Ensuring message consistency across new communication channels

On 23 February, 2024
7 min
Ensuring message consistency across new communication channels

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Faced with the multiplicity of communication channels and the nuances of messages to be adopted for different audiences, PR teams face the challenge of maintaining message consistency. To achieve this, organizational strategies vary from bringing teams together physically, to centralizing and verticalizing, to decentralizing and empowering... The tricky thing is to make people understand that not everything is the same. What's more, there are certain subjects which, even if the company has the right to talk about them, don't need to be addressed.

Physical intégration, centralisation or décentralisation?

The configuration of premises and the way people interact within an organization have a direct impact on the coherence of the messages communicated. For example, Anne-Cécile Bénita at Renault Trucks, whose 44-strong communications team, has chosen to bring teams closer together to reduce barriers to communication.

"People found it hard to share their topics. We convinced the teams who were naturally inclined towards a silo organization. Today, they move into the offices that were left vacant, and exchanges are much more fluid", she enthuses.

A physical organization doubled by the regular holding of editorial committees, so that both external and internal communication align their way of working, whatever the importance of the subject.

Similarly, at Edenred, Anne-Sophie Sibout has merged internal communications and the production of external publications and web platforms into a department dedicated to content production.

On her arrival at Mazars France, Sarah Lhéritier also favored the mix. "Our role as Dircom is to guarantee the coherence and relevance of the message. That's why it's vital to break down the barriers of communication , to work in project mode, to bring together all the teams, regardless of their different perimeters, and to create time for editorial exchanges".

Others, like the Casino Group, which employs 225,000 people in Europe and Latin America, rely on centralization and verticality. "Every month, I call a meeting of the Dircom directors of all the brands, so that they can report back to me on their issues. This way, I can arbitrate and avoid one brand stepping on another's toes. I wait for the communication plan to come to me before validating or adapting it. The size of the Group and its scattered head offices force me to adopt this attitude," explains Nicolas Boudot.

Differing points of view

While Benjamin Perret at Fnac Darty claims such verticality, it will be top-down.

"I claim an absolute monopoly on corporate communications, so that our messages have the greatest impact. Even though we have 17,000 employees in France and 26,000 in Europe, we need to streamline our communications to optimize their impact. Benjamin Perret (Fnac Darty)

The opposite choice of decentralization and empowerment has been implemented at Schneider Electric, present in 100 countries. Anthime Caprioli's objective was to bring together the teams in each country, whatever the brand.

"In each region, the communicators are responsible for ensuring the consistency of the message in their territory. On the other hand, we build strong global content in real time to cover the Group's major issues, and provide them with the necessary digital media and tools. It's then up to these players to adapt them to the desired communication channels - a strategy of empowerment. The central communications function plays a mediating role. We transform the strategy into communication and explain it to the whole community - in other words, the communication teams in the various countries.

Diplomacy to share a strategic vision internally

Benoit Cornu at Elior stresses the need to get back to basics to claim consistency in communication.

"Our corporate culture has always been BtoB, decentralized and discreet. Today, we need to identify communicators in every BU. We need to get back on track with our values, and rebuild our vision by expressing ourselves on societal issues such as food, the end of junk food, the integration of millenials..."

In addition to setting up the framework, Benoît Cornu is working to empower BU CEOs.

"We need to be flexible in our support. At the same time, we have to be careful not to interfere with the global discourse with buzzwords or trends that have no future," explains Anthime Caprioli at Schneider Electric.

Adaptation, which Anne-Sophie Sibout considers essential. "The role of the Dircom is also to broaden the ecosystem of communicators to gather operational needs, win the support of managers and turn them into sponsors. It's essential not to remain self-centered!

For Sarah Lhéritier at Mazars France, whose 200-strong structure makes content the sinews of war, this is also an essential step. However, it is essential to prioritize topics.

The multiplication of communication channels

"With the advent of social networks, anyone can be a spokesperson, and everything is a pretext for communication. I spend a lot of time talking to business experts. This helps me understand their issues and integrate them into a more global communication plan. You also have to communicate, get on board and federate internal and top management beyond the communications team around the communication priorities that will build the brand over the long term. At Mazars, we have identified 4 priority areas that enable us to prioritize our communications actions".

