Dentsu Aegis Network is a global media, digital and creative communications group with 30,000 employees in 145 countries. Our team supports nine network brands and over 60 specialist/multi-market brands. This means that there are diverse loyalties in a heavily matrixed organisational structure. This means at the group level, Dentsu Aegis is not necessarily the primary brand that our people identify with. In addition, the majority of employees are millennials, meaning they expect communications to be delivered on their own terms, across a variety of devices, so that they can decide where and when to consume news and content.
Obviously, this influences the way in which our internal communication function is structured. When I joined in 2013, there was no internal communications team. Dentsu Inc. had recently announced the acquisition of Aegis Media, the largest deal in the history of advertising; my main objective was to support that transition. Over the past three years, I have gradually built the team and I now lead a team of internal communication specialists working across a range of disciplines.
“Our working principle is that our communications are globally led, but locally managed.”
Our working principle is that our communications are globally led, but locally managed. I see the role of our global team creating content and materials supporting a strategic narrative that also brings our values to life. Our network of communications professionals based in local countries and brands is in charge of delivering this through tailored communications in the most effective way for their local market or brand. This approach enables us to move quickly over a complex geographical landscape and navigates the matrix environment.
When operating at a global level, it becomes even more crucial to establish good relationships with our local communication professionals. We have a monthly call to go through our headline items and aim to keep everybody informed about what’s coming down the pipeline. If we foresee a particular issue, we work with the communication team in that market with the aim of building a high degree of trust.
“As familiarity has slowly built around the value of internal communications, people now come to us to surface potential issues; they also spot local stories that have broader application.”
It’s important that this relationship is not seen as one-way. As familiarity has slowly built around the value of internal communications, people now come to us to surface potential issues; they also spot local stories that have broader application. Elevating news and turning this into a broader business story in turn creates meaning and connection for our audience. It also provides recognition especially for smaller markets and brands to get their voice heard internationally. Putting the time and effort into dissecting our messaging in a way that is more compelling for different audiences, in different markets, or across different brands or client groups creates resonance and helps build traction. As communication professionals, our team needs to be really good at understanding the subtleties of language and culture. A collaborative way of working with our local communication professionals is invaluable here and really helps us to navigate our way around potential barriers.
It’s also why storytelling is so important to us. It brings the human element to our communications. Being a global business means there’s no shortage of content. It is our job to ensure that every story brings our values to life. My team hand-picks stories from around the globe that illustrate what the business narrative looks like in real life using relevant examples. It might be a good client news story from a particular market that illustrates a collaborative way of working across multiple markets or a brilliant example of digital and creative content.
We’ve now completed the roll-out of a global collaboration platform called NEON across all our markets and brands. More than a global intranet; it acts as a ‘one-stop shop’ central to our digital channel strategy where we can plug in a multitude of different channels or sign post links off into other systems or apps. We invested a lot of time in its design – critical in our line of work in this industry.
“We’re currently having discussions with our technology team about how we evolve the platform and take it to the next level.”
Employees have access to two layers of information. They can view what’s happening globally, but NEON also recognises their location, so most of the content that they will see is tailored to their market or brand, and delivered in local language. We’re currently having discussions with our technology team about how we evolve the platform and take it to the next level.
In addition to that, we have a range of social channels where people can generate their own content and their own discussions around what’s relevant to them at the local level.
Our annual staff survey has shown that communication has continued to go from strength to strength – up five points in two years. Considering we didn’t have an internal communication function just three years ago, I’m extremely proud of what my team has achieved in this time.
Being able to move that dial is very important culturally; it’s important engagement-wise, but it’s also very important for commercial reasons. Research shows that companies that are investing in internal communication and engagement are able to outperform their peer group by up to 3.7 times. We’re in that space right now, and I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made so far.
BIOGRAPHY – CLAIRE GORING
Claire is currently Global Head of Internal Communications at Dentsu Aegis Network. She has broad experience over 15 years leading and developing internal communication strategies for large organisations undergoing extensive change. Previously at Virgin Atlantic, she led communications on a number of high profile programmes and has continued to build her career working in a number of industries including law, technology, engineering and telecoms with broad experience in M&A, regulatory affairs, trade unions, change and crisis management.