London calling

London calling

Shortly after landing at London’s Heathrow airport on a Monday at noon, I jump on the express train to Paddington station, then head underground to Bond Street and arrive at the Oriental Club in Stratford House. About 14 hours of travel from Vancouver through Frankfurt.

Home for the next three days is this iconic 200-year-old building that has long-welcomed those returning from India and the Far East.

I’m excited to be back in the U.K. London has the quick pulse of a sprinter in full flight, and my stays in the city are always filled with exciting people, cultural and gastronomical experiences.

Economic growth will continue
According to the OECD, London’s economic growth will continue at a robust pace, housing prices will continue to rise and unemployment will stay steady at a relatively low 5.5%.

After a quick shower and shave, I rush to No. 1 Aldwych to meet with an expert in corporate reputation. For some interesting insights on this topic, visit Oxford University’s Centre for Corporate Reputation. She’s well-known for advising the boards and executive committees of some of the world’s biggest companies. Our discussion centres on the process for measuring the value of communications. We also discuss a client’s interest in rebranding a local joint venture. It’s a complicated file, with a variety of legal and cultural implications. Later we talk about her potential involvement in an upcoming communications academy we are preparing for another client.

Next I take part in a conference call with a client in the U.S. We discuss budget estimates for a new training and development initiative geared to creating a “global communicator”, loosely defined as someone who has the skills, knowledge and behaviours required to succeed in a global communications. Many companies struggle to find strong storytellers who understand their company’s business while being able to work across borders.

Consulting strategy session
The following morning I meet with our senior advisor, Björn Edlund, who is widely recognized as a PR pioneer. Over a 20-year period, he supported 11 CEOs as head of corporate communications in three issues-rich multinationals, Royal Dutch Shell plc, ABB Ltd and Sandoz AG. He has also served as chairman, Europe, & CIS at Edelman.

Björn and I go back many years, to my first role in Europe in the 1990s with ABB Group. We’ve worked together in a variety of capacities ever since. Some of my fondest memories of corporate life are from working in multinational teams he’s assembled, as well as running along the shores of Montreux or seeking out a jazz bar in Beijing and New York.

We meet to discuss the year ahead and how we can better serve our clients in far flung markets like Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong, the U.K., Switzerland and the U.S. As usual, we cover a lot of ground, updating one another on old and new colleagues, planning a meeting in Sydney, discussing how best to position our services.

Energy sector hit by oil price declines
In the evening I meet with a friend and client for tapas near London Bridge, and discuss the challenges of working in the energy sector with low oil prices, then catch up with an old Hong Kong friend now living in Wimbledon with his young family.

The next morning I meet with a reputation management company we are working with. The CEO has prepared a demo of his corporate reputation tracking dashboard for a client of ours. We discuss how best to present the demo.

Over lunch I meet with an old friend from Beijing. A China expert, we discuss his cross-culture training programs, among other things, and investigate areas of potential collaboration.

The rise of low budget visual storytelling
Next I meet with a visual arts and film expert, formerly of the BBC, who is finding it hard to compete with young upstarts who are shooting low-quality video with basic technology. His visual storytelling skills are unparalleled, but budget constraints often trump experience. Our discussion reminds me of several clients have hired us to show them how to build a multimedia communications plan. We discuss Vine, Periscope, Facebook and Twitter, among other tools.

In the early evening I go for one of my favourite runs, around and through Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace, and back to the Oriental Club. The sun is going down and there is a fine mist in the air. It’s been a busy year, and I’m happy to reflect on both work and family. I remind myself to set the alarm for 3:45 am to start the journey back to Vancouver.

To learn more about how our business can help yours, please visit The Tantalus Group or contact the author.