"Artificial intelligence and data will transform our professions"

Dominique Danaë communication director microsoft france

"The best advertisement is a satisfied customer," according to Bill Gates. Certainly one of the explanations for Microsoft's success in our daily lives. The We Are COM team takes you to discover the Redmond firm. What is its software in terms of communication? From the founding myth to the management of an incredible portfolio of brands, Dominique Danaë - Communications Director of Microsoft France - explains the winning return of the giant and its convictions as a communicator.


Because we all experience our profession differently and it is often overlooked, we like to start with a very simple question: what is your definition of corporate communication?

You start from the postulate that the corporate communication is unrecognized. When I started, it was the queen discipline, the one to which only the most talented and the most senior could aspire. For me, corporate communication corresponds to all the means that allow us to build, defend and nurture the reputation of a Brand. We touch notions of influence, relational capital and values that a company is eager to convey.
What changes is that today the contract with the public is not the same. The immediacy of digital always implies more transparency, honesty, sincerity. This is a constant for all brands, whatever their means of expression, and it generates new interactions, with more porosity between corporate communication and product communication. Thus, the actions of CSR or sponsorship, just like corporate campaigns with a societal dimension, help to nurture the brand, with ultimately an impact on the act of purchase.
If the spheres interpenetrate, the approach varies depending on the audience. We naturally do not use the same codes to address ourselves, for example, to generalist, tech or business journalists, YouTubers or the gaming community. At the same time, an Instagramer can be interested in our innovations as well as in our citizen initiatives. We are constantly playing with the plurality of codes to generate a unique impact!

Our brand portfolio responds to a logic of audiences

You had a career in an agency before working for the advertiser: as Dircom, how do you see agencies now?

If I went “to the other side”, I keep an agency spirit, if only through my collaboration with those who accompany me. For me, they are real partners and not providers. I consider them moreover as the natural extension of my own team. We respect their work and guide them to make a strong contribution to our communication actions. I think that my experience in an agency makes exchanges easier: I understand their constraints, the turnover teams, profitability objectives, etc. which does not prevent me from being demanding in terms of advice!

Our brand investigators seem to detect two universes at Microsoft: “native” brands (Windows, Word, Excel and Powerpoint, etc.) and acquisition brands (LinkedIn, Skype, etc.). What is your brand management policy?

Yes, our brand portfolio is very broad and is regularly expanding either through acquisitions or through creations. We also demonstrate our ability to integrate brands into the Microsoft scope (Skype here, LinkedIn today), and that our ability to create powerful brands such as Xbox ou Surface.
At Microsoft, we did not choose a single brand which would be broken down by product. Each of the brands in our portfolio has a distinct identity. Thus, our “daughter” brands are very strong: Windows, Office, Surface, Azure,… or Xbox, which we just recently celebrated 15 years. In recent years, our brand strategy around the world has consisted in bringing together “daughter” brands and Microsoft “parent” brands, which has the effect of nurturing and boosting our communication and relationship capital. The organization of our brand portfolio also responds to a logic of audiences. Microsoft has the particularity of evolving within two universes: the B2B Zone and B2C. The arrival of Satya Nadella as CEO in 2014 was synonymous with a real strategic shift, with very strong bets such as the Cloud, IoT [editor's note: connected objects] and artificial intelligence (AI). Thus, we animate a community of fans in the general public, while the engagement of BtoB audiences is essential, whether they are developers, Business Decision Makers, IT Pros, owners of SMEs, etc.


Microsoft is 40 years old. What is the place of the legend (and its legendary founder!) In the life of your brand? How does this translate internally?

