The end of January is a key milestone in the calendar of global business leaders as they prepare to descend upon a small Swiss ski resort. Each year debates at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos become key drivers of newspaper columns and broadcast slots across the international news media. Many communications leads are currently preparing their plans for Davos, but how can they ensure that their companies will be heard?
Within a single week, over 3,000 participants from business, government, civil society and the media will attend around 350 sessions, thus it is hard to stand out from the crowd. Business leaders at least have a fighting chance this year as most political heavy-hitters are skipping 2019’s gathering to focus on their respective domestic agendas or crises: Trump, Xi Jinping, Modi, Macron and May have all elected to stay home.
Therefore, it is up to the business community, which largely funds this conference at great expense, to make the most of this opportunity.
The theme of this year’s meeting is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” which is an interesting juxtaposition against the acute domestic issues facing WEF’s absent political leaders.  But how to make your content relevant to global issues and the performance of your own business whilst still being interesting and timely? This is the over-riding challenge for business attendees’ communications practitioners.
Here are a few steps I recommend in order to get cut-through:

  1. Pick the right theme for you

Each business should commit the time to prepare their own thematic content with the following criteria being used to whittle down the possibilities. Does your theme:

  • Support your business goals, brand and purpose?
  • Fit with your spokesperson’s passions and interests?
  • Differentiate yourself from competitors?
  • Have the ability to be a cross-industry and multi-market issue?
  • Allow you to gain traction in the global news agenda?
  • Generate action from yourself or others?

If your chosen theme is answering yes to all of the above, then you are up and running.

  1. Are you using the right spokesperson?

Given the expense of attending Davos, businesses tend to be represented by their CEO or Chair, but this may not be best person. The conference is generally dominated by older white men, with the organizers confirming that women account for only 22% of 2019’s participants.
Thus, there is plenty to be gained from carefully considering representative selection. Sending an eloquent, engaging and empowered – but perhaps unusual – ambassador who can truly articulate the direction and vision of your business can help you cut through the noise.

  1. Have you invested enough in your publishing strategy?

With so much crammed into a single week, it is prudent to remember that your communications function can extend the life of your content beyond the day of your contribution. So much time and effort are rightly invested into speeches and panels, but is the same being done to ensure your content reaches key audiences outside the ski resort?
It is not nearly enough to have some nicely designed tweets go live during a speech. Businesses should commit to a multi-channel communications push, targeting as much of your wider audience as possible across a series of days and weeks. At the very least, this includes pre-briefing embargoed stories and being willing to give colorful and insightful views on external developments.

Now I know Davos is not to everyone’s liking and its elitist navel-gazing reputation is sometimes deserved, but it can be a great kickstart to your year. The World Economic Forum in Davos is a platform of the highest level – just please don’t rely on the WEF to help you plough through the snow.