American Water and Pepco Holdings, Inc.
Project Date: 2006 – 2016
Project Type: Team Building and Analysis
As organizational leaders recognize the critical nature of a strong communications function, they must also know that the design of and talent within the organization are just as important as the communications strategy. The right people in the right roles with the rights skills and expertise will produce and implement the most effective plans and deliver sustained results.
Both American Water (NYSE: AWK) and Pepco Holdings, Inc. (NYSE: POM), were in need of overhauled Communications teams that could better support the business. At American Water, the 50-member team was spread out across the country – from New Jersey to Hawaii – serving four regions in its 20 regulated states. The team was focused solely on media relations and some internal communications but had no marketing focus a lacking digital strategy and did not use an integrated, research-based approach.
Since an initial public offering (IPO) was looming, the team had to be restructured to support branding, marketing, business development and shareholder communications. After extensive performance and skill-based assessments of the team, we designed a new organizational structure maintaining the same number of positions we started with, but developing all new job descriptions and an organizational design that focused each position on business goals, and placed team members into appropriate positions that leveraged their skills and expertise effectively. We also reset performance metrics and accountability expectations.
At Pepco Holdings, Inc., the initial team of 26 was divided among its four utility jurisdictions, all in the mid-Atlantic but each with a very different customer base and media market – New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Because the company had just suffered severe and sustained reputational damage, it was important that the communications team be able to support and quickly execute an integrated strategic communications program to repair the damage and rebuild a strong and resilient brand. A thorough assessment of the team was conducted and a new organizational design implemented.
We leveraged six of the existing employees and recruited 20 new team members to establish a seasoned and high-performing team. From designing the necessary baseline research to crafting a multi-dimensional communications strategy to ensuring flawless execution it fell on the team’s shoulders because despite a comprehensive search for agencies to help, no single agency could handle the magnitude and complexity of the work.
The teams were highly productive, drove results and delivered tremendous value to both companies. Specifically the teams:
- Increased brand advocacy for American Water by 35% over 30 months
- Restored the reputation of Pepco Holdings, Inc., increasing customer satisfaction by 28 points and improving the brand reputation by 40 points over 3 year period
- Delivered nearly $8 million in avoided costs between 2006 and 2015
- Maintained high performance teams with retention rates exceeding 90%
- Named “Top Places to Work in Public Relations” by PR News for Pepco Holdings, Inc., 2013
- Brought each company to the forefront of its industry
- Combined, the communications teams received over 220 marketing and communications awards and recognitions