In 40 years, Microsoft has only had 3 bosses (it's crazy isn't it?). There have been Bill Gates - iconic founder - then Steve Ballmer, and now Satya Nadella. Bill Gates wanted to separate his philanthropic activities and Microsoft, from the launch of its foundation. storytelling like Bill Gates' communication within his foundation therefore does not go through Microsoft channels. But it is undeniable that its actions, and the visibility that results from it, indirectly benefit the Microsoft brand. This sincere approach of Bill & Melinda Gates, who give back after having received so much, inevitably influences the image of our company.
Public opinion approves of their commitment, while understanding the separation from Microsoft. Moreover, most of the media requests today relate to our current manager, Satya Nadella - a pure Microsoft product, with 25 years of presence in the company - who in less than two years has managed to mark Microsoft and the Microsoftees. [editor's note: name of internal employees] of its vision. He succeeded in reinventing the company, and rekindling a start-up spirit by encouraging risk-taking and learning from error, while breaking down silos.

Data mining is an incredible promise

What is the place of communication in the Microsoft organization, in France and in the world?

At Microsoft, the approach is "glocal". We share a global base of values, and the freedom to adapt to take into account the specificities of the local market, cultural sensitivities or quite simply the history of Microsoft in the country. Our local leeway is real, with a real capacity to create our own programs. The game is then to share our best practices between countries.
Concretely, the Communication France team is attached to the Marketing & Operations Division of Microsoft France. We are in charge of institutional communication, media relations, animation of corporate social accounts (Twitter et Facebook), The internal communication and citizenship policy, called Microsoft Philanthropies. My team is made up of ten people, to which is added a circle of experts from HR, in particular in charge of employer brand, and a marketing team in charge of events, digital related to brands, marketing campaigns and media purchases. From my point of view, there is no golden rule in terms of organization: it is the team dynamic that takes precedence.
This need for constant collaboration is really crucial in a matrix organization like ours. And this, even within my own team. Thus, we have set up a newsroom (in the form of an editorial committee) every Monday, to promote synergies and be able to deal with the same subject from different angles for our different audiences. How to tell company news with maximum impact? For example, we are experimenting with visual storytelling, whose codes are very effective in digital. This type of format enriches the communication codes and tends to become generalized and gives, I must admit, a little bit of old to the traditional press release.

Everyone knows Microsoft. In 2017, what is Microsoft's story? Where do you want to take us?

While we often talk about the digital transformation of our customers, Microsoft is no exception. We transformed our business model, by moving from the sale of software on physical media to subscription in the Cloud, and let's open up new growth drivers with breakthrough innovations such as mixed reality. And even if we rarely receive declarations of love for our Excel spreadsheets, our products are real assets for everyday life!
Always, Microsoft embodies the democratization of new technologies. Yesterday, following Bill Gates' vision, we made it possible to install a PC in every home and on every office. Today, we intend to make 3D and artificial intelligence accessible to everyone.
Technological change can cause concern and our mission is to draw benchmarks, support new uses: software has been replaced by applications, which will themselves be replaced by bots. Our societal legitimacy in the deployment of digital, with more than 1,5 billion users of our solutions around the world, offers us multiple possibilities for communication in the service of meaning, and it is very rare and precious for a communicator.

Society is changing. Communication too?

Artificial intelligence like Data are transforming and will transform our businesses. The use of data is an incredible promise in the way of producing content, personalize and distribute them. The communication teams will include developers and not just people with the capacity to animate relational capital by cross-channel. We will want to create new web interfaces very quickly, as today we are producing an A4 print very quickly.
The professions of influence will change radically. Bots will revolutionize Press Relations by dealing with first-level requests from journalists: what is the latest financial news from the company? What is its development strategy? Who is his HRD? What is the percentage of women in board ? Can I have a picture of the CEO in high definition? An aggregator robot can provide these basic elements instantly and make them available to the Internet user in an interface produced by communicators. Microsoft is at the crossroads of these changes.

What advice can you give to become Dircom communicators who read We Are COM diligently?

We exercise a profession of paradoxes : you have to love the shadow without being afraid of the light, be as good a speaker as a good pen, think internally in the development of the external communication, embrace the changes even when they unbalance our daily life, be rational while listening to his intuitions…. My main advice is therefore also a paradox: you have to combine personal creativity and collective quality of execution to succeed in the world of communication today and tomorrow.


3 things to know about Dominique Danaë

> She graduated from an American high school.
> She admits that she can improve her coding and does not have all the Microsoft badges.
> She is present on Twitter… The exchange continues!

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