In the beginning of 2013 social discontent, provoked by higher than expected electricity bills, lead to massive protests and unprecedented political, institutional and media attacks against power distribution company CEZ. There were dozens of inspections of CEZ activities carried out by various government institutions and the state energy regulator started a procedure of withdrawing of the company’s license. The image of CEZ was damaged and its business in Bulgaria was threatened.
In this situation we helped CEZ to develop and execute a strategy for crisis communications. Its goal was to adequately respond to the accusations and restore the trust of society, consumers and institutions in CEZ, in such manner so the company can continue doing its business in Bulgaria.
From January to November 2014, CEZ built regular and proactive communication in 6 main directions:
- Soothing tension and quick reaction:
- 22 meetings with local authorities and protesters
- offered facilitations to customers
- make the SLA contracts public
- publish the privatization contracts
- Consumer campaign “Be Informed”:
- 3 leaflets to household clients with invoices
- special subsection on CEZ website
- Reform of the customer serviceing:
- set up Consumer Council
- name Energy Ombudsman and 13 meetings of ombudsman with customers and local authorities
- award program for loyal customers
- initiate amendment of General Terms
- Involving of independent experts in communication:
- interviews and comments by 3rd parties
- presence of experts at public hearings of CEZ
- Attracting international support
- Clarification of CEZ position:
- 168 press releases
- 180 interviews in national and regional media
- 90 events
- 224 materials – key messages, scenarios and other.
- Negative publications went down by 93% from February to November 2013
- 90% of publication between January – November 2013 were positive or neutral
- 45% of publications in that period were a result of proactive communication
- Social discussion moved its focus from EDC to problems in the energy sector
- Myths about CEZ were refuted
- On 14th November 2013 the state regulator announced that there were no grounds for taking CEZ ‘s license and closed the procedure
- Closing the procedure was accepted as an expected development so it did not provoke new wave of attacks.