"The crisis has put our business in the spotlight"
Laurence Chiapponi is Director of Communication and Brand for Deloitte France and Francophone Africa, a major player in auditing and consulting. In-office since last September, this seasoned professional, who has acquired her skills in political communication, leads a team of 40 people and orchestrates the brand, PR, digital communication, events, and internal communication. A graduate of EFAP and CFJ, she began her career in 1995 with François Baroin (Director of Communication then Director of Cabinet). 11 years later, she created Marques & Territoire, her own consultancy agency specializing in supporting urban and commercial projects, before joining the place to be for influence and reputation trades: Havas Paris. Corporate communication, PR, lobbying, crisis. The Sodexo Group entrusted her with responsibility for institutional communication, reputation, and major events ... until Deloitte France and French-speaking Africa recruits it ...
1 - You took your job a few months before the crisis. How did you experience confinement?
I just had time to get started, get to know my team, and lay down the essentials of my vision with a communication plan including a crisis strategy. And then overnight, I no longer saw my teams! I had to quickly build a relationship of trust with each of my collaborators and the distance, very paradoxically, strengthened our ties, and helped us. We’ve never worked as hard as we did during confinement and while circumstances demanded greater concentration and more intensity, they were an operational accelerator and a human revealer in many ways.
2- How has the crisis impacted the audit and consulting professions?
The audit was little affected because, as a regulated profession, we work with long-term and renewable mandates. On the advisory side, the demands of our customers have obviously evolved because the consequences of the crisis are global and organizations need to be supported transversally to carry out the necessary transformations. We were asked more about risk, digital, sustainable development, human resource management, treasury, supply chain issues… To answer them, we coordinated our expertise even though our processes were disrupted with the telework which, until now, remains the rule with us.
3- What was the immediate impact of the crisis on your communication actions?
As in all companies, we first focused on "caring" with a communication mainly dedicated internally to protect the health of employees and help them cope with disrupted work patterns and daily life. Very quickly then, we turned to our customers, because a consulting firm must be by their side and listen to them, particularly in times of crisis. We have initiated a new task force, made up of associates representing each of our businesses, to coordinate our responses to customers, centralize and disseminate our analyzes and offer new expertise. We have also accelerated the ramp-up of certain formats - podcasts, webcasts, etc., worked on our content and transformed our meetings, conferences, and events into "webinars", which have become privileged spaces for discussion with our customers.
4-In the particular world of auditing, where advertising is prohibited, unlike advice, what is the place of content?
We regularly speak with rich, diversified, and engaging content produced by our experts who disseminate knowledge, work on concepts, identify issues, form opinions, structure messages. This content, which is aimed both internally and externally, invests in social networks, the press, in particular in the form of forums, quotes, or partnerships and our website via blog or podcasts. They are also addressed directly to our customers through newsletters or webcasts. This is a very important axis of our strategy and we will have to go a step further to further enhance our eminence and our vision. Then may come the time for a B to B advertising campaign!
5- What lessons do you draw from the crisis?
Whether it is internal or digital communication, press relations, or even content ... the crisis has put our business in the spotlight and demonstrated its strategic importance for organizations. As for speeche, it can no longer, they must above all be credible. The crisis gives a premium to the "communication of evidence", one that demonstrates the claims and is based on the reality of the business.
6- Taste of classification and competition, ability to resist stress and fatigue, colossal workload ... in exchange for a reputed lifestyle and the feeling of belonging to an elite. Do these values still appeal to young people? Are they still reconcilable with the next world?
Deloitte in France and in French-speaking Africa is far from corresponding to this cliché. What characterizes us is rather the concepts of commitment and trust. We didn’t wait for the next world ”to reflect on our raison d'être and express our desire to be a responsible actor. During the crisis, for example, we implemented pro bono actions for the public sector and health, and among all the challenges of transforming society, those of ecological transition and preservation of the environment concern us. Whether on our businesses but also on our offers, our guideline “Making an impact that matters” clearly constitutes an advantage compared to the competition and it is eagerly awaited by the young generations.
7- You have a very good career. An average of 5 years in each position, except in politics, is it voluntary?
I worked for a long time alongside François Baroin and then I made the splits and left the public sector for an entrepreneurial experience by creating my own agency. Havas Paris then brought me the diversity and the methodologies I was looking for. Then my arrival within the Sodexo Group corresponded to a desire to join a large international group, the leader in its sector. Deloitte, another world leader, these are increased responsibilities and the opportunity to move from an international company born in France to an American firm operating in France and in French-speaking Africa. The approach, governance, and issues are each time very different from one experience to another and it is this diversity that excites me.
8- In your opinion, are women at the top of the ladder always a fight?
This topic is still relevant. We must remember Françoise Giroud 37 years ago, who declared to the newspaper Le Monde not without provocative intention: "The woman would really be the equal of the man the day when, in an important position, we will designate an incompetent woman. " Today, the fight remains the same. Since last February, no more women have led a CAC 40 group. However, should we legislate and impose quotas at the risk of putting women's professionalism, their qualities, and their merit after their gender identity when we decide to give them responsibilities?
9- The next world, how do you see it?
After the first signal of the Pacte law, I think that this global crisis will accelerate the need for commitments and responsibilities on the part of companies, especially in the environmental field. I hope that we are on the right track and that we will be able to definitively register more sustainable models for our societies.
Deloitte is one of the world's leading consulting and auditing firms. With 312,000 employees in more than 150 countries, Deloitte offers multidisciplinary services to companies grouped around 5 professions (audit & insurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory and tax & legal) and has 80% of companies in the sector listed in the Global Fortune 500 ®. In France, this major player in the Big Four, employs nearly 7,000 people and has a turnover of 1.265 billion euros. Anxious to have a positive impact on society, Deloitte has implemented an ambitious action plan in terms of sustainable development and societal commitments.