SPP and the gas crisis of 2009

How to maintain your good reputation in the time of a crisis

WHY

January 2009 marked the first time in the history of the transit gas pipeline from Russia that Slovakia found itself without a natural gas supply. Caused by a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the crisis was an economic as well as a political issue that had a society-wide impact. It was widely debated and SPP, being Slovakia’s key gas supplier, suddenly became the focus of attention.

The crisis communication management in the course of the 2009 gas supply stoppage is arguably the most complicated crisis communication project that has recently been implemented in Slovakia. Just like any other critical situation, this particular crisis came with a number of communication risks, though there were also a number of opportunities.

HOW

Our main task was to use a well-managed communication strategy to help SPP reassure the affected target groups, which ranged from individual households to wholesale customers. At the same time, we needed to create room for the company’s management to work on overcoming the crisis itself. Since the crisis was addressed by a number of parties involved – from suppliers, through customers and the media, to politicians – it was crucial for SPP to ensure that only exact, up-to-date and consistent information was provided.

The SPP Headquarters became our temporary office, our communication strategy following a hard-and-fast schedule: an early morning meeting of the crisis team, followed by negotiation output processing and communicating new information to all target groups, interspersed with our responses to incoming requests from the media and the company’s employees and customers.

In the course of the two plus weeks of the crisis, we assisted the client in preparing almost 30 interviews with SPP representatives in both electronic and print media and as many as 15 appearances in radio, television and online discussions. We were ready to address any questions raised by Slovak as well as Scandinavian, British, German, Austrian, or Russian media representatives. When the crisis was over, it was crucial that SPP addressed the public with a clear vision specifying further measures to prevent similar situations from happening in the future.

Our crisis communication strategy relied on the active involvement of the company’s top management, which was not only systematically engaged in communication with the media and the public, but also made every effort to solve the situation. Formerly viewed as too large and impersonal, SPP soon became a company with a human face, which made all measures taken by the company clearer and more accessible to people in general.

WHAT WE ACHIEVED

The surveys conducted after the gas crisis suggested that both ordinary consumers and wholesale customers fully understood the situation as well as the reasons behind the measures that had been taken by SPP. Most of the respondents also stated that SPP and its shareholders played a crucial role in the process of overcoming the crisis and restoring the gas supply.

As for the company’s reputation, the gas crisis eventually contributed to a better understanding of SPP as a reliable and responsible supplier, gas remaining a reliable energy source.


69 %
of Slovak households think that SPP provided a sufficient amount of information
76 %
of companies think that SPP provided a sufficient amount of information
78 %
of Slovak households share the opinion that the crisis was overcome by SPP foreign shareholders
81 %
of wholesale customers share the opinion that the crisis was overcome by SPP foreign shareholders
4 out of 5
companies think that SPP is capable of solving critical situations
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