We explore the topic through five questions asked to Ms. Chiara Ganz, Executive Vice President of External Relations & Communication of Italgas.
In a complex organization like Italgas, with a plurality of external and internal stakeholders, what are the key objectives of the External Relations and Communications department?
Our Office has a cross-cutting and supporting role for all the Group’s corporate functions. Thus, it is our job to oversee all communication channels, both proprietary and non-proprietary. We also manage media relations with the aim of guaranteeing a proper external representation both of the Group and of its operations. We work to protect the brand and the good reputation of Italgas and its subsidiaries. Like any service company, in collaboration with the relevant departments, we are also required to deal with the crisis management resulting from small or large-scale emergencies in the communities in which we operate. Our tasks also include the contact center, which is key both to proper management of the relationship with end-customers and to territorial service. Moreover, we also play a role in corporate social responsibility – another strategic lever called upon to integrate all Company’s operations – and in the activities of sponsorship and donations to the communities in which we operate.
What policies have you followed to communicate through the different social media?
For a company like ours, connected to the communities in which we operate and with a widespread presence in most of the country, it is essential that our nearly eight million customers and, more generally, all our stakeholders feel the presence and proximity of the Company and receive the answers they are seeking for. From this point of view, social media allow for an effective integration both of the traditional contact channels and of the other levers of corporate communication. Each platform has its own audience and language of reference. Therefore, it is fundamental to modulate the message from time to time, according to the target sought and the other communication “arrows” available in the bow. Moreover, the possibility of reaching the public in a disintermediated way provides the opportunity to explore issues generally not covered by traditional media and to feed a more direct, immediate and genuine brand storytelling. In the last year, we have also paid particular attention to the engagement of employees on social networks, especially on the LinkedIn platform, the professional social network “par excellence”. We have encouraged and supported them in their aware use of the tool, highlighting the opportunities and possible criticalities. More than a year later, I can say that the results have been rewarding: we have seen good responsiveness from many colleagues and willingness to contribute to a choral story of the Company. This is essential for those who, like us, operate in more than 1,800 municipalities. And our CEO’s example certainly contributed to the success of the initiative.
Italgas communication relies heavily on the personality of its CEO, Mr. Gallo. In your experience, what is the most suitable recipe for effective “CEO branding”?
The leader of an organization is by definition its first ambassador. He is the face of the Company and the person whose values, identity and personality contribute to guide, strengthen and represent the vision, mission and positioning of the Company. It is a complex mix that requires a combination of personal abilities, strategic vision, leadership, communication skills. It also implies a continuous focus on the basic consistency between values and actions, as well as their adherence to strategic choices within the Company. We need to work in a synergic way, activating multiple levers that allow this coherence to be fully represented inside and outside the Company. These are communication levers that hinge on the figure of our CEO and his strong focus on corporate goals. And they are levers that, in some cases, imply his direct and disintermediated intervention, as in the case of the use of his personal LinkedIn account. A choice consistent with the digital path and dictated by the consideration that, as the lockdown has taught us, the ability to exercise leadership is no longer only linked to physical contexts or status in the Company. There was a need to extend the ability to lead both organizations and people towards growth through the internet. LinkedIn, in this regard, was preferred because it is a natural extension of one’s work network and is the best place to do so.
What do you consider to be the most satisfying result in 2020 for the Communications team?
In a scenario complicated by the pandemic, which has polarized information by reducing the space available for topics other than Covid-19, we still managed to achieve important results in positioning Italgas on the issues of digitalization and technological innovation. We worked to communicate the digital transformation journey of the Company in terms of assets, processes and people. But, above all, we have tried to explain how this was key both to consolidate Italgas’ leadership in the gas distribution sector in Italy and Europe, and to play a leading role in the energy transition towards a decarbonized economy. In our conversations with the press, it emerged how essential the switch to digital was in facing the lockdown and how some applications developed in our Digital Factory had accelerated the re-opening of construction sites and the resumption of many other activities.
What was the most important change that you made in the last year?
Thinking again about the constraints of the pandemic, especially the restriction on in-person activities, the most significant change has been the development of new formats in the organization of must-do events for a listed company. In this case, we did not limit ourselves to fulfilling an obligation, even a legal one at times, but we tried to turn a critical issue into an opportunity. This led us to the idea of exploiting the full potential of digital technology by organizing streaming events safely and remotely. So, we could involve a larger number of people and amplify the effectiveness of our message both externally and internally. For instance, the Shareholders’ Meeting held in May and organized in entirely remote way received three times as many hits as the previous one in person. Moreover, the Strategy Presentation, held in “phygital” mode from a tv studio, experienced a peak of around 900 participants, both internal and external. Lastly, the Christmas event saw 1,300 colleagues connected at the same time from all over Italy. Not to mention the streaming press conferences in which it was possible to involve up to 30 journalists at the same time.