On Top of the Game

On Top of the Game

Newmont’s new communications chief on how social media is transforming the way companies communicate
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Ricardo Adame

Group Executive, Global Communications,
Newmont Mining
Aaron Rosenberg

Chief for Public Affairs,
IFC
With 20 years of experience working in corporate communications for technology companies such as Microsoft, Ricardo Adame took a bold step last summer by becoming the new head of communications for one of the world’s biggest mining companies: Newmont. With the enthusiasm of a newcomer to the mining industry and the long-standing experience of a veteran in the communications field, Adame explains how extractive companies can stay on top of their game as the communications landscape evolves.

You have been working in corporate communications for 20 years now. What has changed in how companies handle communications today?

Social media has completely changed the rules of the game. The evolution of the digital world allows you to tell your story on your own terms in real time. You also have the opportunity to engage in constructive dialogues with key stakeholders. That way, you can drive communications instead of simply reacting to events.

We have moved from traditional public relations to more sophisticated and integrated approaches. Take press releases for example. They may still be an important tool, but for many industries they have become irrelevant. Big announcements today primarily come through blog posts from CEOs and CFOs. At the same time, some of the most influential journalists are leaving their jobs and starting to play an important role as leading bloggers.

New digital communications platforms also allow you to track and analyze where you stand scientifically. You can no longer rely solely on only tracking media articles. You must monitor the conversations that are trending across all social media. You have to clarify misunderstandings and address reputational risks quickly.

How is Newmont adjusting its communications approach to the new world order?

The mining industry has traditionally been more conservative than many when it comes to external communications. It is an industry that, on a daily basis, operates in particularly sensitive environments. It is also an extremely sophisticated industry and does a lot for communities, but has been shy about communicating this.

Newmont has become much more open about sharing its stories. For instance, we have an incredible record on safety. We need to tell that story better.

Overall, we want to increase our brand recognition as an industry leader—primarily by engaging more actively with all key stakeholders, including investors, government officials, local communities, and NGOs. You also need third party voices and supporters. You must engage industry analysts and experts, who serve as the watchdogs for the industry. These stakeholders require very different levels of engagement—for example, local, regional, national, or international—but they are all critical in influencing our business and shaping our brand.

If there was one piece of advice on communications you could give, what would it be?

In today’s social media and digital environment, if you do not tell your stories yourself, somebody else will tell them on your behalf. And, in many cases, the way other people will tell your story will be inaccurate, speculative, or misleading. So you need to actively engage and use all possible new platforms and vehicles such as blogs, social media, and digital content like infographics, photos, slides, videos, and podcasts.

Those of us in large companies know how difficult it is to get messages cleared and out in a timely manner, but we must learn how to respond quicker.

Some companies still primarily rely on media relations. But you have to have a much more sophisticated and integrated approach. You need to constantly share all the good things that are happening within your company and your industry.

What has impressed you in terms of a very creative or innovative communications practice in the industry?

Organizations like ICMM and the World Gold Council do a great job in terms of communications but also take it to the next level by creating some really interesting content, such as white papers, studies and reports, often in collaboration with third parties. They offer great validated data which they share through appropriate channels such as events, media briefings, videos, infographics, and blogs. This is definitely a best practice example.

About Newmont and IFC:
Newmont and IFC have worked together since 1993. IFC has provided $42 million in loans and mobilized additional financing to the Newmont-operated Yanacocha gold mine in Peru, while offering related advice on SME development and community engagement. IFC has also provided a $75 million loan to the Ahafo gold mine in Ghana (also operated by Newmont) and has advised the company on estimating the financial return of community investments.

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