The Malta Independent 24 April 2019, Wednesday

A capital steeped in culture ? Capital fueled by culture

Thursday, 8 November 2018, 10:52 Last update: about 7 months ago

Switch hosts prestigious ICOM meeting in Malta

Inspired by the designation of its host city as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, the ICOM network of independent advertising and marketing communication agencies met in Malta for their EMEA regional meeting which made the juxtaposition of "culture" and "capital" as the centrepiece of the agenda.

Hosted by ICOM member Switch, one of Malta's leading marketing agencies, the meeting incorporated sessions that explored how a company's capital depends on its people and therefore company culture is essential for businesses to keep in mind. The meeting served as an opportunity for ICOM members to come together to meet and share experiences, successful initiatives and ideas for enrichment in order to stay at the top of their game.

"Since our city was honoured as the European Capital of Culture for 2018, we felt compelled to host this important meeting for ICOM and equally important to focus on Culture as our theme," said Richard Muscat Azzopardi, Switch CEO. "A great company culture is the one factor that helps make companies and agencies more attractive to top talent. It's very pertinent to us as an agency because we help our clients work on company culture as part of our brand consultancy."

In an innovative move, a first in ICOM's 67 years of annual meetings, Switch opted to extend the reach of the meeting to non-ICOM members through two panel discussions. As Muscat Azzopardi explained: "We were going to have some of the top global minds in the marketing industry on our island, so we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to have them share some of their knowledge with our clients and local industry leaders."

Two topics were discussed by separate panels, both led by the executive director of ICOM Emma Keenan and Group chief executive of Golley Slater David Longden.

The first panel delved into The Capital in Culture ‒ an exploration of the value of company culture in talent acquisition and retention. A heated discussion between panellists and the audience highlighted the fact that company culture is like a giant game of Jenga, with all the fancy perks right at the top. Beanbags and billiard tables are all given great visibility because they're easy wins, but if they're not resting on the foundation of clear goals, aligned leadership and employee ownership, it will all come tumbling down in no time.

The second panel explored Changing Cultures. Participants here weighed in on how to keep up with ever-changing cultures and how to get clients on board when you do. The internet, social media, smartphones, AI and the Internet of Things have all turned storytelling upside-down and taken us back to a more intimate, one-to-one form of conversation.

Hearing differing opinions on this from leaders in different verticals, including gaming, retail, real estate, tech and F&B among others, was both inspiring and thought-provoking.

One of the participants, David Longden, ICOM Europe Regional director International Operations and Group CEO, Golley Slater London said: "A strong company brand that has real appeal and ownership works best when all employees understand and buy into what their company does, its purposes and goals, and how those are carried out by every member of the team as guided by company culture. The key words are "every member" ‒ all of us must walk the walk all the time, every time. Any time one of us lets this slip, our culture becomes weaker."

The three-day event also included panel debates and guest speakers, including Ed Muscat Azzopardi, Switch director of Brand, who spoke about the importance of brand for company culture and Marc von Brockdorff, co-founder of Hotjar, who spoke on how Hotjar managed to foster company culture in an organisation that works exclusively with remote employees.

Another panel participant Christophe Levyfve, ICOM Europe regional director Internal Operations and owner-CEO, Netco Group, spoke about the challenges in fostering a consistent culture when working with staff in three different cities.

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