Perhaps the most difficult thing is to make people understand that not everything is the same.

"Sometimes, a company may be legitimate for a subject dealing with digital or innovation, but it's already being addressed by a multitude of players. We have to make people understand that only differentiated angles can be favored, and that what excites the internal audience may not affect the external audience as much!", Anne-Sophie Sibout (Edenred)

Who's speaking?

"We can't design messages on our own," adds Pierre Winkel at Natixis Wealth Management, who brings managers onto the editorial committee to initiate a co-construction of content. "They're the ones who write, but with our help".

The same goes for Klépierre, which in the past produced little corporate content.

"As a company, we were rather hidden when I arrived. We mainly addressed the financial community and the trade press. It was very financial, very real-estate communication. But with the e-commerce revolution, we wanted to focus on retail," notes Julien Goubault.

He continues: "Drawing on our experience in our 150 shopping centers in 16 European countries, we realized that we had something to say. We had a vision of retail, both in terms of the customer experience and our territorial role. So we created a brand platform that didn't exist at corporate level. We're now filling more media space and investing in social networks. Most of the people who produce content in the BUs are very close to each other. So we can work with them to ensure consistency and co-create, especially as they have been involved in the brand platform.

In the Casino Group, according to Nicolas Boudot, the BU bosses are given the opportunity to speak. This concerns a dozen people at most. And a dozen experts at Renault Trucks.

"Those who don't want to talk about our major issues, such as alternative energies or smart cities, leave on their own," says Anne-Cécile Benita.

A strong comeback for PR in various communication channels

When speaking on behalf of a group or a brand, you need to adapt your style to the chosen target and the communication channel. Anne-Sophie Sibout of Edenred describes these basic skills as rare today. Sarah Lhéritier at Mazars also sees this as a primary skill. She emphasizes the increasing skills of teams in designing innovative digital content and setting up KPIS, but the strong complementarity with PR teams in managing exchanges and structuring messages and brand discourse: "Quite often, it's the PR teams who are called in to provide back-up.

Nicolas Boudot at Groupe Casino is no different. He has reduced the number of press releases and relies on PR to generate press articles.

"PR profiles are on the rise again. They have a better grasp of complexity, particularly in the digital arena", says Benjamin Perret at Fnac-Darty, who had broken down the digital/PR barrier in a previous position.

Decisive attention to timing, tools and communication channels

For regulatory reasons, financial communication requires special efforts. Particularly when it comes to timing, tools and communication channels. Schneider Electric's Anthime Caprioli believes that mastering the timing of communication channels for different targets is paramount.

"There's a real issue of distribution logistics in this area," he maintains. Benoit Cornu at Elior supports financial communication.

"We have set up sequences to inform both internal and external audiences, taking into account regulatory requirements. There are a few formulations - on value creation, for example. It changes, but the messages are constructed in the same way", Benoit Cornu (Elior).

"Information circulates everywhere. Despite geographical boundaries or different communication channels", reminds Anne-Sophie Sibout at Edenred. "Audiences are not compartmentalized, and it's better to remember that 'internal' communication can appear outside at any time".

This is all the more true given the large number of employee shareholders, as in the Casino Group.

Benjamin Perret at Fnac/Darty also warns about differentiated content. According to him, "people are taking financial oversimplification more and more seriously".

"Julien Goubault confirms: "Consistency of content begins with internal and external communication. At Klépierre, he offers a live retransmission of results internally. In addition, he offers a 3-minute video decoding session with the CFO.

Anne-Sophie Sibout at Edenred also uses this technique. During an acquisition, "For operational reasons, we can't always communicate on all channels. For example, it's not always possible to communicate on acquisitions simultaneously and with the same intensity. With a few days' delay, it is always possible to make a "return on" of a few minutes. In the form of an interview with an executive using a simple smartphone."

An example of the responsiveness and flexibility required of new Communication directors.

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