‘If there isn’t a war on, the economy is the only story’

The trade magazine C of Logeion, the Dutch professional association for communication professionals, interviewed our director Marina Millington-Ward for its cover story. The author of the interview is Wim Datema, and the photos were taken by Eran Oppenheimer.

With Logeion’s permission, we were allowed to publish the interview below. The Dutch original can be found below the English translation. To see the full feature and pictures click here.

French IT company Sopra Steria is acquiring Dutch Ordina for €518 million. The Pharming shares made a 33 per cent jump in price as a second drug from the Leiden-based biotech company has been allowed to enter the US market. The European Commission comes to the rescue of European consumers with an attack on greenwashing.

These are just a few headlines from Het Financieele Dagblad in March 2023. They touch on the profession of financial communication. A world in which Marina Millington-Ward feels like a fish in water. We talk to her about what is still uncharted territory for many of her colleagues.

Millington-Ward is co-founder and co-owner of agency Stampa, specialising in financial and corporate communications and is based in Amsterdam, London and Brussels. From the beginning, her career has been all about financial communications. With a degree in Law – supplemented by a top degree in Economics – in her pocket, she managed to fulfil a dream in 1995 and started working as a financial reporter at Bloomberg. The company is renowned worldwide for its economic reporting and information. After that, Millington-Ward’s roles included head of Investor Relations at Buhrmann, financial analyst at Deutsche Bank and journalist/economics coordinator for NOS news broadcast.

Being where the action is

Asked why she is so drawn to financial communications, Millington-Ward quotes Mike Bloomberg: ‘If there is no war, economics is the only story’. It may sound a little overblown she says, but, “I’ve seen at NOS that it’s really true. And I like to be where the action is, so with my economics and journalism background and analytical mindset, a career in financial communications makes pretty good sense. Follow the numbers if you really want to know how things are. That’s what I do.” Returning briefly to the start of her career, Millington-Ward emphasises how important a good mentor has been for her. In her case, that was James Ludden of Bloomberg London. “At Bloomberg, I was thrown to the wolves. But James knew a lot about complicated financial topics, and I was able to spend a lot of time with him, which was golden.”

Naming pain points

With Stampa, Millington-Ward helps companies communicate their financial-economic development or developments with financial impact. The four founders were driven by their experience in financial journalism when they started the agency 15 years ago. “We saw that financial communication could be better. Less focus on output, such as press releases and presentations, but more on the process leading up to it. The biggest added value you can offer as a consultant in this profession is seeing and naming pain points earlier than others. To do so, you have to dare to ask the right questions.” Incidentally, Millington-Ward and her colleagues got in at the right time. It was November 2008, Lehman Brothers had just gone bankrupt, and the credit crunch broke out in full force. “It was a bizarre time, when whole departments at clients flew out. Those days really don’t need to come back for me.”

Too often people in senior management don’t get to hear the ordinary concerns any more

Amsterdam, London and Brussels

Few agencies in the Netherlands have a focus on financial communications. Stampa calls itself the leading independent agency in the Netherlands. Other agencies usually fall under a larger international group. They are often London-based firms, which also have an agency here. Stampa itself started with three partners in Amsterdam and one partner in the financial heart of London. A presence in Brussels was later added, due to the increasing importance of the European Union. Its clients are mainly large international companies, whose headquarters are also often located outside the Netherlands. “That does require extra attention,” says Millington-Ward. “When we work for the Benelux country manager, for example, we also want to see the global strategy. If the messaging for the Benelux deviates from that, then we will enter into a discussion about it.”

Sustainable, long-term relationships

For Millington-Ward, a sustainable, long-term relationship with the client is an important basis for doing good work. “As a consultant at strategic level, you must have a good understanding of what a company is about. It’s a big advantage if you have been around for a while and have a high level of involvement. We secure this through an approach in which we work together intensively. We go through an annual cycle with each client. It starts with a kick-off, in which the communication strategy for the year is defined. After that, we sit down with the client’s team every fortnight or month. We then also prepare the annual and semi-annual presentations of the figures.”

Investor relations

Financial communication is sometimes mentioned in the same breath as investor relations. Yet they are really two different disciplines, she explains. “Investor relations focuses purely on investor relations, and often falls under the chief financial officer (CFO). Financial communication is broader and touches all stakeholders of a company. Investor relations also does involve messaging, but in numbers. Still, I don’t see how you can separate one from the other. So in practice, you have to make sure there is good cooperation so that all communication is coherent.”

Journalistic mindset is important

With nearly three decades of experience in the profession, Millington-Ward must have a good idea of what makes someone a good financial communications consultant. Can she outline a profile?

