Interview by Flavia Giovannelli for the newspaper “Entreprise Romande” of June 4, 2021.
Photo by Fred Merz, Monday 13.
After working in well-known communications agencies in Geneva, Elisabeth Tripod-Fatio continued her career at the canton’s economic promotion office, then at the State of Geneva’s general directorate for economic development, research and innovation. Finally, she founded her own company, de facto, three years ago. A long-held dream, which she enjoys every day, having found a kind of freedom that suits her.
Did you hesitate to leave the State in 2017, when your department was on a roll?
No, although some people thought I wasn’t making the right choice. Actually, I was involved in exciting projects until the end. The day I turned off my computer, I hadn’t found any clients for my business. I really started from scratch, except for my rather solid experience and the connections I had made over the years with people who were themselves in important positions. This made it easier to consider talking to them, since they knew my work. But I could also tell you that, when you are an entrepreneur, you are afraid every day or almost every day!
You have launched yourself into consulting and public relations, a field already well represented in Geneva.
The important thing is not the competition: everyone has their own niche. I’m not worried about that, there’s room for everyone. My approach is to rely on human relations, on knowing the client, on understanding his issues. Trust must be established; it is essential and is earned over time. Moreover, my experiences have given me a legitimacy in institutional communication. I am able to propose a complete strategy or to act on specific requests, while following protocols. You need real know-how. Ethics, too, are very important. In other words, this profession cannot be improvised, even if it is not regulated.
Does your agency have any areas of expertise?
The agency works on a variety of subjects and with very diverse clients, which makes the day-to-day work particularly rewarding. My list of clients includes Geneva’s professional associations, government institutions or even non-governmental organizations and multinationals, for which I offer a professional writing service in both French and English. I offer strategic thinking, “classic” internal and external communication, digital PR and press relations. I believe I was one of the first in Geneva to specialize in crisis communications. I have developed a module to be integrated with my clients, which focuses on the detection and preparation of a crisis, in order to be ready to communicate properly and effectively if it occurs.
Has the pandemic been an opportunity to put these notions into practice?
I hope so. In any case, I imagine that everyone took the opportunity to think strategically about their risk management abilities. As for me, I lost half of my clients overnight, those who wanted to stop everything, but I gained others in the process. Since then, I have never worked as hard as I did last year. I’m still convinced that you should always be one step ahead and I’ve been preparing for the end of the crisis since the beginning of the pandemic. In my opinion, it is better not to remain in a frightened position. I think that those who have been able to react and take measures will be stronger to face the future.
You have a client, the Union Maraîchère de Genève, which is playing a big role in the upcoming elections. How do you support them in such a case?
I am lucky that this client has a line based on a clear and honest positioning. Concerning fruits and vegetables production, we are extremely thorough about fact checking, in order to sort out what is true and what is not, because there are many misconceptions. We must not hesitate to repeat certain truths to avoid voting results based on incorrect reasons.
Our main goal is to convey the message that it is possible to eat healthy and local food thanks to environmentally friendly channels. A message that was very well understood during the pandemic, when we were forced to refocus on the essentials. In addition to reducing our carbon footprint, this generates jobs for local workers in ethical conditions.
How do you see yourself evolving?
I hope to continue to do what I enjoy. In three years, I have grown to a team of four employees (including myself). I don’t have the ambition to grow further, with the stress that this brings. However, I have complementary life projects or causes that are close to my heart. For example, the place of women in professional life and the possibility for them to have a career equal to men.