Telum Talks To... Anne Geronimi, Group Communications Director, Bluebell Group
Telum caught up with Anne Geronimi, who heads up global communications at Bluebell Group, as she explains her move to the luxury brand distributor after two decades agency-side, and calls attention to an emerging breed of social influencers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As someone who has been in the industry for more than two decades, what would you say are the biggest changes you've witnessed in comms?
I’ve been very lucky to have worked in the most exciting markets in the world in Asia, and more specifically for the most part China over the last 20 years. The evolution of the communications market from 1999 to today has been incredible in a positive way. On the consumer PR side, agencies and brands have had to adapt to local consumer markets and their incredibly rapid change, and then take it a step further to actually lead the world from Asia, in terms of innovation and creativity. From a corporate communications perspective, we have also moved away from "one size fits all" to taking a real interest in local relevancy.
You moved to Bluebell in late 2019. Why was this the right time to move in-house after 20 years in the agency world, and what were some initial surprises you encountered?
My move to Bluebell was quite unexpected, and most wonderful things are. I took my first-ever career break prior to joining Bluebell, which helped me narrow down what I wanted to do next - industry, responsibility and size-wise. Bluebell came along, and it ticked the right boxes for me. My position at Bluebell is global, but based out of Asia, and it is very similar to what I did as an agency head, meaning that I have to dedicate much time building relationships and consensus within the organisation across my different stakeholders. No big surprises if I may say, and I'm very lucky to have had such solid agency experience to navigate a large internal organisation, where I see each market as a client, and where I have to add value and work from within to make things happen.
Bluebell's distribution networks target various regions across Asia. How do your comms strategies differ between countries and markets around the world?
I’m primarily responsible for our global communications, and my focus is mostly on Europe and the US. However I am also involved in some corporate communications across Asia, and internal communications across the group. Bluebell is present in 10 markets, so there are vast differences in the way we communicate. It starts with building a plan that is in line with our group's values but which also takes into account each markets’ specificities, and that leaves enough space for local markets to be able to adapt. For the large part of what I do in terms of Europe and US communications, my most important asset has been my close circle of people to bounce ideas off, and to ensure that what we want to say is relevant for their markets. Sometimes the smallest detail which we do not feel is important makes all the difference in getting the right stories elsewhere.
What is your view on brands increasingly turning to KOLs and content creators to promote their products and services?
The new breed of social influencers and KOLs today are the in-store teams, due to COVID-19. As the world has come to a stop, and people are stuck at home or not willing to go out, we have seen some incredible live streaming and social media efforts from these in-store sales teams, who are doing everything they can to stay in touch with their customers.
It’s been fascinating to watch the phenomenon, and it will be even more interesting to see whether this trend stays. I do have a feeling it will as a content-rich and cost effective way to maintain that brand-customer relationship. Most companies are cutting costs, so whilst I do think the "big" influencers still have an important role to play in terms of new product launches, they will also have to adapt to this new reality of cost-cutting measures. The entire ecosystem is in complete flux, for the better I would hope. I expect brands to leverage select key channels as opposed to spread themselves thin across numerous channels.
Last but not the least, what's one PR moment you can never forget?
My most unforgettable PR moment was 2013 Watches & Wonders launch in Hong Kong. It was such a challenge - bringing together 13 haute horlogerie brands, a new concept, and over 700 media and KOLs from across the world. A strong typhoon hit Hong Kong the day before the launch. Everything was re-shuffled within 24 hours, and somehow it all went ahead calmly. It was quite extraordinary, and I probably had the best team I ever had at that time (you all know who you are). It was a fantastic project, which we ran for three consecutive years.