“You don’t have to come from journalism, but a journalistic mindset is important. Being independent and daring to ask tough questions of the CEO. There’s an English expression for that: ‘speaking truth to power’. Too often, people in senior management don’t get to hear the ordinary concerns any more. But, to be able to ask the right questions, you need to be analytically strong. And also really financially literate. I sometimes do more with spreadsheets than with words. You have to understand why an analyst has done a certain calculation. In our profession, therefore, taking a financial training course is quite normal. We also develop our own training courses at Stampa, such as communicating on financial markets.”

ESG and greenwashing misery

Millington-Ward speaks passionately about her field and the developments she sees. Such as the increasing use of social media, and with it the visualisation of messages. But the development that is closest to her heart is the increasing weight that ESG is gaining. “ESG is increasingly becoming the standard by which companies are judged. You can see it in large asset managers who no longer invest in companies that perform poorly on ESG. And the EU is also becoming more stringent, with the recent crackdown on greenwashing. Personally, I welcome the rise of ESG, but it is also professionally difficult. Companies have to be extremely careful not to get caught up in greenwashing misery, with even the risk of lawsuits. The facts and figures must therefore be right. This means that ESG is now part of the ‘hard’ side of the business and, based on the principle of integrated reporting, is also reflected in the annual reports. This also makes it logical for us, as specialists in financial communication, to deal with this. It requires the same attitude and approach.”

Dutch version below

‘Als er geen oorlog is, is economie het enige verhaal’

Het Franse IT-bedrijf Sopra Steria neemt voor € 518 miljoen het Nederlandse Ordina over. Het aandeel Pharming maakte een koerssprong van 33 procent, omdat een tweede medicijn van dit Leidse biotechbedrijf de Amerikaanse markt op mag. De Europese Commissie schiet de Europese consument te hulp met een aanval op greenwashing.

Het zijn zomaar een paar koppen uit het Financieel Dagblad van maart 2023. Ze raken het vak van financiële communicatie. Een wereld waarin Marina Millington-Ward zich als een vis in het water voelt. Met haar spreken we over wat voor veel vakgenoten nog onontgonnen terrein is.

Millington-Ward is medeoprichter en medeeigenaar van bureau Stampa, gespecialiseerd in financiële en bedrijfscommunicatie en met ruim twintig mensen gevestigd in Amsterdam, Londen en Brussel. Haar carrière staat al vanaf het begin volledig in het teken van financiële communicatie.

Met een afgeronde studie Rechten – aangevuld met een topstudie Economie – op zak, lukte het haar in 1995 een droom waar te maken en startte zij als financial reporter bij Bloomberg. Het bedrijf dat wereldwijd gerenommeerd is vanwege haar economische verslaggeving en informatievoorziening. Daarna was Millington-Ward onder meer hoofd Investor Relations bij Buhrmann, financieel analist bij Deutsche Bank en journalist/ coördinator Economie voor het NOS-journaal.

Zijn waar de actie is

Gevraagd naar waarom zij zo aangetrokken wordt door financiële communicatie haalt Millington-Ward een uitspraak van Mike Bloomberg aan: ‘Als er geen oorlog is, is economie het enige verhaal’. Het klinkt misschien wat gechargeerd zegt ze, maar: “Ik heb bij de NOS gezien dat het ook echt zo is. En ik mag graag zijn waar de actie is, dus met mijn economische en journalistieke achtergrond en analytische instelling is een loopbaan in financiële communicatie dan best logisch. Follow the numbers, als je echt wilt weten hoe dingen zitten. Dat is wat ik doe.” Nog even terugkomend op de start van haar carrière benadrukt Millington-Ward hoe belangrijk een goede mentor voor haar is geweest. In haar geval was dat James Ludden van Bloomberg London. “Bij Bloomberg ben ik voor de wolven gegooid. Maar James wist veel van financieel technische onderwerpen en ik kon veel samen met hem optrekken, dat was goud waard.”

Benoemen van pijnpunten

Met Stampa helpt Millington-Ward bedrijven communiceren over hun financieel-economische ontwikkeling en ontwikkelingen met financiële impact. De vier oprichters werden gedreven door hun ervaring in de financiële journalistiek toen ze vijftien jaar geleden het bureau begonnen. “We zagen dat de financiële communicatie beter kon. Minder focus op output, zoals persberichten en presentaties, maar meer op het proces daaraan voorafgaand. De grootste meerwaarde die je als adviseur in dit vak kunt bieden, is het eerder dan anderen zien en benoemen van pijnpunten. Daarvoor moet je dan wel de juiste vragen durven stellen.” Overigens viel Millington-Ward met haar collega’s bij de start wel met de neus in de spreekwoordelijke boter. Het was november 2008, Lehman Brothers was net failliet gegaan en de kredietcrisis brak in volle omvang uit. “Het was een bizarre tijd, waarin hele afdelingen bij klanten eruit vlogen. Die tijd hoeft van mij echt niet terug te komen.”

