PMU, a century-old brand known to all, which, over the last 6 years, has made its revolution. Advertising, sponsorship… By meeting the We Are COM team, Benoît Cornu shared the profitable strategy of the horse brand and his convictions as a communicator !
Editor's note: Benoit Cornu left his position as PMU's Communications Director in December 2017.
Hello Benoît. Let's get into the thick of it ! For you, what is corporate communication?
On the school benches, we learn that communication is about effective relationships with useful audiences. This definition, simple and effective, which can be broken down by objectives (commercial, corporate, HR, etc.) has never left me. From this perspective, communication becomes a lever in the service of the company's strategy. Communicating in order to communicate has no interest. I don't know of a bad strategy saved by good communication. On the other hand, I think that there is no good strategy that can be fully effective if it is not accompanied by relevant and early communication.
Corporate communication is basically the synthesis of all communication actions and thus becomes a strategic lever. It is available with a certain number of tools and know-how, of methods. It is organized over time, according to the audiences and the objectives it targets.
So communication is a support function… strategic?
In a world where information is central and real time becomes the rule, I am convinced that communication must be attached to the highest decision-making level of the company. All the debates on the organization of communication in companies are legitimate. They show the adaptability of communication departments to the diversity of organizations. There is also still sometimes a lack of weight in the organization charts. My conviction is that the Director of Communication must have a direct line with the CEO. Dircom guarantees the integrity of the brand and the identity of the company. There is a form of “professional intimacy”: a relationship of absolute and total trust between the manager and Dircom. This does not mean that the Dircom is a confidant, but it has this somewhat specific role, which ranges from decision support to good governance. He is an interface between internal and external audiences and the manager, he must know and be able to say things directly.
Is this the case at PMU?
Since 2009, yes. We have made communication an engine of change and transformation of the company. It was an exciting experience to live as a communicator. We opted for a strategy of omnipresence in the media space coupled with a permanent surprise effect: every month, we announced new products, innovations aimed at both surprising and illustrating the actions of the company. We have thus emerged from the ambient noise with a communication of evidence that has trained internal teams, stakeholders, customers, the media ... We said what we gonna do and we did what we said. A strategy that always pays off.
Have you "unraveled" the brand?
PMU one of the most beautiful French brands: it is heritage and popular. It belongs to the French collective imagination. It is a street brand, everyday with 13 brands, which must also follow changes in society.
In 2010, we had to face the opening of the market to competition. We then looked at what had happened on the directory inquiry market where the traditional brand (the “12” became “118 712″) had taken the brunt of the “toutouyoutou” wave of “118 218″. We put ourselves in the position of a challenger and understood that the battle would be waged on the communication front. We pushed the logic to the limit, and we decided to take a “sidestep”: create a break in attention by a break in tone. In communication, this translated into humor and self-mockery. We have “self-uberized” our market.
In the age of infobesity, have you kept your “omnipresence” strategy?
Today, the reflection is less in the volume than in the timing. The subject is not whether to communicate (there is no longer any debate, fortunately!) But to choose on what, how and above all when. You have to both surf outdoor events and create your own calendar. We must constantly observe our environment and the result of our actions, and when we can, measure it. Today, a company is subjected to much more external solicitations: it is brought to intervene on a perimeter much broader than its product and its offer of products.
Today, the company must manage morality?
I prefer to talk about ethics, not morals. Ethics is a principle of operation. In our sector, the problem of gambling addiction is marginal in terms of volume (less than 3% of players) but it is a central subject, which must be treated as such. The issue is not whether gambling is "good" or "bad": it is a subject of individual behavior that the company cannot deal with. On the other hand, it is its responsibility to give the means and the tools to the consumers to understand the possible risks and to protect themselves from them.
Is it also its responsibility to invest in new sectors, such as those of culture? The Team was impressed by your sponsorship in photography.
In sponsorship too, we wanted to have a breakthrough strategy. In 2008, the sponsorship of PMU focused on the restoration of the equestrian statues of the Louvre, the equestrian academy of Versailles… It was patrimonial, turned towards the past. However, our business strategy was geared towards digital, opening up to competition, etc. We therefore considered more contemporary sponsorship. At a time when photography was democratizing thanks to smartphones, and thanks to great encounters - Raymond Depardon and Diane Dufour in particular - we made the bet of photography. Our first operation was to create a break in the outlook on PMU by giving an artist carte blanche to photograph our brand. A work that we continue today.
In 2016, the PMU Carte Blanche Jury selected the work of photographer Anna Malagrida
And in 2015, PMU became a partner of the Center Pompidou photography gallery. A real “surprise” effect, again. The role of the patron is to be a bridge between art and the traditional public of the brand who do not necessarily frequent museums, and which allows to build lines, bridges between these different audiences. It is certainly a recreational space for the brand, but it is still part of the corporate strategy. Ditto in sponsorship: we have chosen to be a sponsor of the French team and of the PSG because football is the No. 1 sport in betting and these two teams bring us image and visibility. It's consistent with our audience.
A real global communication strategy! Is that the secret to becoming Dircom?
There is no secret to becoming Dircom, it takes time and energy. It is a profession where expertise comes from experience. There is no communications engineer despite the real complexity of the job. We learn on the job. You have to be very curious about everything, attentive, be a real "sponge", understand the world in which you operate, adapt and convince. Paradoxically, you shouldn't have too much ego. You must first know how to put forward that of your brand, of your boss, to be at the service of your company. And we must dare, try. It is not a question of courage but of convictions. And for all communicators, you have to know how to write! Handling the feather remains for me an essential quality in our profession.
3 things to know about Benoît Cornu
> He appreciates Pivot's tweets " his tweets are a treat because it's just the pleasure of the language, he tells a story in 140 characters »
> He is not allowed to play at the races 🙁! Like the dealer at the casino, he cannot bet himself.
> Committed communicator, he is a director of Companies & Media and of the ARPP (Professional Regulatory Authority for Advertising)