Partners abroad: a conversation with German agency navos
From international projects such as Euregiorail to clients active in different countries such as Thalys. Bijl PR’s work often transcends national borders. To help our clients tell their story outside of the Netherlands as well, we are happy to rely on the help of our international colleagues from the Global Communications Alliance. A worldwide network of like-minded, independent agencies with together many years of experience in communication, PR and public affairs. In the blog series ‘Partners abroad’ we talk to our partners about the profession. What characterizes communication and PR in the UK, India or Canada? In the first edition we travel to Germany. We talk to Markus Hilse, founder of navos public dialogue consultants and chairman of the Global Communication Alliance.
Based in Berlin, Düsseldorf and Hamburg, navos specializes in corporate communication, public relations and public affairs. They work for companies and organizations from the energy and environmental sector, but also have a lot of experience in the telecommunications and financial sector. “As long as it involves complex communication challenges, we like it,” says Markus. Navos and Bijl PR have been working closely together for years. We are currently joining forces to help Euregiorail realize the new direct rail connection between Zwolle and Münster. We also support Tennet in communicating about the network connections of offshore wind farms in the Netherlands and Germany, which should provide 40% of the Dutch electricity needs by 2030.
Today the conversation is about something other than our mutual clients. We are starting with a topic that we cannot ignore in 2022. Indeed, the pandemic that has impacted the way of working worldwide. Although navos was used to working partly digitally with customers all over Germany, the pandemic also turned their way of working upside down. The work went well, but the employees lacked the mutual dynamics. Markus: “Starting the week on Monday morning with a cup of coffee in the kitchen and catching up on the weekend, that was no longer an option. But soon other things took its place. Such as online standups and our ‘Lunch and Learn’ workshops, an internal knowledge hour in which a colleague or external expert gave a crash course on a certain topic.” Navos wants to be flexible when it comes to working in the office. That is why the fixed workplaces are converted into flexible spaces. “There is no use in working at the office if you’re on video calls all day. Our offices are now meeting places for quality time with colleagues, ideal for brainstorming sessions or other interactive meetings,” says Markus.
Fake news, what can we do about it?
Another topic that we cannot ignore is ‘fake news’. A major challenge that communication professionals worldwide have to deal with. Because with all the information that can be found online, there is also a lot of misinformation going around. Navos sees an important role for us as communication professionals in combating fake news. “Fake news is a threat to everyone. That is why as an agency we have established ethical standards that we stick to. We do not operate in a gray area and, for example, do not create fake accounts on social media. Our customers know that too,” Markus says. Navos trains its staff and customers to recognize and combat fake news in their daily activities, using special social media tools.
Let’s talk about the future
Trends are a topic that always plays a role in the communication world. From what is going on in society to the trends in our field, as communication professionals we deal with this every day. And we also look at the future: which trends are here to stay and what can we expect? Navos thinks that in the next two years we will see more of mobile, moving images and a combination of these two trends. Markus: “I think long stretches of text are a thing of the past. That raises the question; what other formats exist for sharing information? We think of infographics, photos and videos. You can already see that on websites that are being made now. The attention for videos is also growing enormously on social media.” Nevertheless, according to Markus, it still remains a challenge to convince customers of the added value of videos, because it is a more valuable resource than text.
Bureaucracy as the biggest challenge
It may be a bit like comparing apples with oranges, because every country has its own standards, values and customs. But we are curious to find out what characterizes PR and communication in Germany. Markus only needs one word: bureaucracy. “Processes are often slow. Certainly in the many environmental communication projects that we carry out for customers in the energy sector. Every organization wants a say, from NGOs to politics.” Another characteristic is that the work is very local. Markus: “Germany is huge and with clients spread all over the country, our consultants have to travel a lot. Especially when it comes to environmental communication, the work takes place on location. And we communicate largely offline. People still prefer a real conversation to an online meeting.”
Finding your own way
We end this conversation by asking what was the best advice Markus ever received from a colleague. Markus: “I think I ignored most of the ‘good’ advice and mostly found my own way. At the same time, of course, I am still learning every day from the people I work with – including our friends from the Global Communications Alliance.” We could not have described it better, thanks to Markus Hilse and navos.