Te vaak krijgen mensen in het hogere management de gewone zorgen niet meer te horen

Amsterdam, Londen en Brussel

Er zijn weinig bureaus in Nederland die een focus op financiële communicatie hebben. Stampa noemt zichzelf het leidende onafhankelijke bureau in Nederland. Andere bureaus vallen doorgaans onder een grotere internationale groep. Vaak gaat het om Londense bedrijven, die hier ook een bureau hebben. Stampa begon zelf met drie partners in Amsterdam en een partner in het financiële hart van Londen. Later kwam daar Brussel bij, vanwege het toenemende belang van de Europese Unie. De klanten zijn vooral grote internationale bedrijven, waarvan het hoofdkantoor ook vaak buiten Nederland zit. “Dat vraagt wel extra aandacht”, zegt Millington-Ward. “Als we bijvoorbeeld voor de landenmanager Benelux werken, willen we ook de global strategy inzien. Wijkt de messaging voor de Benelux daarvan af, dan gaan we daar het gesprek over aan.”

Duurzame, lange relaties

Voor Millington-Ward is een duurzame, lange relatie met de opdrachtgever een belangrijke basis om goed werk te kunnen leveren. “Als adviseur op strategisch niveau moet je goed snappen waar het om gaat bij een bedrijf. Dan is het een groot voordeel als je er al langer rondloopt en er een hoge mate van betrokkenheid is. Dat borgen we door een aanpak, waarin we intensief samenwerken. We doorlopen samen met onze klant een jaarcyclus. Dat begint met een kick-off, waarin de communicatiestrategie voor het jaar wordt vastgelegd. Daarna zitten we iedere twee weken of maand met het team van de klant om tafel. We bereiden dan ook de jaarlijkse en halfjaarlijkse presentaties van de cijfers voor.”

Investor relations

Financiële communicatie wordt soms in een adem genoemd met investor relations. Toch zijn het echt twee verschillende disciplines, legt ze uit. “Investor relations richt zich puur op de relatie met investeerders, en valt vaak onder de chief financial officer (CFO). Financiële communicatie is breder en raakt alle stakeholders van een bedrijf. Bij investor relations gaat het ook wel om messaging, maar dan in cijfers. Toch zie ik niet hoe je het een los van het ander kunt zien. Dus in de praktijk moet je zorgen voor een goede samenwerking, zodat de uitingen ook samenhangen.”

Journalistieke mindset belangrijk

Met haar bijna drie decennia ervaring in het vak moet Millington-Ward wel een goed beeld hebben van wat iemand een goede adviseur financiële communicatie maakt. Kan ze een profiel schetsen? “Je hoeft niet uit de journalistiek te komen, maar een journalistieke mindset is wel belangrijk.

Onafhankelijk zijn en moeilijke vragen durven stellen aan de CEO. Daar is een Engelse uitdrukking voor: ‘speaking truth to power’. Te vaak krijgen mensen in het hogere management de gewone zorgen niet meer te horen. Om de goede vragen te kúnnen stellen, moet je overigens ook analytisch sterk zijn. En ook wel echt financieel onderlegd. Ik doe soms meer met spreadsheets dan met woorden. Je moet snappen waarom een analist een bepaalde som heeft gemaakt. In ons vak is het volgen van een opleiding op financieel vlak dan ook heel normaal. Ook ontwikkelen we bij Stampa zelf trainingen, zoals communiceren rond financiële markten.”

ESG en greenwash-ellende

Millington-Ward spreekt gepassioneerd over haar vakgebied en over de ontwikkelingen die ze daarin ziet. Zoals de toenemende inzet van sociale media, en daarmee ook visualisatie van boodschappen. Maar de ontwikkeling die haar ook persoonlijk het meest na aan het hart ligt is het groter wordende gewicht dat ESG krijgt. “ESG wordt meer en meer de norm, waar bedrijven op worden beoordeeld. Je ziet het aan grote vermogensbeheerders die niet meer beleggen in bedrijven die slecht presteren op ESG. En ook de EU wordt steeds stringenter, met als laatste ontwikkeling de aanpak van greenwashing. Persoonlijk ben ik blij met de opkomst van ESG, maar het is vakmatig ook moeilijk. Bedrijven moeten oppassen dat ze niet in de greenwash-ellende terechtkomen, met zelfs het risico op rechtszaken. De feiten en cijfers moeten daarom kloppen. Dat maakt dat ESG inmiddels onderdeel is van de ‘harde’ kant van het bedrijf en vanuit het principe van integrated reporting ook in de jaarverslagen terugkomt. Daarmee is het ook logisch dat we als specialisten in financiële communicatie ons hiermee bezighouden. Het vraagt om dezelfde houding en aanpak.”

