Andrii Suslenko, Chief Communications Officer, shares his insights into the importance of a robust communications function, how to build a communications team from the ground up and the key communications issues as we look to the year ahead.
The lifeblood of any business
Communication underpins all of a company’s stakeholder relationships and interactions. From an internal perspective, strong communication is critical for employee engagement and cultivating positive company culture, and externally, it defines a company’s brand and influences reputation. The key takeaway is that the importance of communications to the success of a business cannot be overstated.
At Parimatch we owe much of our brand’s growth over the past two years to our communications strategy, which has been designed and executed to make sure that we stand out from the crowd. In the betting industry, there can be a tendency for operators to be reserved and defensive in their communications because of sensitivities around gambling. We take a different approach, which is to be as proactive as possible about amplifying our initiatives and successes to boost our brand and drive forward the business.
Driving awareness, deepening trust
On a fundamental level, the mission of the communications team at Parimatch is to positively influence opinions of the Company. More specifically, we are working to ensure that our communications are clear and honest, to improve understanding, enhance transparency and build trust. This applies to both our internal and external communication strategies, and we are already seeing the results of our efforts. There is greater understanding of Parimatch amongst our key stakeholders and what we stand for as a business externally, as well as more increased engagement and open interaction within the Company. These are two important performance indicators as we evaluate the impact of our communications.
Behind every great communications strategy, is a great communications team
A communications plan is only as good as its delivery, and even then it is sometimes necessary to deviate from the plan and make quick, on the spot decisions. This high flexibility and quick judgment distinguishes a great communications team from a good communications team. I kept this front of mind when I built Parimatch's communications department from scratch in 2018 to support the Company's ambition of becoming a globally known brand. From the vacancies in Parimatch stage to the final interview, I looked for durable, intelligent, dynamic, enthusiastic, capable professionals and, importantly, people who reflected the Company's values. Together as a team, we have cultivated a bold, dynamic and open brand that people recognize globally.
Aligning (and balancing) marketing and communications
We have an aggressive marketing strategy at Parimatch, and all of our marketing campaigns are designed to surprise and entertain in equal measure. Our marketing activities have typically been brand ambassador-led, with some of the world’s greatest sporting icons betting their name on Parimatch – from Mike Tyson to Conor McGregor. More recently, we have ramped up our marketing even further by sponsoring top-flight football teams, including Juventus, Everton and Leicester, as well as La Liga. These partnerships have elevated the Parimatch brand to a new level, enabling us to reach audiences around the world. Our communications approach has been to leverage these marketing activities to connect with and engage media. To do this, we have had to work closely alongside the marketing team, to ensure we are aligned and complementing their campaigns, whilst not relying on them creatively to create media interest.
Championing communications from the top
The most effective communications strategies are those which are supported by senior management, namely those who represent the business externally. It is therefore essential to get the buy-in of the executive team to ensure consistent, clear, confident – and convincing - communications. It is also important for leaders to build communication At Parimatch, management are not only supportive of our communications strategy but play a very active role through speaking roles, thought leadership, event participation and their social media platforms. By involving management in the development of our strategy and placing them at the centre of communications activities, our communications both carry weight and resonate.
How to improve communication in a team
Effective communication within teams is essential to productivity and quality of work. However, great communication within a team does not necessarily happen overnight, it is built over time and is a continuous process. To build communication within a team and between teams, a structured and formal approach works best. For example, establishing the main communication method and setting KPIs to make it clear what needs to be communicated, to whom and how regularly means that communication becomes a key component of project management and evaluation. At Parimatch we prioritize communication in team building by offering training and exercises which are focused specifically on strengthening communication skills.
The future is… digital
COVID-19 brought the world even more online than ever before. The thrust into the confines of our homes, communication became more critical than ever for keeping people connected and engaged. Although everyone was quick to adapt, with meetings shifted to Zoom and in-person events made virtual, there was an information overload. Indeed, it became difficult to know which events were worth logging on to. As social distancing remains in place for the foreseeable, many large-scale events will continue to take place virtually, if at all. This means impactful and creative digital communications are going to be more important than ever in order to gain attention and boost engagement.
With remote working also expected to continue into 2021, maintaining effective internal communications will also be a challenge. We have learnt over this past year that creating as many opportunities for employees to gather (virtually) and enjoy some light relief is essential to engagement and job satisfaction. That is why at Parimatch, we are constantly thinking about new ways to facilitate conversation between employees as well as entertainment – from Town Halls with our CEO to day-long events jam-packed with motivational speakers, such as PM GO.