“Everyone has an opinion on the COM. The solution ? have beliefs"


Éric Lemaire is Communications Director of AXA France. Did you know that AXA is the world's leading insurance brand according to the ranking Interbrand and in the Top 50 of the most innovative companies in the world? Twitto diligent, Eric tells us the path to a flagship made in Rouen, and shares his convictions as a communicator with the Team. Honestly, he does!

Dear Eric, hello. Always the same question that we ask ourselves: what is corporate communication? 

Today it seems strange to me to distinguish the corporate communication customer communication, even internal communication… Corporate communication brings me back to the campaigns of the 80s, to top-down messages during major communication masses… For me, there is only one communication which is addressed to particular communities. And there is not one more important than the other. This communication must be effective, useful, targeted and therefore close to the communities.

During an AXA seminar in 2005, we received a great CEO of the CAC40. One of his sentences struck me: "When I speak to the press, I address myself above all to my collaborators". Even before the advent of social media, this porosity between “the” communications was in operation. We were in the midst of a “transparency shock”, with an increased demand for information from all audiences, internal and external. We come back to the real business of communication, namely convincing, explaining, motivating, giving meaning, managing crises, and this for all stakeholders of the organization.

How do you develop the pride of belonging of your employees if there is no longer a border between internal and external communication?

The pride of belonging of our employees is real and it comes first of all from the history of AXA, a small mutual in the Rouen region that has become one of the world leaders in insurance. It is also based on the values ​​of the company, which are compasses in the action of our directors, our managers and our employees. In terms of communication, we put an end to paper newspapers in 2008, convinced that this no longer allowed us to keep up with the pace of the company. We constantly animate our internal communities with local events and web and interactive tools. And in a few months, we will release an application allowing employees to have profiled information on their smartphone.

But internal / external porosity is effective: our “Guide to digital common sense” is aimed at our customers and prospects as well as at employees. And we widely encourage them to take the floor on social media. More than 1 of them are already active there and we are continuing to develop their uses.

Speaking of social media, the Team noticed your very active Twitter account ! As Dircom, why are you tweeting?

Today, Twitter is practically my first news channel. I go there dozens of times a day, it's almost addicting. I subscribe to news sites, journalists and influencers ... Twitter allows me to have the opinion of certain people, more or less known, on specific subjects and in particular on those of my company and its market.

As social media, it's the one that suits me best: it's relational, in real time. It's a bit like my “little newspaper”, with its own editorial line articulating mainly market subjects, rugby and humour!

Culturally, the profession of insurer is not appreciated. How do you explain the 1.9 million fans of the page " Axa People Protector »?

We quickly invested in Facebook with one conviction: that of not talking about ourselves directly but of valuing the entire world of insurance and the people who make up this universe. So even when we promote our achievements, it is through portraits of collaborators. This makes the contribution of our businesses to the daily lives of our customers and prospects tangible. It is these portraits of “people protector” which garner support.

You seem to run the AXA brand globally with few exceptions. How do Switch and Soon fit into your communication?

Switch and Soon are AXA youth programs. They are aimed at 18 to 30 year olds with specific codes to be in connivance with this target but are fully integrated into the ecosystem and the brand positioning of AXA.

In 1985, when AXA was launched, the strategy from the outset was to capitalize as much as possible on this unique brand. A bet that was all the more relevant with the advent of the web and our international development. We can easily adapt communications from one country to another and develop global programs.

Why AXA?

In the 1980s, the Rouen mutual insurance company bought out many players. So much so that we no longer know what to name it. Communicators then work to find a short name, starting with the letter A and pronounceable in all languages.

After many months of hesitation it is finally Claude Bébéar, the founder, who decides: it will be AXA!

Tell us about your Communication Department: how are you organized? What is its connection?

Communication has a strategic explanatory function, which to be sincere, reactive and positive, must be linked directly to General Management. This is why I report to the Chairman of AXA France, Jacques de Peretti.

And for the past year, our organization has been made up of two teams. One, “communication and engagement”, focuses on the creation of content and the animation of internal or external communities. The other, called “media, e-reputation and influence” manages relations with the media and influencers as well as crisis management. An original scheme in current organizations that allows us to respond as quickly and appropriately as possible to the demands of our audiences.

Let's go back 14 years: what advice would you give to Eric Lemaire, newly appointed DirCom? 

That of always remaining curious, passionate about the news because it allows to be informed, to react, to watch the weak but sensitive signals for the company. I will also tell him to have courage. Everyone has an opinion on communication! The solution for success? Have strong convictions to bring about - or even impose - your strategy, especially in the event of a crisis. It also takes a lot of commitment and knowing how to put yourself at risk. As a communicator, my motto is that of Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny: “do not suffer”!

Since taking up your post, have you never fallen into a routine? 

The news and the permanent transformation that has always existed at AXA (with many mergers and acquisitions in particular) have allowed me to never get bored. This incessant change is extremely motivating and engaging for the communicator that I am: we always have to comment, decipher, and gain support both internally and externally.

But, at the same time, communication professions have changed. First, there was a strengthening of the personalization and transparency of information, which called into question the traditional patterns of communication and the way of addressing our different communities. And for the past ten years or so, social media has considerably accelerated our organizations by allowing us to act and react much faster.

This environment is full of challenges: there is no routine.

What advice can you give We Are COM readers about becoming a communications director?

To become Dircom, you need communication expertise: knowing how to write and knowing how to speak. It sounds simplistic, but it is extremely important.

And you also have to want to. It is heavy work, made up of details, a lot of preparation, organization ... All the more so since, like many support functions, the role of communication is a given, rarely welcomed.

So you have to be proud of your expertise, know how to promote it, share it, and show the complexity of this absolutely essential profession.

3 things to know about Eric Lemaire

  • He is passionate about Rugby as his timeline will prove to you Twitter (Go blues!)
  • He is born in Seine Maritime and lived in Rouen, birthplace of the AXA group
  • A committed citizen, he has been Colonel of the citizen reserve of the National Gendarmerie since 2014… A life in blue 🙂
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  1. said: Nature

    Just saw your AXA ad darling 25
    A quick note to tell you that I find it really, really out of place! We do not have the right to take an example from a disaster with deaths in this case to do this Pub!

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