Hello everyone, what is your background?
Raphaëlle Marcadal: Initially, communication was not really a choice on my part. I started my career as media manager within the audiovisual company in charge of the retransmissions of the matches of the Football World cups. Then I turned to the content, by becoming journalist for AFP in Tokyo and chief editor for Sciences Po Paris before joining the teams of corporate communication within the Publicis Consultants group, in charge of the RATP account to finally join the RATP Group COM Department, 8 years ago already. Today, I am responsible for brand content, campaigns and partnerships.
Laurence Malecon: My professional experience began with strategic planning, in a agency, which no longer exists. I have excellent memories of this experience where, among other things, we accompanied the launch of the first perfume for dogs. It was in 2015 that this agency, Rouge, was bought by the Hopscotch group, in which I joined the Innovation and Strategic Planning Department. Finally, 2 years ago we launched a collective intelligence laboratory.
#1 – Why did you choose the field of strategic COM?
R.M: I would say that communication must first serve to support the company's strategy and thatthere is no communication without a prior strategy. It is necessary for theadvertiser to define a course and it is then that communication is at the service of the latter. I like to compare communication to a compass that guides and accompanies the development of a company.
L.M: Absolutely, strategic communication is undoubtedly the communication that serves the strategic framework of a company. It is a communication of reflection, where we must study the public to send them the right messages, in the most appropriate way. Increasingly, questions are also being asked about the CSR and business impact. In short, strategic communication is a communication of questions.
#2 – What is your own definition of strategic communication?
L.M: It was in the 80s that strategic planning made its appearance in France, it was directly born of the advertising activity. Initially, it was about bringing together the voice of creation and the voice of sales, around the needs and behaviors of the consumer. Today, it is by multiplying the monitoring of market trends or needs that the strategic planner carries the voice of the consumer and translates it into a language accessible to all of the company's stakeholders.
Also, the strategic planning function is primarily a coordination function. The planner is the guarantor of the link between the different departments of a company. He is also the guarantor of the link that an agency can maintain with an advertiser. It must constantly ensure that all employees speak the same language. In other words, to ensure that the strategy is understood by all, so that everyone is able to reproduce it correctly.
R.M: It is true that a few decades ago, it was very rare to find a strategic planning entity at the advertiser's and this was truly the responsibility of the agency. Within the RATP, the idea of strategic planning only emerged 3 years ago, during a reorganization of the communication department. At the advertiser too, we have a coordination function. Our mission is to ensure consistency between the different campaigns, whether in communication internal ou external. I see us somewhat as the guarantors of consistency. I would add that being a planner also means being a source of inspiration for the teams thanks to the insights produced by the agencies, in particular during the extremely stimulating exercise of the call for tenders.
#3 – Why and for whom would you recommend this domain in COM?
L.M: Above all, you have to enjoy diving into trends. You have to know how to decipher your time and changing sociological phenomena. In short, if you like to decipher the era of time, we have a blast in strategic planning! In addition, it is necessary to be creative, draw inspiration everywhere, from books and the human sciences. It is not uncommon for the strategic planner to also be a designer-editor, which is why general knowledge and editorial skills are essential.
This activity also requires methodology. In this, the planner also plays an advisory role. You have to like the company, the brand culture and more broadly the culture of the company.
My advice would be to start with more pragmatic professions, such as project management. On the one hand, there are still very few positions in strategic planning. On the other hand, our role is to give impetus to a 360° COM strategy and, for this, we must master communication and its languages in their entirety.
R.M: Indeed, being a strategic planner requires extremely versatile skills. I would say this activity is more for long-distance runners than sprinters. You have to know how to show perseverance and resilience. It will certainly happen to you to make a mistake, to be off the mark. It's okay, learn from your mistakes and test your endurance. Only experience can improve.
Our sector is not about immediacy, unlike the community managementEg. In our businesses, thinking is done over the long term. Hot content is often contrasted with cold content. In strategic planning, it is better to have an appetite for cold content, resulting from rigorous methodological reflection.
#4 – On a daily basis, what are your missions and challenges?
R.M: To understand the scope of my actions, it is essential to understand the missions of the RATP group. For most people, this is only synonymous with the Paris metro. In reality, not at all. The group is the 3rd largest urban transport operator in the world, present in 16 countries, with 107 subsidiaries and offering 8 different modes of transport.
