Image: Moderator Inge Wallage listens to panelists Cecile Abeille, Ines Windisch and Ashish Babu

The digital revolution of the past decade has forced companies to profoundly change how they interact with their audience. How is the communications profession coping with this new power balance? Last week, communicators from the worlds of pharmacy, technology and cosmetics discussed their experiences at the cutting edge of digital at the EACD Paris Debate.

Drones used to save rhinos in India: e.g of how technology can make a profound impact on diverse communities, as illustrated by @ashishb24 pic.twitter.com/0wplc6uniy

— EACD (@eacdonline) October 19, 2017

After a warm welcome by Coralie Cornet (Director of Communications at Apax Partners and the EACD’s Regional Coordinator for France) and an introduction by the EACD’s new Managing Director,  Inge Wallage, Ashish Babu, Head of Communications UK and Europe at Tata Consultancy Services, began by asking how companies can reaffirm their purpose in a VUCA environment (that’s volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity). Technology is not usually considered a hero in corporate storytelling but Tata Consultancy Services’ #DigitalEmpowers campaign aimed to change that. By creating simple visual content that drew on emotions, TCS demonstrated how digital innovation can positively impact diverse communities - and increased brand awareness. Ashish emphasised the importance of data analysis generated by storytelling, and was especially proud that each piece of content received five minutes’ viewing on average. But don’t tell your story on your own, said Ashish: share it with influencers who can convey your message to new audiences.

What does the #digital transformation mean for the #pharma industry and opportunities does it give us? Ines Windisch from Sanofi #eacd pic.twitter.com/4R7mdVnEbC

— EACD (@eacdonline) October 19, 2017

Ines Windisch of Sanofi was next to share her insights with specific B2B/B2C examples from the pharma giant’s non-prescription products. External communication in such a strictly regulated industry is not the easiest of tasks, let alone communicating with a global workforce. To overcome this double challenge, Sanofi have looked inwards, setting up a digital academy to enable employees to become brand ambassadors. Recognising that outside discussions cannot be controlled, the company takes an interactive and proactive approach when engaging with stakeholders online. Gone is the old strategy of carefully controlled content; instead, social media listening tools enable the business to respond to specific consumer needs. Ines explained how her team analyses daily routines, preferred channels and even the technical language levels of their consumers.

Full disclosure on influencer partnership is strictly regulated in the EU - expert #digital tips from the beauty industry via Cecile Abeille pic.twitter.com/C4O9F5hmtR

— EACD (@eacdonline) October 19, 2017

Cecile Abeille, Corporate Communications Director EMEA at Estee Lauder Companies, began her presentation by looking at the buying journey of  younger consumers, which takes place almost exclusively online and often via brand influencers. Personal recommendation has always been the best PR for beauty products, explained Cecile, and while the principles of loyalty and authenticity have not changed, the latest generation of consumers has forced management to put digital first. The large millennial population inside the workforce is also the most discerning audience, believes Cecile, and they need to support your campaign before you launch it. KPIs are constantly evolving in Cecile’s experience, but the starting benchmarks should be earned media value and engagement levels.

During the concluding panel discussion, the discussion turned to the ways in which the panelists sought inspiration for their work. Everyone agreed that an open mindset and a willingness to be part of the digital disruption were crucial to the success of your online strategy. Embarking on this process requires you to listen to others, be it a drama teacher, a digital anthropologist, agencies, or emerging talents in your team. Above all, listen to your audience! Engagement, “not the number of likes” will allow you to fine-tune content and interaction.

View more impressions of the meeting in our picture gallery.