Page is a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives and educators. It brings together a community of nearly 800 global leaders from the area and has continued to expand its reach beyond the United States. In Brazil, for example, both directors of Aberje, Paulo Nassar and Hamilton dos Santos, are members of Page and Page Up, respectively. Hamilton also holds the position of Country Chair of Brazil at Page. Though out the years the relationship between the two associations has grown and been quite beneficial.
During a recent event, Page presented a list of priorities for 2022 which will likely influence the actions of CCO’s in the coming year.
To discuss these priorities Aberje invited Brian Lott, CCO of Mubadala Investment Company and Chairman of the Board at Page. Since we were unable to schedule an interview during Brian’s brief stay in Brazil, we held a Zoom meeting between São Paulo and Abu Dhabi.
Brian is responsible for the stewardship of the Mubadala brand and management of the company’s corporate communications. He has worked in the communications industry for over 30 years, beginning his career in Washington, D.C., where he served as chief of staff, spokesman and campaign manager for two members of Congress.
Before joining Mubadala in 2009, Brian worked at the global public relations firm Burson-Marsteller for ten years, where he provided strategic guidance to the firm’s public affairs, corporate and technology clients.
I would like to begin by asking about your relationship with Page and why you became a member. Also, how does Page help you in your daily work?
Brian Lott: First of all, it’s a pleasure to be with you and to be a guest of Aberje. I just got back from almost a week in Rio and São Paulo. As always, it’s a pleasure to visit and to be in Brazil for a few days. I joined Page in 2013 as a member. I’ve been on the board for the last six years and just became chair in January. I’m privileged to represent about 750 communicators from around the world. What I have found most valuable about Page are really three things. First, it’s a network of expertise. We have professionals from all over the world who are chief communications officers, members of public relations agencies and academics who come together as a community to help each other and to share expertise. That to me is hugely valuable in informing how I do my work at Mubadala Investment Company. Second, there is a lot of thought leadership and knowledge in Page in terms of looking at the chief communications officer’s role within a corporation, how we add value and how we stay ahead of the curve. That has to do with everything from the reporting relationships inside an organization to the future, where we’re going, as a function and the importance of communications. And third, the value I get is not just for me alone, but for my team. There are initiatives like The Learning Lab, The Future Leaders Experience and Page Up. All of these really help support me because they strengthen my team; and I’m only as good as the people that can support me. So, the combination of those things makes Page special.
Among the priorities discussed at the last Page meeting there is the new criteria for diversity. What is the new criteria and how is Page connecting it with the DAA, the Diversity Action Alliance?
BL: That’s a great question. We have a particular emphasis on diversity because I think it’s our core philosophy as communicators that diversity is a strength, it’s not a weakness. So, we want to have as diverse a set of views as possible around the table. We have worked really hard to increase the level of diversity within Page, particularly the last five years, I would say, in terms of gender balance, in terms of representation of Latino, African American and also global. I’d like to remind people that on my team I’m the diverse one because my team is mostly made up of Arabic citizens from the United Arab Emirates and from the region – Egypt, Lebanon Iraq etc. So, diversity can mean different things in different parts of the world, but there’s no doubt that in the US there’s an urgency around diversity. Our diversity at Page is better but it’s not where I’d like it to be. We need to keep improving our representation as an organization that strives to be diverse because it’s only going to make us stronger. And working with the DAA, for us, is a great opportunity to both understand what diversity means and why it’s so important. So that work is going to continue under my leadership as chair.
What is the connection with the DAA? Is there an official agreement or are you just taking this path?
BL: The alliance is a partnership. Page plays a big role in that partnership, and it is a strong supporter of the DAA. We have regular communications with the Diversity Action Alliance in terms of leveraging. Carmella Glover is their leader. I was just at a meeting last week with the Page staff and she participated in both informing us as a team and playing a key role for our members. But also, helping us think through what diversity means and why it’s so important. You have seen Page take a leadership role in encouraging members to support the DAA, to sign the commitment to DAA in terms of diverse teams. And also levels of disclosure, where appropriate and where it’s legal, to share with DAA so we better understand what diversity means for organizations around the world.
One of the priorities is always the model of thinking internationally. We wanted to know what it stands for and how Brazil and other Latin American countries have a role in it.
