“[In terms of] issues management communications, the complexity of our business and geographic scope mean you have to be very careful about how you respond to inquiries,” Detwiler says. “What's true and makes sense in one country [might] not make sense in another.”

To further connect its global team, the company is hosting its first global communications meeting, with about 90 people in April.

It has also created a global internal communications council, where best practices and feedback are given to enable “the very future-focused agenda,” Dollins says.

“We sometimes get caught up in the pace of supporting others, being part of running the business, and natural strategic day-to-day things,” Hamp says. “The best communications should be happening among ourselves.”

Changes to PepsiCo communications

The ‘basket weave'
This new structure for comms provides a variety of touchpoints across business units for lead SVPs to have a cohesive corporate strategy and more readily respond to each other's ideas

Centers for excellence
The assignment of sectors, such as sustainability and crisis management, to lead SVPs ensures constant communications across units

Digital revamp
The internal intranet, MyPepsiCo.com, was relaunched with added capabilities, from podcasts to blogs, which enable its several thousand associates to know what is happening throughout the company

Global meetings
While the company's comms team is in constant communication through global calls, it will hold its first meeting with approximately 90 people from the team this April in Brooklyn, NY

The title of this story appears in print as "A strategic integration"

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