2016 Annual Meeting of the Global Financial Communication Network in Zurich

“We think and act internationally” – so it says on the website of Farner Consulting. And indeed, for many of our financial industry-clients we routinely manage international accounts, leveraging personal relationships with partner agencies around the globe.

The Global Financial Communications Network GFC/Net’ has a special status among our network of partner agencies. Members of the network, which Farner co-founded, meet regularly and are in continual contact to discuss research, business opportunities, joint projects and shared clients.

Once a year the members of the GFC/Net try to meet face-to face. This year’s meeting took place in Zurich, where Farner played host to 14 agencies from 4 continents, bringing together communication experts from Australia, Asia, America and Europe.

The two day event proved to be very productive with sessions covering topics such as “Blueprints for Business Growth in a Digital Age”, “Talent retention in an Uber World” and “Best Practices for Issues management”. Daniel Jörg, Partner at Farner and Head of Digital, explored how social media is revolutionizing financial communications. High caliber guests Peter Grünenfelder, Director at Avenir Suisse, Salome Salome Ramseier, Head Corporate Communications Holcim Central Europe and Paul Barrett, Global Head of External Communications Novartis AG discussed the economic, social and political challenges of globalization and their impact on corporate communications. And Peter Fischer, head of the business section of NZZ provided insights into the rapidly changing media environment.

Among the interesting findings to come out of the discussions and presentations are:

1.

“Social” and “Digital” remains a challenge for many organizations. GFC/Net-agencies reported on helping clients to navigate fundamental issues when planning, implementing and managing digital channels and campaigns. How a comprehensive 360° digital campaign should be developed and executed was part of a presentation by Daniel Jörg. “Digital campaigns provide the most efficient and most personal way to engage with key stakeholders. Utilizing the entire range of tools and channels results in measurable outcomes which were considered impossible a decade ago”, said Jörg in his talk.

2.

PR agencies are retooling for the future. During the conference, the term “transformation” was not only applied to the social and digital revolution. As our operating environment continues to evolve, the definition of PR and how PR agencies provide services is shifting markedly. In this process, core objectives remain unchanged – delivering successful outcomes in areas such as leadership and corporate positioning, reputation management, issues management, public affairs, media services or research and analysis … across multiple channels and industries … and around the globe. However, many other things are rapidly evolving. The three issues that came up repeatedly were:

  • the changes in customer expectations,
  • the media landscape,
  • and talent management.

To summarize, PR Agencies need to adapt and upskill themselves in terms of services, structure, talent, and opportunity in order to:

  • ensure that customers continue to receive the ‘360° Expert Support ‘ they expect from their agency,
  • proactively leverage the opportunities the upheaval of the media landscape creates, for instance by providing fully edited content to understaffed news outlets,
  • and develop new ideas and strategies in regards to finding and retaining talents increasingly dominated by millennials. For further information see also Deloitte’s study “Millennials and their employers – can this relationship be saved?

3.

Journalism is not a (sustainable) business model (anymore). Media companies still struggle with transforming their businesses for the digital world. Ongoing attempts to reduce costs have a direct and negative impact on classic journalism, with high-profile journalists leaving their desks to work on ‘greener pastures’ and renowned newspapers finding it increasingly difficult to provide their newsrooms with enough time, resources and freedom both to research and tell crucial stories. However, the need for news-outlets to seek content from non-traditional sources in turn creates the opportunity to provide more content to these media if it is relevant and well written.

4.

The World is flat. Many of the GFC/Net agencies reported that they work in a noticeably more globalized world, in terms of how the speed of information crosses borders between markets and stakeholders. Also, there is a noticeably higher demand from customers to be supported not only at the local level, but also globally.

5.

PR is more than media relations. The public still sees PR agencies predominantly as intermediaries to the media. However, GFC/Net agencies’ daily activities demonstrate, that the they provide a wide range of different services to different stakeholders at different times including – and in addition to media relations and social media campaigns – support in public affairs, strategic counsel on CEO and corporate positioning, reputation management, crisis communication and litigation PR, corporate PR, internal communication and change management and lobbying. These were some of the practices that were discussed within the network as examples of in-house competencies. Education of the public and, to a certain extent, potential customers on the broad offering of PR agencies remains an ongoing issue.

The next annual GFC/Net meeting will be held in London in 2017. It will be interesting to see how the findings of this year’s meeting will have impacted the strategies and services of the GFC/Net agencies, and how relevant issues will change over the next 12 months.

For more information about GFC/Net partner or questions regarding the topics mentioned above, please don’t hesitate to contact me by email.