In Conversation with Silvia Arto

In this exclusive interview with Reputation Today, Silvia Arto discusses the importance of collective and individual positive impact of all stakeholders. Silvia has spent over a decade at BNP Paribas leading global communications, and is the Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management.

During her recent visit to India for the World PR Forum, Hemant Gaule, Dean of the School of Communications and Reputation got a chance to interview Silvia Arto.

Hemant Gaule: A few months ago you announced your new role as a Positive Impact Enthusiast at BNP Paribas. Could you share some specific ways you plan to bring a positive impact to your teams, clients, and the company in your new role at BNP Paribas, especially in the context of sustainable transformation?

Silvia Arto: This announcement was made under a global communication campaign we launched at BNP Paribas. We encouraged our employees to explain their job in an unexpected manner. As far as I am concerned, beyond my classic job as Head of Communications, Positive Impact Enthusiast reflects my personal mission. Positive enthusiast because of my Spanish culture, as I am naturally positive and I try to overcome difficulties with a smile. I strive to provide positive impact to my teams, helping them to work and grow. To my clients, supporting them to achieve their objectives. To my company, contributing to sustainable transformation having a positive impact on society.

Beyond my company, I aim to have a positive impact regarding women’s leadership with the Spanish Executives women’s Club that I founded and chair, highlighting inspiring leading women and connecting them to share, support and enrich each other in a friendly atmosphere. I provide positive impact on communications as global vice-president of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communications Management and as board member of the 1st PR French association COM-ENT defending our profession and raising communication standards. I also endeavour to inspire young generations as an individual mentor and a class sponsor at ISCOM, a Marketing and Communication leading French school. I combine all of this with my most important positive impact role, that of a mum of two.

HG: Given your new role as a Positive Impact Enthusiast at BNP Paribas, your involvement with organisations like the Club de Ejecutivas Españolas and the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, as well as your responsibilities as a parent, could you share your strategies for successfully managing these diverse commitments and ensuring a positive impact in your professional and personal life?

SA: The keys of managing these different commitments are good organisation, teamworking, empowerment and passion.

First, planification is essential. With the help of my PA, my agenda is structured to commit to my daily job at the bank and the management of my teams.

Second, it is important to have a clear vision and be assured that people who work with you are aligned. I am convinced that together we are stronger and cooperating in the same direction can multiply results beyond expectations. It is a question of trust, commitment, empowerment and sharing responsibilities. This is how I work at the bank, in my women’s club and at Global Alliance.

Finally, when you do things with passion, you don’t count the hours as the time spent becomes a pleasurable activity. Passion and pleasure are contagious. Being enthusiastic and taking pleasure in what we do positively influence people around you.

HG: Considering the evolving digital age and the dynamic media landscape, what key skills and knowledge areas do you believe PR education programs should prioritise to equip students for success while maintaining ethical communication practices?

SA: I had the pleasure to debate on this at the WPRF 2023 in Chennai, India. To me, collaboration between academics and corporates is the key to success. I think that we need to bring students in the corporate world and professionals in the academic world in order to match expectations with the corporate needs. This is possible through internships and alternative work/school programs where students are fully integrated in the company’s teams while studying at the school. This is successful in France. On the other side, I believe that professionals should always integrate the schools programs to teach, share experiences and concrete business use cases in order to inspire and to provide higher practical education. And professionals also get inspiration back from students: when I teach, it obliges me to understand the Gen Z world, their questions and comments are source of inspiration. 

Regarding communication practices, let’s keep in mind that Communication is a strategic function. We need good young prepared professionals who are able to understand and deal with strategic topics. We also need experts in new fields like artificial intelligence, new tech, social media influencing, Data… to help us to understand the latest evolutions and bring us new ideas. Ethical education is essential to fight against misleading information. School should always teach students to act with integrity to maintain trust and reputation as reputation is business. Finally, I value highly motivated, creative and reliable young professionals, who able to manage projects from A to Z in a collaborative way.

HG: In your view, what specific strategies or practices can managers implement to ensure that team members have a clear understanding of their roles, maintain a healthy work-life balance, and foster positive relationships within the team, all contributing to individual well-being?

