State of The Industry Report 2017: Interview – Luisa Megale, American Express

Luisa Megale, Vice President of Public Affairs, Asia Pacific at American Express examines what makes a good communications professional and reflects on the challenges and opportunities confronting the industry this year

Why did you choose a career in communications?

“I like to talk but more importantly I like to listen. I like to persuade people that my argument is the best argument. I didn’t choose this career, it chose me.”

 What makes a good communications professional?

“I have been able to play a role in growing and shaping our business. The difference between good comms people and great comms people is commercial acumen, being able to understand the end result of what we do.”

What are the big internal challenges you face?

“In the past there were clear lines between brand, advertising, PR and marketing. You knew who your stakeholder was, where they were and what they did. That’s incredibly blurred now, so ownership of an area or process is less important than it was even two years ago; collaborating between functions to meet a customer or audience need is the end game ”

Are you adequately supported by management?

“We are no longer funded on a transactional project-by-project basis. We now seek budget on a thematic basis. We look market-by-market at the top two or three issues we want to move the dial-on. We then make the case for budget by issue not by project. We are in a good place with management.”

How have you responded to digital and integrated communications?

“We call it join the dots. It’s that simple. What you are saying in one part of the business must make sense in another part of the business. What you are saying in social must align with what you are saying in policy. It’s common sense but it’s harder to achieve across the business than you might think.”

Is traditional media declining in importance?

“It depends, a story in the Wall Street Journal is likely to be read by all of our investors. In India, newspapers are growing not declining. But your content has to be empathetic – individuals will decide how, where and when they get their content. So your message has to be relevant and consistent across channels.”

What do corporate communications and corporate affairs most need to know?

“You need to be able to write. It doesn’t matter if it’s only 140 characters. You need to make sense of what you’re trying to say. You need to understand the economic environment: if you do not know how your business makes money you are always going to be a function of marketing.”

And what else?

“To survive you don’t need to be the most intelligent, you need to be the most adaptable. You have to move from fixed strategic plans to operating by thematic principles. And there will always be too much to do. So manage your energy, not your time.”

Based in Sydney Luisa is responsible for 38 team members across communications and public affairs from New Zealand to India