Stampa is seeking a Junior PR Executive and a Senior Account Director

We’re looking for two talented new team members to join us in Amsterdam. With a strong team working from offices in Amsterdam, London and Brussels, we offer a dynamic, creative and international work environment.

Senior PR Account Director – Amsterdam

Het toonaangevende PR-bureau Stampa is op zoek naar een ervaren senior account director om ons team in het centrum van Amsterdam te versterken. Heb jij uitgebreide ervaring op het gebied van corporate/financiële/B2B PR of ben je een ervaren (financieel) journalist die de overstap naar PR wil maken, stuur ons dan je cv en een motivatiebrief.

We zoeken iemand die ervaring heeft met de media, zelfverzekerd met klanten kan omgaan en bij voorkeur kennis heeft van – en interesse in – duurzaamheid, de energietransitie en ontwikkelingen rond ESG en/of financiële dienstverlening en de technologiesector. Je spreekt en schrijft vloeiend Nederlands en Engels en kan ingewikkelde materie omvormen tot sprankelende PR-content.

Deze senior rol biedt je de mogelijkheid te komen werken bij één van de meest vooraanstaande business-to-business PR-bureaus in de Benelux, met teams in Amsterdam, Brussel en ook in Londen. In deze rol kom je te werken op onze Nederlandse vestiging, op een aantrekkelijke locatie in hartje Amsterdam. Wij werken voornamelijk voor internationale, vaak beursgenoteerde bedrijven en organisaties. Onze klanten zijn onder meer actief in de (hernieuwbare) energiesector, de financiële dienstverlening en de technologiesector.

Heb je vragen? Dan kan je altijd even contact opnemen via info@stampacommunications.com. Ook je cv en brief kunnen naar dit adres.

Junior Public Relations Role – Amsterdam

Stampa zoekt PR-talent! Kom jij ons team van public relations experts versterken op ons kantoor in Amsterdam of Londen? We zijn op zoek naar iemand die vloeiend Nederlands en goed Engels spreekt en schrijft, en met goede redactionele vaardigheden. Als junior PR-specialist ben je proactief en schrijven zit je in het bloed. Stampa zal je begeleiden om een expert te worden in het omvormen van ingewikkelde materie stof in een aantrekkelijke tekst. Heb je behalve schrijftalent ook ervaring met video- en foto-editing en sociale media, dan wordt dat des te meer gewaardeerd.

Ben je op zoek naar een uitdaging, ben je leergierig en wil je jezelf ontwikkelen in een internationaal bedrijf met kantoren in Amsterdam, Londen en Brussel? Dan is deze rol de perfecte voor jou. Wil jij ons Stampa-team komen versterken als junior PR-specialist, stuur dan je cv en een motivatiebrief via de link onder deze vacature.

Heb je vragen? Dan kan je altijd even contact opnemen via info@stampacommunications.com

Senior PR Account Director – Amsterdam

We are looking for an experienced Account Director to join our Amsterdam PR team. The role would suit a senior PR consultant with extensive corporate/financial/B2B PR agency experience, or a senior financial or business journalist looking to make a move to the agency side.

Strong sector and media knowledge of ESG, financial services, energy transition and technology is needed for this role, as well as the ability to engage with media and high-level clients with confidence and clarity. The candidate will need to be a Dutch speaker, ideally with strong writing skills in Dutch and English.

This senior role offers the chance to join one of the most successful and best-known corporate PR agencies in the Benelux, and work with a portfolio of blue-chip, industry-leading clients. With a talented team located in central Amsterdam, as well as teams in Brussels and London, we value people with enthusiasm for international business and communications, self-motivation, initiative and energy.

Please include a cover letter with your application, explaining why you are interested in joining Stampa and the key skills, experience and qualities you could bring to the role. For more information, contact us at info@stampacommunications.com

Junior Public Relations Role – Amsterdam

We’re looking for a new Junior PR executive in Amsterdam! In this role you support Stampa Communications’ clients, many of which are international, well-known companies. To help our clients communicate with the media, employees and other stakeholders, you craft press releases, write pitches to journalists, and create content for websites, reports and social media.

Asking questions and being curious is part of the job. You’ll need to be a natural communicator, good at getting your message across in writing and verbally. Ideally, you’re native Dutch and also speak and write English fluently.

We value people with enthusiasm for international business and communications, who are motivated, energised and like to take initiative.

This is a fantastic opportunity to join our talented and growing team, working in our office in central Amsterdam and colleagues in London and Brussels.

