François Ramaget: Founder, Gootenberg

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Bio: Francois Ramaget founded Gootenberg in 2008. A former engineer turned to communication consulting, Francois has been working in the PR sector for the past 20 years. Since 95, he was General Manager & Senior advisor for reputed PR network branch offices - Harvard PR, TBWA Corporate and Grayling - he developed PR strategies and conducted campaigns for key players in the B to B and public sectors.

How did you get into the industry?

Being an engineer – which is not the standard cursus for a position in the communication business - I had the opportunity to get into the PR industry in the mid-90s, when US technology companies started to implement PR programs in Western Europe. The first Tech PR agencies were looking for specific profiles then, for candidates having the ability to translate their message for a non-technical audience. I used to work for big names at that time - Novell, Lotus software or IBM PC company. And then came the dot com wave, and the dot com boom … After that period, I did enrich my experience by moving from Tech to Corporate PR but I still think that technology is one of the most exciting sectors for PR professionals - as you really need there to understand and educate, which are the basic skills for a successful PR approach.

Any emerging industry trends?

It’s not a secret, the PR market did drastically change over the last ten years: shrinking media space, journalists’ death by press release, influence shifting from mass media to digital channels, these are the key trends questioning the PR industry. But the role of media is still predominant as the general public now has more and more access to traditional media through social media. To summarize this phenomenon, influence is now built on a complex system, mixing content, media and digital presence.

Any industry opportunities or challenges?

The biggest PR challenge is to understand the complexity of the news ecosystem. And the ability to guide companies in the right direction. PR is not any more about press releases and clippings’ volume. Key questions are highly strategic: How to allocate budgets? What should be my brand content strategy? And what are the metrics to implement?

The other challenge is to find the right people - to deliver this new type of PR service. Agencies need to rely on diversified profiles. Digital strategists, infographics professionals, community managers are additional talents needed to reinforce the media relations expertise. Attracting and retaining this new generation is a tough challenge for an industry that has got the reputation of a discreet consulting job.

Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?

The name of the agency I founded, Gootenberg, speaks for itself. By mixing the name of the inventor of the printing machine with the brand name of a famous search engine, we just intend a new way of doing PR!

Gootenberg process is based on media and digital analysis first – so as to better target; defining and producing relevant content; leveraging legacy media and social media channels to spread corporate messages. And measuring.  At the end of the day, we want to be clearly efficient in a new unified media space: Major press articles rank high in search engines and are fuel for SEO; the same way, good media stories are the most shared on social channels…

What's next for the Business in the near future?

At agency level, we are to better market our innovative approach to PR. Our exclusive ACCES ® method (Analysis, Content, Execution, Success) is to be the core of our communication strategy for the months to come. We’ve been using - and improving - it for some years now but I’d think we did not insist enough on the strength of the method.

Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?

International partnerships are key for our success here. Belonging to the IPREX global network gives us regular opportunities to pitch for foreign brands. The same way, more and more local businesses need to communicate abroad - and we are able to serve them through a solid international network of recognized PR professionals.

Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)

Though common in our industry, losing a large account is a tough experience we’ve been through a couple of times… But you need to recover. You learn then by analyzing what could have been done better - and you go ahead by keeping your belief in the value of your market proposal.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?

Let me take an example. We used to work a for a large international confectionery manufacturer that had no experience in PR. They were heavy users of TV advertising to push sales, but they had never thought that PR could bring them anything … until they were hit by several crises.  By analyzing what they were doing in their business – on top of chocolate products – we discovered they had plenty of positive stories to tell, in terms of innovation, HR policy or sponsorship programs. All these were hidden and we advised them to implement a structured communication plan around these topics.

And that worked well. In 4 years’ time, this company radically improved the control of the media buzz: They get more 10,000 media mentions a year and more than 50% is now linked to official content they do distribute, compared to 10% four years ago. Our advice and process were the right ones.

Delivering the right analysis and executing the right plan will always be a pleasure, both for agency and client.

How do you motivate others?

Motivating is a tough challenge. I think that money can be useful, with a clear bonus system linked to revenue. But money is not everything. I think that proposing training courses is a very good incentive as people understand they are improving for their career.

Career advice to those in your industry?

Be curious!  And spend 30 minutes a day in reading selected information sources as the media space is evolving every minute.

And you need to understand what is there that can shape new communication strategies... Successful messages and channels reflect an everchanging reality. Video killed the radio stars. Professional Youtubers did not exist 5 years ago and they are now established opinion leaders. Most media believed Hillary was to be elected and Trump won with a strong anti-system positioning - that was in line with a majority’s expectations. Is political correctness to become old-fashioned? Will Snapchat become a real communication channel? Months to come will tell. And you need to take a careful look.