PepsiCo senior director of communications Gina Judge talks about the varying effects the pandemic had on different parts of the company in the latest “PR’s Top Pros Talk” video interview with Doug Simon.

Judge works on the food service side of PepsiCo. “Think restaurants, movie theaters, hotels, stadiums, workplaces, schools,” she says. “So really, it was everything that was shut down during the pandemic.”

But the other side of the company’s business—sales of such brands as Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Cheetos and Doritos directly to consumers—held up very well, she adds.

The strategies that PepsiCo put into place to deal with those differing scenarios had their roots in internal communications. “We started first and foremost by focusing on our employees, recognizing that the people who make, move and sell our products were essential workers,” Judge tells Simon. “And also, our headquarters team members were making a lot of adjustments, learning how to work from home.”

But the company also turned its attention outward. “ We also really took a step back as a company and thought about who are the people outside of our company that need help as well.”

One way PepsiCo did that, she says, was through working with the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundtation on the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, a grant program to help displaced restaurant workers with funds to cover basic necessities.

“On the racial equality front,” she tells Simon, “PepsiCo was one of the first companies to step up and make a 400-million-dollar commitment over the next five years to advancing racial equality within our company, with our people, with our suppliers and with black-owned businesses.”

Judge also talks about some key principles for PR pros looking to advance their careers. “No matter what role you're in,” she says, “I think we all need to focus on being lifelong learners.”

She also says it’s also important to practice co-creation with your stakeholders. “You can have a bigger impact if you make a team effort instead of trying to go it alone, and usually get to better ideas if you're involving your stakeholders in the ideation process as well.

Listening and prioritizing feedback is also essential, Judge says, especially at a time where interpersonal communication are more complex than ever. “When people are willing to give you that feedback, it truly is a gift that can help you be stronger in the future.”

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D S Simon Media helps clients get their stories on television through satellite media tours and by producing and distributing content to the media. The company also produces live social media events.