If this sounds like your ideal job, please apply by sending an e-mail with a motivation letter and CV to: info@stampacommunications.com

Tennet 2019 annual report wins Sijthoff prize

The 2019 integrated annual report of leading European grid operator TenneT has won the prestigious FD Henri Sijthoff prize for outstanding financial reporting. It was the third Sijthoff nomination for the company in recent years. Stampa is proud to have supported TenneT in its communications, including the writing and editing of its annual report, for over five years.

The Sijthoff prize is the highest recognition for financial reporting excellence in the Netherlands. It judges areas such as clarity of writing, transparency of information about the company, its strategy, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility. According to the jury, “the company clearly explains its strategy and provides good insight into its liquidity.”

TenneT was one of three nominees in the non-quoted companies category, along with NS and Triodos.

Stampa marks 10th anniversary with ‘golden’ move to historic Herengracht

To celebrate our 10th birthday, and – even more importantly – to comfortably accommodate our expanding team, Stampa Amsterdam moved today to Herengracht 466, a stately canalside building dating back to the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age.

The suite of beautiful new offices on the prestigious Gouden Bocht (the ‘Golden Bend’) may only be a stone’s throw from our former Amsterdam premises, but Stampa has come a long way since we were founded at the end of 2008.

Our company began with eight people working at our offices on Amsterdam’s Prinsengracht and London’s Leather Lane. Now, we have a total of 24 consultants in the Netherlands, the UK and in the Brussels office we opened in 2015, plus an extensive network of graphic design associates, videographers and animators.

And with many of our international, multilingual team based in the Dutch capital, it was little wonder the office we started out in was bursting at the seams. It was time to move, and we’ve found the perfect home in Herengracht 466.

Balloons, a festive breakfast and all manner of Stampa goodies greeted staff when they arrived this morning. There were bouquets of flowers and plaudits for Marieke Sepers, Carla de Groot-Koelemij and Desiree Durivou, who together with Marina Millington-Ward and Heleen de Graaf formed our moving committee and did an amazing job to ensure everything went smoothly.

Coming weeks will see us put the finishing touches to our new home, but once we’re shipshape we look forward to welcoming all our clients and other friends, to show you around our offices and our garden (yes!), and throw that 10th birthday party we still haven’t had.

KPN and TenneT 2017 annual reports shortlisted for Sijthoff prize

The 2017 integrated annual reports of telecoms company KPN and electricity transmission system operator TenneT, with writing and editing provided by Stampa, have been shortlisted for the prestigious FD Henri Sijthoff prize for outstanding financial reporting.

KPN is one of three nominees in the blue-chip AEX category, alongside ABN AMRO and DSM. TenneT is shortlisted in the non-quoted category along with Schiphol and public transport operator GVB.

The 64-year-old Sijthoff prize is the highest recognition of financial reporting excellence in the Netherlands. It judges areas such as clarity of writing, transparency of information about the company, its strategy, corporate governance and corporate social responsibility.

Last year the KPN integrated annual report 2016, which Stampa also worked on, won a European Excellence Award for the best integrated annual report & CSR report. It is the second consecutive year that TenneT has been shortlisted for the Sijthoff prize.

Frans Middendorff (ING): From curious correspondent to corporate content chief

In the second of our ‘Expert Talk’ series, we meet Frans Middendorff, head of content at ING Group. He talks about his former days as a reporter in Amsterdam and Hong Kong, and explains how ING’s corporate communications department is helping to make ING a brand people love.

ING Group’s 54,000 employees provide retail and wholesale banking services to customers in over 40 countries. Its head office is in Amsterdam, where we catch up with Frans Middendorff.

Frans, how did you end up in corporate communications?

My first job was as an account manager at Achmea, one of the largest Dutch insurers. I was responsible for the investment policy of institutional investors such as pension funds. One of my tasks was to explain to the directors of those pension funds what was happening in the financial markets, and how they could best respond to this.

I noticed that I really liked telling these stories, and I thought I could do that for a larger audience. I had several friends in journalism and I listened regularly to Dutch business radio station BNR. I also thought it would be more exciting to work in journalism, as the dynamics of a daily news broadcast really appealed to me. In 2000 I was able to start as a reporter at that same BNR, and in 2002 I moved to business TV channel RTLZ.

Later, you even worked as a correspondent in Hong Kong?

After three years at RTLZ, my partner was offered a job in Hong Kong. Working as a correspondent over there interested me, as China was becoming an increasingly important source of news stories, including for Dutch media. RTL already had a permanent correspondent in Beijing, but she was happy for some extra help. And I could write stories for Dutch print media from there, too.

As a freelance correspondent I had to find, create and sell stories. I had to build my own team with a cameraman and a fixer – someone who could show me the way and translate, for example when I did street interviews. It was fun and very educational to work in a completely new environment. On behalf of a large media company I was able to interview people that I would otherwise never have spoken to. I got to know the culture and the country in a very incisive way. That was very special.

