PrSpeak Olivier Fleurot
Olivier Fleurot
Global CEO, MSLGroup
06 Aug 2012
Companies will have to integrate social media within their internal structure and start interacting with consumers in a much more comprehensive way. That’s what we call Social CRM. Speed is of essence and so is transparency.
Olivier Fleurot, Global CEO, MSLGroup, Publicis Groupe’s flagship specialty communications and engagement network, and former Executive Chairman of Publicis Worldwide, brings to this role the demonstrated ability to transform businesses so they can operate efficiently and succeed in the digital age.

In conversation with exchange4media’s Shanta Saikia, Fleurot speaks at length about how digital and social media are shaping the communications industry as well as the do’s and don’ts in this new media world.

Q. Integrating its communication services, upping investment in Asian markets, especially India and China – MSLGroup has had a busy time…
We’ve been filling the gaps because we started with a certain number of networks – one US based, one Europe based and a few other agencies. We had decided on two key strategies three years ago at the group level – one was invest in developing our business in emerging markets, and secondly, invest a lot in new forms of communication such as digital, social, etc. In the last three years, we have been investing a lot in Asia, especially India and China. In India we are considered the No. 2 network, whereas in China we are the No. 1. The idea is to raise our game in all parts of the world.

In India we have 20:20 Media and 20:20 Social, which are focused more on the technology sector. We have Hanmer MSL, which is more of a generalist company. And together we are making sure that we train our people a lot more on digital and social, that we start cooperating between India and China and other countries to serve global clients. It has been a fast journey in the last two and a half years, which took us from a very fragmented network to the No. 4 network worldwide today.

We combine all kinds of communication services, including events management, and we have invested in two more companies a few weeks ago – one in China and one which is more active in Hong Kong and Singapore, called Luminous. These are companies that will help serve our clients even better. Of course media relations and press is still the core of what we do, but we want to develop more and more new kinds of services. We plan to invest more to have a better global footprint, for instance we recently also invested in Poland because in Eastern Europe we are not strong enough, we will also invest more in Latin America; in Asia, there is almost no limit to the size of the market here.

Q. You have often spoken about how social media is merging all forms of communication and obliterating the boundaries that exist between different media platforms, between different target groups. How do you think social media is changing the very way people communicate?
In all the businesses that I have been in the last 15 years one of my key preoccupations and focus was to instill digital and social. What is interesting is that adoption of digital and social has been much faster on the people side than on the company side, so people are empowered. They have an amazing power to share anything – videos, music, words – with potentially millions of people. So it completely changes the balance of power between traditional media, for instance, and the people. The companies have been slower because they are organised in a certain way, are bigger and less flexible. At the moment, it is creating a gap between people in general and companies. We see that in a lot of our clients where they are struggling because they had organised their marketing and communication in silos, so they had PR and marketing and public affairs and so on, and they had nicely segmented all those forms of communication. But online, all these forms completely blur. If a company is attacked by an aggressive video on a website of on Facebook, is it public affairs, is it brand issue or something else? It’s difficult to say, because it’s a reputation issue. Companies will have to integrate social media within their internal structure and start interacting with consumers in a much more comprehensive way. That’s what we call Social CRM. Speed is of essence and so is transparency. There are many sectors where people say that due to legal reasons they can’t be transparent, they will now have to learn how to combine legal with transparency otherwise people will just ignore them.

Q. How much of resistance are companies offering when it comes to adapting or integrating social media into their marketing communication or communicating with the external public or even internal communication?
It’s more of a structural resistance than individual resistance as a lot of people in their private lives start using social media, so they understand what you can do with it. But at the moment maybe that’s the difficult point – we try to make a separation between what we do on a private level and what we do on a business level. How long can you do that? There is always a conversation going on. Companies are struggling a bit, but it’s not that they don’t want to learn – they are asking a lot of questions, they absorb new ideas, they are open to listen to anybody who has a new view on social and digital. So, it’s a very lively world at the moment.

Q. In this changing world, where exactly does PR fit in? How can PR maintain its relevance?
First of all, to me, all disciplines in marketing and communications are more or less effectively converging, so there is sort of an ongoing battle between all the disciplines. Everybody wants to own social media. I think good PR and professional PR, in so far as it has always been about conversations. PR has been in the interactive world for quite a long time. I am not saying social media is only for PR – certainly we should feel comfortable in this environment and clients sort of rediscover what PR can bring to them again, because now we can help them understand what’s going on in social platforms and interacting with people. It’s quite natural for us.

The monies are shifting, at least in the western countries, from traditional media to new media and everybody wants to follow those monies; PR is not the only discipline that wants to have a share of that spend. In so far as we do our job in a professional way, we should be at ease in this environment.

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Olivier Fleurot
Global CEO, MSLGroup
<b>Olivier Fleurot</b>
Companies will have to integrate social media within their internal structure and start interacting with consumers in a much more comprehensive way. That’s what we call Social CRM. Speed is of essence and so is transparency.
Shweta Shukla
Country Head – External Relations, Procter & Gamble India
<b>Shweta Shukla</b>
The explosion of new media touch-points such as social media and mobile phones has given the External Relations function new opportunities to drive advocacy amongst consumers. Social media enables us to have greater and potentially deeper relationships with more consumers in more parts of the world. We are very engaged in all areas of digital communications from mobile to what have become more traditional sites such as Facebook.