At the COM Department, approximately 80 people are in charge of communicating on the group's multiple areas of expertise, in order to increase brand awareness. On the B2C side, we communicate on the RATP brand – the one with the famous jade green logo. While on the B2B side, the one I'm in charge of, we communicate with elected officials, local authorities and partners, around the Group's key expertise (energy, telecom, real estate, urban logistics and other urban services)
As head of brand content, my main mission is to promote the Group brand. For this, we develop brand content strategies around our raison d'être. Here, for example, is an image campaign around our magazine “Qualité de ville”.
L.M: Communication indeed plays a major role in terms of purpose and strategic planning is at the heart of this system.
As for Hopscotch, it's the 3rd communication group in France, a group of 800 people, present in 34 countries. The specificity of our agency lies in the fact that our point of view on communication differs from that which you can be taught at school. Indeed, compared to other strategic planning agencies, we work less on the image and positioning of the brand, what we call branding. Our belief is that communication should ensure healthy relationships across an entire ecosystem, both internally and externally. For this, we are implementing very specific methodologies. How to identify stakeholders? How to create successful relationships? What type of relationship should you prefer? The planning and innovation division is there to respond to these issues.
Moreover, last year, we published the book “La Relation, l'Or des Entreprises”, written in collective intelligence, in which we proclaim our vision of things.
More concretely, on a daily basis, I participate in various calls for tenders, I do internal consulting, I participate in the agency's transformation strategy and I work on the construction of methodologies. I also run the “Strike” collective intelligence unit, a cell where we make our customers and our Hopscotch experts work together on campaign tools, concepts, activations, brand positioning. For this we use proprietary methodologies inspired by design thinking. We also make them think about the future of their jobs. It's very powerful and it works very well, I would even say that it's the future of communication in terms of methodologies.
#5 – Can you tell us about your pride? What excites you the most?
R.M: It is very satisfying to realize an intuition. When we manage to find the right idea, the right catchphrase and they end up plastered in 4x3m in the metro, we say to ourselves that we have done our job well. Meetings are also very stimulating. It is interesting to arouse people's curiosity and attention, to put on our teaching cap and make them change their outlook on things.
L.M: Yes, idea hunting is a very stimulating part of our job. I would say that my current pride is above all to have the impression of taking part in an adventure that is changing the face of communication. Communication unfortunately too often gets a bad press, wrongly considered as the armed wing of capitalism, it is sometimes attributed with a loss of meaning. However, today, communication is reinventing itself with the issues of the common good: employee well-being, climate emergency, social issues, etc.
At Hopscotch, we want to integrate these criteria of responsibility into business strategies. Communication is the energy behind projects. Also, by being proud of them, we are proud of our professions.
#6 – In your opinion, how will the COM evolve in the years to come?
R. M: Even if I am not a visionary, I am convinced that the future of communication lies in a form of sobriety and a return to simplicity. In the 1990s and 2000s, companies communicated to communicate, this tended towards infobesity. Now the will is to do less, but better.
L.M: Currently, a whole part of communication is becoming very technical: engineering
, programmatic, data, artificial intelligence… This is why, more than ever, we will have to be careful that the COM remains human. Only humans are able to guarantee healthy relationships and a sharp deciphering of ecosystems. In the years to come, communication will have to listen, create links and carry new messages related to responsibility.
#7 – Do you have any last advice for future communicators?
R.M: Do not be trapped by your own prejudices. Stay curious about everything and open to experimentation. In the era of test and learn, do not be afraid to do, before you make up your mind. Don't be afraid to listen to your little inner voice, to follow your intuition.
L.M : You have to have a hell of a dose of courage to say you want to do COM today. However, it's time to change things, mentalities are ready and companies are changing. So, dare the adventure!
Finally, being interested in communication is not enough, immerse yourself also and above all in the life and culture of the company.
Communication Manager, Institutional COM & Group Brand RATP Group
Director of Strategic Planning & Innovation at Hopscotch
Études de cas
And to go further in our overview of jobs in the strategic communication, a look back at some campaigns that marked the We Are COM team. 🙌