Why did you return to the corporate world in 2009, as a press officer at ING?

It’s difficult to make a career in journalism. By that I don’t mean it’s hard to earn money, but to develop yourself and broaden your opportunities. All you could do after finishing a story was to start a new one. I wanted to work with a longer horizon than just my next story. I saw more possibilities in the corporate world, where you can work more strategically.

Looking back, my innate curiosity has been an important motivator throughout my various roles. It has always led me to new opportunities. My love of language was also important, although I did not study languages but law and later on did a full-time MBA in Seattle, just before I started at ING.

Was it a big change to move from journalism to corporate communications?

For a journalist, working as a press officer, which was the first job I landed when I started at ING, feels like a natural transition to the communication profession. You continue to use your old network a lot: I kept in touch with the same buddies from journalism. Being on the ‘dark side’, as journalists call it, was never a problem. I never felt less trusted by journalists after having joined the company. One of the most important starting points for ING within corporate communications is transparency: we always have a very open and positive relationship with journalists. I could never have been successful as a press officer in a company that doesn’t have the same open attitude towards the media.

Being a press officer was a great way to get to know ING. As a spokesman in such a large organisation you have access to all parts of the bank to get answers to journalists’ questions. Sometimes you also need to adopt a journalistic way of working to find the answers.

Since 2015 you’ve been head of content at ING. How does that differ from your previous job as press officer?

The content team is one of five teams within corporate communications. It produces most of the content sent out by ING Group, the listed parent company of all banks and business units of ING worldwide.

The content team was established three years ago when we put internal and external communications together. All content creators came together in one group, which was a good move to increase efficiency. Writers now focus on their topics across all channels. It can be the annual report, for instance, speeches of board members, or the stories on our global intranet aiming at our 54,000 colleagues worldwide. But we are also responsible for all content on our corporate website www.ing.com.

The content team consists of 12 colleagues from various countries such as the Netherlands, the US, Australia, South Africa and Romania. They all excel at expressing our stories vividly in words and images, always staying true to our clear and easy ING tone of voice. One of the team members is our translation manager, who oversees translations of the most important content aimed at ING employees in nine different languages.

The content team is one of ING’s five communications teams. What are the other four?

The media relations team consists of spokespeople or press officers who communicate with one special and very important target group, the media. The strategic advice team advises the various board members on their communication, from large communication plans around change projects to speaking engagements at conferences.

Our channels team makes sure we have state-of-the-art media channels, not only in a technical sense but also in terms of design and features. Finally, we have a specific team that is responsible for ING’s branding. In total, more than 70 people work at ING’s corporate communications department in Amsterdam.

How do these five teams work together?

We have identified a number of themes that we want to communicate about, such as innovation or customer experience. People from across the five disciplines are designated to work on those themes and they meet regularly to develop and execute communication strategies. We are looking into how we can further improve collaboration by adopting Agile as a working method.

The content team meets weekly to keep each other updated on the stories they’re writing, discussing angles to take or headlines. Besides that, some stories come in from other departments within ING. In our content group, we distribute the inbox of story ideas, and we edit and proofread each other’s stories. Together we safeguard ING’s tone of voice: clear, easy, to the point and no-nonsense.

What would you consider to be your biggest success at ING?

On behalf of ING, I’m proud of how we profile our CEO Ralph Hamers internally and externally, and more specifically when we announce our quarterly results. Our quarterly results video is the epitome of our strategy to be as no-nonsense and clear as possible.

In these videos, Ralph discusses the highlights of the past quarter in 90 seconds. He looks directly into the camera – it’s not an old-fashioned corporate video – and talks very openly with some amusing remarks here and there. He doesn’t focus on our profit, but on what we’ve done that quarter for our customers. All corporate communications disciplines come together for these quarterly videos: together we create the idea and work it out.

And what is your biggest challenge as head of content at ING?

Our bank, like others, saw a lot of trust lost during the financial crisis. In recent years we’ve worked step by step on restoring that trust. Crucial was the new strategy launched by ING when appointing Ralph Hamers as CEO: ING is there to help customers move forward, whether they are companies or private individuals. It’s our job to make that purpose come to life with all kinds of stories and examples on our corporate website and through many other channels. Slowly but surely you see ING’s image changing for the better.

Ralph is nowadays sometimes even called ‘the Steve Jobs of banking’ and gets asked to speak in many countries about his vision on the future of banking. While of course there’s a big difference between Apple and ING, it’s a sign we’ve managed to regain trust and are on our way to becoming a brand people love. All of us at the corporate communications department are proud to be part of that journey.

Stampa’s Heleen de Graaf in Intermediair: “Success in PR is putting your client in the spotlight”

Newspapers and magazines are struggling, so it’s getting harder for journalists to find work. Many are moving into public relations. Is that a logical career switch or is it a shift to ‘the dark side’?

