One of the real privileges of my role is that every week I have the opportunity to sit with leaders from a variety of businesses around the world and listen to them explain to me what’s on their radar screen.
They are seeing more incoming signals all the time: new risks, disruptive technologies, changing regulations, faster media cycles, interconnected audiences – and they are coming from more, and sometimes unexpected, places. An incoming signal can arise anywhere on the screen and move to the center very fast.
These profound forces change the world of communications as well. Indeed, they are partly driven by how dramatically communications itself is changing today.
Last month, we gathered Brunswick people from our offices all over the world to understand the implications of this new landscape. We agreed that the scale of the challenge that everyone is dealing with is fundamentally different from what we’ve known previously. At any time, one of our partners might receive a call from a client headquartered in, say, Frankfurt, alerting us to a problem that has just shown up in their Johannesburg operations, perhaps picked up by a global NGO, which may be complicated by a policy issue in Washington, DC. The reality is that all our clients operate in these fast-moving, complex environments.
A lot of the dominant thinking in communications today was formulated by the recently glamorized “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue. The language of “key messages” and “target audiences” came from this wonderfully creative time, which was itself a period of vibrant social change.
But building better relationships in a world of greater connectivity and transparency will require more than better press releases, sharper advertising, or smarter presentations. It will be about a better definition of the core purpose and real value of businesses. In this new world, businesses will need to articulate far more powerfully how they are part of the solution rather than part of the problem. That starts by explaining their relevance to the critical issues of our time.
Much of this edition of the Brunswick Review is given to a series of articles that launches a new way of looking at how business can engage with society. We’re calling it The 11 Conversations. We believe that these key conversations – which range from Health to Education, from Consumer Culture to Climate Change – reflect the central debates taking place right now. These conversations are happening between more people, more often, and in much more dynamic ways than at any point in history.
Every company I have ever worked with is relevant to one or more of these big conversations. Explaining the positive and transformative role that corporates can play through these conversations is a significant opportunity for the business community globally.
In this edition, we have featured leaders who have already found a voice within each one of these conversations. For example, in Energy & Climate Change, Warren East, CEO of ARM, explains the contribution that smart chips can make in the drive for energy efficiency. In the Communities conversation, Anglo American CEO, Cynthia Carroll, focuses on how engaging with local communities has become a strategic imperative for mining companies.
We’re also delighted to have the insights of Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry, about working in a world that has become both more socially conscious and more socially connected. We also hear valuable perspectives from Amy Schulman and Sally Susman on how the partnership that they have built between their legal and communications functions helps Pfizer speak with a clear voice to the outside world.
I find all of this hugely exciting and inspiring, as it will be at the cutting edge of how tomorrow’s companies work more effectively. I hope you find this a particularly stimulating edition and thank you as always for your time and attention.
Alan Parker — Chairman, Brunswick Group