SA: I wrote several articles on this topic where I give my managerial point of view, particularly on Diversity and Inclusion, Team Well Being, and Transformation of Communication.  

One of my greatest learning experiences as a manager has been the importance of regular moments of sharing, information and exchanges with the teams. One-on-one, team meetings, as well as friendly get-togethers are essential for maintaining the quality of relationships. In addition to monitoring and driving forward projects, these are moments to say things, call for help if necessary, recognise the employee and reflect together on how to improve collective performance. During team meetings, setting up rules of collective intelligence proves useful to better free up open speech. With healthy and transparent exchanges, a real collective dynamic is established which brings coherence of values, actions and team cohesion.

The quality of a team’s well-being depends, in my opinion, on the quality of the relationships between its members and their ability to act and express themselves without fear of making mistakes or being judged. It is the manager’s responsibility to create a safe environment within the team where, for example, language is factual, based on the observation of facts and non-judgmental. If this dynamic is well established, employees will want to maintain it. The well-being of all naturally becomes a collective responsibility. Everyone feels a key contributor to it and responsible for maintaining it in the team. The well-being of the team is the basis for sustainable performance.

HG: As the Global Vice President of the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, can you share your expertise on promoting women’s leadership and advancing the field of public relations? What advice would you offer to individuals aspiring to similar roles?

SA: The Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management plays a key role in advancing on the field of public relations as it embodies: 1/ Diversity with an incredible Comms network from all races, cultures, regions all over the world. 2/ Learning and Inspiration from high level professionals sharing about our stakes regarding brand, reputation, crisis mgt, clients & employees advocacy. 3/ Collective work to raise professional standards, help each other and create the future of Comms.

I created the Global Alliance Trends and Transformation month to analyse how the Communications industry is transforming globally. It is the moment where the world’s PR professionals share their thoughts on key trends transforming our industry and shake up our ways of working and thinking. For instance, the effects of the pandemic and other crisis, the influence of artificial intelligence and big data, the remote working environment, the impact of fake news and social media disinformation… The role of communications evolves, we need to adapt and advance our skills.

I chair the European region at Global Alliance composed of nearly 30 leading PR European associations and academics. This year we launched the very first European Summit in Lisbon who gathered high level European experts. We addressed key topics impacting our profession like the Future of work, AI, Ethics, Sustainability… actually, at Global Alliance, every month we address global reflections on PR topics.

I encourage students and professionals to keep learning and join PR associations in their countries to look and think beyond their organisations, make new contacts to share, learn and be inspired.

HG: Drawing from your extensive leadership experience at BNP Paribas and your involvement in organisations like the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, what key lessons have you learned about fostering team well-being, effective communication, and leveraging transferable skills across diverse sectors for career success?

SA: In our ever permanent crisis environment, Corporate social responsibility is at the heart of the companies and communication strategies. Commitment is the differentiation factor of choice for customers, employees, candidates, investors and all stakeholders. People tend to choose the most responsible product, service or committed company. Organisations have a key role to play to promote diversity and help to solve social and environmental issues. Comms professionals’ mission is to promote the usefulness and sustainability of organisations, not in a green washing manner but based on concrete initiatives and proofs. Communication can contribute to a better world by developing sustainable and purpose-driven communications.

The responses above are from Silvia Arto as shared with Hemant Gaule.

Hemant Gaule
Hemant is an education leader based in Mumbai, India, and is passionate about education, policy, and media. After graduating from the Indian Institute of Management -Ahmedabad, he has counselled several private, social, political & government initiatives. He was a Co-founder & Director of Citizens of Accountable Governance, a team that spearheaded the national election campaign of India’s current Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi in 2014. After that, he has Co-founded (and is Dean of) India’s only institute dedicated to education and research in public relations – School of Communications & Reputation. In 2019 he became the first Indian to be conferred as a Fellow Accredited Public Relations Practitioners by ASEAN PR Network. In 2022, he was named among 40 Young Turks of India by Reputation Today Magazine. He can be reached at @HemantGaule on Twitter.

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