That’s the question posed by HR magazine Intermediair in this article ‘Van pers naar persvoorlichter’, which features communications experts including Stampa director Heleen de Graaf.

“It’s quite a natural move,” says Heleen, who joined Stampa in 2011 after a journalism career that included heading the Amsterdam bureau at Dow Jones and 10 years as economics correspondent at NRC Handelsblad. “You know the media, know how journalists work and what they need, and how to prepare a client for interviews.”

In the article, Heleen offers these tips for journalists considering a switch to PR:


“Keep thinking partly as a journalist. That way you’re of great value to your client and you can effectively assess if something is a story for a specific journalist or medium. But you do have to be aware of the internal reasons why a client might want to publish something, and be diplomatic yet robust in your advice.”


“Don’t underestimate how client-focused you need to be. It’s not sufficient just to reject a client’s wishes or suggestions for journalistic reasons; your job is to come up with something that will work. Also be aware that you’ll be operating ‘behind the scenes’. Success in PR is putting your client in the spotlight, not yourself.”

Is technology the enemy of communication?

We at Stampa are all about communication, and digital is obviously a huge part of that. So we should perhaps be the last to complain about the explosive growth in screens in the world around us. But when leading Dutch financial newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad invited me to write about the harmful effects digital technology could be having on our brains, I jumped at the chance.

The article, titled The creeping climate change in our brain, was triggered by a lecture I had attended by British neuroscientist Susan Greenfield. She argues that the way new technologies could be affecting humans and changing the way young people, in particular, think and feel is an issue as important and unprecedented as climate change.

Greenfield is a controversial figure in the UK – critics ask why she raises her concerns primarily through the media rather than publishing academic papers – but she is not alone in raising such concerns.  In a 2012 book called ‘Digital Dementia’, German neuroscientist Marcus Spitzer said overuse of technology was resulting in the breakdown of cognitive abilities in a way more often seen in people who had suffered a head injury or psychiatric illness. MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle this month published ‘Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age’, looking at the effect on face-to-face conversation “in a world where so many people say they would rather text than talk”.

“We are being silenced by our technologies – in a way, ‘cured of talking’,” writes Turkle. She talks about a study in which her team introduced robots to elderly people, and was jubilant when a woman who had lost a child began talking to a baby seal robot. “But the question is, who’s listening to the person?” asks Turkle. “There’s nobody listening. The social compact is not just about the talking, it’s also about the listening.”

And that is the key for anyone interested in communicating in any way and at any level. The communication compact is not just about the talking, or the writing. It’s about the listening, and the reading.

Stampa expands media analysis team

Demand for Stampa’s media intelligence services keeps on growing. So we’ve added another member to our media analysis team: Carla Koelemij, who is now working from Stampa’s office in Amsterdam as a media analyst.

Before joining Stampa, Carla taught English in secondary schools, subtitled for Dutch television and worked as a freelance translator. Native Dutch and fluent in English, she holds master’s degrees in English language and culture as well as education.

Heleen de Graaf becomes director at Stampa

Stampa, the financial and corporate communications agency based in Amsterdam, London and Brussels, has promoted Heleen de Graaf to the role of director.

Heleen has been a key member of Stampa’s Amsterdam PR team since she joined the agency in 2011, advising a wide range of clients in sectors including asset management, investment banking, insurance and energy.

Before going into PR, Heleen, was an award-winning financial journalist for prestigious news organisations including NRC Handelsblad and Dow Jones.

Stampa is a full-service communications agency, formed and led by former senior business journalists. Services include financial and investor communications; media relations and strategy; media and presentation training; crisis and issues communication; employee and change communications; strategic writing; online and social media; and CSR communications.

Stampa team makes strides in Zuidas run

Last-minute injuries and illnesses brought us one short of a full 10-strong team, but Stampa made its biggest showing yet in Amsterdam’s Zuidasrun 2014, racing against more than 3,000 bankers, lawyers and consultants in what’s known as the Dutch business run.

It was the fourth time Stampa had entered a team in the six-year-old run, held in the Zuidas business district of southern Amsterdam.

Stampa finished 32nd out of 92 business teams in the 4-mile (6.4-km) race, and our runners – five members of the Amsterdam office plus friends and partners ‒ defied the hot sun to post fine individual times. And as the photo shows, we even ended with smiles on our faces.

New recruits for Stampa’s Dutch PR and media analysis teams

Stampa is growing and so is our team. Joining our Amsterdam office are Linda Huijsmans, a new account director on our public relations team, and media analyst Johann Migchels.