BL: First of all, my home is in the United Arab Emirates, so I’m the first non-US based chair of Page. And for me that global perspective is extremely important because, while the US is a big market, it is becoming, as we see every day, a much more globally interconnected world from a news standpoint and also from a business standpoint. I can’t think of a single Page member that operates in isolation. Everyone is interconnected. Understanding what that means, particularly for a multinational company is really important. So, even if I’m based in São Paulo, I need to know what my stakeholders in the US, the UK or China and Japan are thinking. Similar to any other company located outside of Brazil that is operating within Brazil. To me, that global perspective is really key, so that you’re not just coming from a single point of view in any particular region. I think we have done a great job at Page at making Page more international in terms of its membership, but we’ve got a long way to go. We have huge economies, like the Brazilian economy, that are underrepresented in Page. I know that Hamilton and others have worked very hard to increase representation in the region. But also, all across Latin America you have significant companies that are doing business all over the world, who have a perspective that would be tremendously valuable for the rest of Page members to hear. While our international representation is significant, around 20%, I’d like to see that double in the next few years so that we really become a more global organization.
Bringing members together is also on the list of priorities. What is the thinking at Page about in person meetings now that they are more possible? And how does this reflect on internationalization at Page.
BL: What the last two and half years have taught us is that we can actually interact as a community, as a global community, without having to be together in person. Just as we’re doing this interview now between two continents and two time zones. But that to me is still not the ideal situation. One of the most valuable things I think about with any association, but Page in particular, is that ability to see Hamilton in person, have coffee together and spend time getting to know each other outside of the formal confines of a Page conference. I ran the annual conference in Washington DC last fall. It was our first conference back together in two years, since the 2019th annual conference in Boston. It was great to see everyone. It was a reminder of how important it is, just as human beings to be together and to share in person. We’ve done as good a job as we can to keep everyone safe; as we’re thinking through the Spring seminar in April and the annual conference in September this year, just to make sure we take all precautions that are appropriate. But I really pushed last year to try to do things in person. It may become a feature of Page conferences that we have to have a kind of hybrid presentation because the pandemic is not going to go away anytime soon. Different countries are going to be at different levels of challenges in terms of keeping people safe and travel restrictions. So, I think for 2022, at least, we’ll see a sort of hybrid approach. I would love it if people would feel comfortable to make the effort to come to the conferences in person because I think that makes a big difference.
You also have Page Up. What are the plans for it and how is that project going?
BL: Page Up has been a huge success. Its numbers have increased significantly over the last three years, I would say, for two reasons. One is, everyone realizes that Page Up is an organization that is vital to Page. These are very senior communicators. They may not be the chief communications officer, but they play extremely important roles within their organizations. They often have a different and a very important perspective to bring to the table. I think Page is all the better and stronger because of Page Up. I was with Steve Halsey, who’s the Page up chair for 2022, last week. He’s got ambitious plans to grow the organization and to make it more international. And what’s really interesting about the Page Up is that there are certain regions around the world where the chief communications officer may not report to the CCO or may not qualify for what’s called a technical Page membership. So, you have the most senior communications professional within Page Up. It’s a very interesting organization that makes Page that much more dynamic and that much more interesting to me. I think what we’ll see, this year and next, is a much closer working relationship between Page and Page Up because we’re all part of the same family.
Do you think the situation with Russia and the Ukraine will have an immediate effect on communicators? Does it change anything for us? Why should we be concerned about this conflict now?
BL: Any conflict anywhere is of concern, obviously, just from a human standpoint. As a global company and as an organization that represents companies doing business all over the world, of course we’re going to be impacted. Not only because we bring our sensibilities to the job in terms of keeping an eye on politics and the political situation in every country, particularly, given the dynamics of the current geopolitical environment. But I think there’s also an obvious disruption to business, whether you are in the supply chain of shipping, if you’re in aviation or any sort of communication. We’ve got colleagues in Russia. We know companies that we work with in Ukraine, so it’s obviously a tremendous concern. I think communicators take a very special view on the news. We watch the news carefully and were managing our executives around global issues. While I’d like to hope that this conflict would end soon, that is to be seen. We’ve seen other conflicts around the world take time and impact business. I think we just have to understand what our role is, as businesses, and where we can make a difference and where we can make an impact. We’ve certainly seen that over the last two years during the pandemic. In almost all parts of the world businesses have stepped up and the business community has stepped up to offer support and help. Whether that’s been in healthcare delivery, whether it’s been innovation around pharmaceuticals or supply chain relief. It used to be that business would sit back and watch these geopolitical situations from a distance. I don’t think that’s the case anymore and I don’t think that will be the case now and going forward.