What keeps clients awake nights?
Every month, The Holmes Report asks a senior corporate communications professional to identify the biggest challenges he or she faces. This month, we talk to Joyce Lorigan, vice president of corporate communications in Europe, for the Walt Disney Company.
The issue at the top of Lorigan’s agenda is globalization. “As our business spreads around the globe, so too does the geographical spread of news generation fuelled by the rapid rise in 24 hour news services. A press release issued in China or a presentation delivered in Russia can quickly become news in the U.K. and vice versa. The challenge for me and my colleagues around the world is to ensure that whilst we may sit in different continents, we are organized in such a way that we can operate as one news team mindful of the global implications of local deadlines, releases timings, story exclusives and media relationships.”
At the same time, Lorigan needs to juggle agencies to meet Dsney’s need across Europe and across different business units. “With some 16 different businesses from movies to mobile phones and a product range which targets the broadest spectrum of demographics, there is a natural tendency when selecting agencies for product launches to focus on the specialist for the job in hand. Although undoubtedly effective in the short term for the businesses concerned, the question for the company as a whole is whether we are fully leveraging these agency relationships across our businesses and across Europe.
“The communications groups in the UK and elsewhere in Europe are increasingly looking at pooling knowledge of agency strengths and weaknesses with the goal of improving efficiencies. In addition, PR specialists within our strategic sourcing group are becoming increasingly involved across the businesses to ensure consistent financials.”
Like most corporate execs, she also struggles to prove the value of PR to senior management. “Clear and persuasive articulation of PR added value is always front of mind for all of our in house teams. As a company, like the industry as whole, we are and will continue to be focused on demonstrating our value in the marketing mix.”
Measuring the contribution of PR on the brand front is a step in the right direction: “One area where media analysis has been particularly useful is in tracking generic brand communication. In addition to looking at how PR performed for individual businesses, we have for the past three years been looking at how PR performed for the Disney brand as a whole. We can now look at this data alongside our consumer brand equity research and see parallels between what consumers are saying and the media are writing. This data is being used to inform our brand communications strategy and will continue to be a key focus for us in the coming year.”
Finally, Lorigan says, “We have made six senior corporate communications appointments over the past two years, most of which are brand new roles. This is a clear sign that the company is making good on its media promise three years ago to step up the level of proactive communications across Europe. There has been a step change in the number of executive interviews and briefings and in the volume of business press coverage in the UK to date. My focus over the coming year is to ensure the continuing roll out of this proactive strategy across Europe.”