"Making it known is a lever for action"
Anne-Sophie de Faucigny, Director of institutional and press relations of Bpifrance
Director of institutional and press relations of Bpifrance for almost 6 years, Anne-Sophie de Faucigny, member of the enlarged executive committee, develops the reputation of the company and guarantees its reputation in journalistic, institutional and political circles with the help of its team of 10 people. A graduate of Celsa and IEP, this communications and media relations specialist has devoted a large part of her career to content communication, image positioning, and crisis communication. After becoming familiar with the employer brand, internal and managerial communication in agencies (TMP Worldwide, Publicis Consultants), and then at MACIF, she took charge of the communication for the majority group at the Île-de-France Regional Council. It was in 2012 that she took the plunge, appointed Press and Communication Advisor to the Minister of Consumer Affairs and Social Economy (Benoît Hamon). There followed a flash passage at the same post at the Ministry of National Education in 2014 ... before answering the call from the bank of entrepreneurs.
Bpifrance has been on the front line since March 16 to help French companies. Emergency support plan, guaranteed loans, financing of start-ups, a one-stop-shop for tourism, creation of an investment fund for large listed French companies ... It doesn't stop. Are you exhausted?
Communication in calm weather is a thing of the past. In our jobs, calm times are holidays! And then if we compare reputational crises with that of COVID, they are morally more difficult. It is not the same thing to fight to defend oneself or to act for a useful and positive mission. This imperative of speed towards companies has carried us. At Bpifrance, we are also very attached to the dimension of the common good. And if our action is measured by one of the certain indicators such as the number of startups in France or the increase in fundraising, we are also very proud to see large groups perform and become world leaders.
What has the crisis changed in your communication?
The crisis & the containment measures, necessary to save human lives, led to the creation of an emergency plan to save businesses. As of March 13, these measures had to be made widely known and easy to access. We then had to increase Bpifrance's exposure tenfold to tell entrepreneurs that they were not alone at a time when France was paralyzed. And where we usually spoke more easily to a BtoB audience, the crisis suddenly widened our scope. We spoke to the mainstream media through the audiovisual media, radios, or the regional press which opened its columns widely to us and we were able to explain the device with pedagogy. Our video on Brut is a good example. Our general manager explains the guaranteed loan and how to use it and it has been viewed over 700,000 times! Our notoriety has leaped, and we fully assume this new visibility over this given time.
Bpifrance has established itself as a useful brand par excellence. We have read and heard about you a lot. Has the crisis strengthened your sympathy quality?
The cocktail of multichannel and multi-format communication was above all effective and that is what matters. Bpifrance's action, in addition to that of the State and the banks, has made it possible to pre-grant, in just two months, almost 100 billion euros in guaranteed loans to 480,000 companies. We have not yet precisely measured our sympathy capital, but if we look at the numerous surveys carried out among entrepreneurs, they declare themselves satisfied with the actions from the public sphere which they deem reactive and effective. 40% of managers of PME-TPI anticipate, for example, a rapid return to normal of their activity thanks to the numerous support systems.
Is "serving the future" an ambitious roadmap for communication?
Bpifrance has always been exposed to the media. It has been built as a brand of proximity with, to achieve this, regular speaking out to explain our action and to address entrepreneurs to provide them with both the tools and the instructions for use. Making it known has always been considered a lever for action because by making it known, change is brought about. Over time, the bank has become a central player in many ecosystems, that of startups, industrial SMEs, companies listed on the CAC 40, and SBF 120… to which it regularly speaks. To do this, it uses the resources through the press, social networks, and events organized throughout France to bring together the entrepreneurs it supports and create a spirit of community and mutual aid. Bpifrance is a constant source of activity and activism.
Nicolas Dufourq ranks 4th among the most active bosses on social networks (source Angie) with 33,000 followers. Do you manage his account, or does he take care of it alone?
The CEO of Bpifrance is almost a digital native. He created Wanadoo and the tech and startup culture is natural to him. For him, the use of social networks is obvious, he tweets regularly and is very attentive to what is said and written. Social networks are for him a multiplier of influence at the service of Bpifrance and the impact of its mission.
Quirky slogans, media leaders, masses of content, diverse formats that range from a newsroom to a TV channel ... Bpifrance's communication has nothing in common, neither in tone nor in a form with that of a public actor. How is it possible?
The brand plays on the values of proximity but also of optimism towards businesses. Bpifrance is positioning itself as a niche bank and it invests the values, certainly of confidence, but also use and agility of its customers. Better than claiming public bank status, it is the understanding of entrepreneurship that is important. Our tone is deliberately offbeat, devoid of classic codes to put ourselves up to entrepreneurs. When we say, "We get up and we reveal ourselves" or "You send wood, we send wheat", it's easy to remember and it shakes things up positively. It is the same in our media relations. We attach as much importance to making an interview for a JT as for a Brut and although the channels are different, we are attentive to remain ourselves, to keep a tone of proximity, which makes our spine in rehearsal and the diversity of expressions.
In a recent interview, Sébastien Bazin, the boss of the Accor group declared: "This crisis is changing management, hierarchy, positions, values". How do you view the consequences of the crisis for the company?
I find this very interesting because he realizes that he is ready for a 100% digital management. From this point of view, the crisis was a real leap into the unknown. It showed that we knew how to adapt and that we could even do miracles like in the tertiary sector, which mainly handles information. Now, I do not think that calls into question the entire managerial chain. Rather, it acts as a revealer of the management of the company, by reinforcing the relationship of trust that pre-existed within the collective, or distrust. Still, the digital whole is complicated. By leaving less room for spontaneity, it requires more preparation. By depriving us of the gestures and the unspoken, it involves asking for more opinions and being more vigilant to be more inclusive during virtual meetings. 100% digital also does not create the same links as physical contact and it tends to dilute the attachment of employees to the company, therefore more difficult to retain.
In your journey, you mention “full content communication” as a full competence. Could you explain that?
Today there are a more and more digital content and more and more videos. Digitalization multiplies content and formats to address a wide variety of communities and this requires talents that are increasingly sought after and for whom the demand is very high! A video needs to be thought and written, a punch line for social networks must be meaningful and impactful. Communication in the digital age requires precision and very good language skills. Knowing how to write has become a key skill.
"The world after", how do you see it?
To speak of the "next world" would mean that we are changing the world. Now I do not have the feeling that the crisis is giving birth to a new world. There will undoubtedly be other zoonoses and I do not see any rupture, except on anecdotal subjects. We are witnessing a technological acceleration and greater ownership of the business, we see greater solidarity between individuals facing the same risk, but it will always be the same world. My wish would be that we learn the lessons from the crisis, both its pitfalls and its benefits so that we are fully prepared to face, alas, the following.
Bpifrance finances companies - at each stage of their development - with credit, guarantees, and equity. Bpifrance supports them in their innovation projects and internationally. Bpifrance also ensures its export activity through a wide range of products. Consulting, university, networking, and acceleration program for startups, SMEs, and mid-caps are also part of the offer for entrepreneurs. Thanks to Bpifrance and its 50 regional offices, entrepreneurs benefit from close, unique, and efficient contact to help them face their challenges.