Linda is an accomplished journalist and writer whose wealth of experience and professionalism are an asset for Stampa, whose clients include multinationals such as ING, Coca-Cola, Allianz Global Investors, ASML and Wolters Kluwer. Like Linda, most of our senior consultants are former journalists with distinguished careers in print, newswires and television.

Linda’s work has appeared in countless publications in the Netherlands and Germany, including Het Financieele Dagblad, Management Scope, Management Team, De Volkskrant, FEM and Berliner Zeitung. She is also the author of  Zo Nederlands als Wat, een Molukse familiegeschiedenis, which traces the history of a Dutch-Indonesian family, and Fietsen in Berlijn, a Dutch guidebook and app for cyclists in Berlin.

Multilingual services

Johann is a seasoned media analyst who honed his skills in London at the UK’s largest media monitoring agency, Durrants, and MSL Group in Amsterdam.

Irish-born Johann is fluent in Dutch, which he studied along with German at the University of Hull. Before coming to Stampa, he worked as an in-house translator for a global language solutions provider in Utrecht.

The Stampa team now numbers 15 communications professionals in Amsterdam and London.

Stampa appoints Sara Loschacoff to head media analysis team

Anglo-Dutch communications consultancy Stampa has appointed Sara Loschacoff as head of its media analysis team in Amsterdam.

With more than a decade of experience, Sara’s insightful, thorough and precise monitoring and analysis of media reports are crucial ingredients for all Stampa’s PR accounts.

“Sara’s appointment reflects the growing need for fast, top-quality media analysis. Knowing what others are saying about companies is crucial for their reputation management, especially in today’s instant social media environment,” says Stampa Director Marina Millington-Ward. “Not all publicity is good publicity, and the ability to accurately analyse the quality of media coverage gives companies a much more realistic insight into its value.”

Stampa uses a proprietary system to monitor print and online articles for relevance, tone and attention value, using sources including electronic news feeds, social media and search engine alerts. But the major added value lies in the analytical skills of its media analysts, who add the necessary depth and insights to daily, weekly and monthly reports.

Stampa has a team of 14 communications professionals – many former journalists with distinguished careers in print, newswires and television – based in Amsterdam and London. The boutique agency, which combines corporate and financial PR and internal communications with strategic content and editorial services, serves some of Europe’s biggest companies, including ING, Coca-Cola Europe, Allianz Global Investors, Pimco, Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management, Philips, ASML, Delta Lloyd and Wolters Kluwer.

Stampa appoints NRC Handelsblad journalist Heleen de Graaf

Stampa has appointed Heleen de Graaf of leading Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad as account director, the latest addition to our unrivalled team of highly experienced former business journalists.

Heleen spent 10 years as economics reporter for NRC Handelsblad, where she won the De Tegel prize for outstanding journalism for her coverage of the takeover of ABN AMRO and was nominated for the Prijs voor de Dagbladjournalistiek award for a series of articles on Shell. Previously, Heleen was Amsterdam bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires and a business reporter for Dow Jones in Vienna.

Dutch-born Heleen, 42, will strengthen Stampa’s PR team in Amsterdam, as well as contributing to our copywriting and editing work.

Stampa appoints Gerrie Spaansen as Director

Gerrie has been a key member of Stampa’s Amsterdam financial PR team since 2007, advising clients including PIMCO, Teslin and Teleplan.

Before going into PR, Gerrie, like other members of Stampa, had a long career in journalism, working as a financial journalist for media including Het Financieele Dagblad, NOS Journaal and RTL Nieuws.

‘Gerrie has proven to be a highly valuable member of our team,’ says Marina Millington-Ward, Director at Stampa.

‘His experience and expertise make him an excellent addition to our management team. He will play an important role in shaping Stampa’s strategic direction and continued development.’

Marieke Sepers joins Stampa media monitoring unit

Stampa has appointed Marieke Sepers to its newly created Media Monitoring practice in Amsterdam. Using our new proprietary media analysis system, Marieke monitors Dutch language coverage for Stampa’s growing roster of blue-chip clients. Supporting our successful financial PR team, Marieke becomes the 12th team member of our fast-growing agency, based in Amsterdam and London.

With an MSc (cum laude) in Political Communication from the University of Amsterdam, Marieke has a strong interest in communications strategies. During her degree course and thesis – The Influence of Fear in News coverage on the Political Agenda – she gained hands-on experience of media analysis and insights into how the media can influence public opinion and the political system. A native Dutch-speaker, Marieke also speaks fluent English and conversational French.

Stampa boosts Amsterdam PR team

Stampa has added to its successful Amsterdam-based PR team with the appointment of Eveline Schijf as Account Manager.

Eveline’s impressive background in law and consultancy is a boost for Stampa’s pan-European corporate communications practice, supporting clients including ING, Pimco, Coca-Cola Europe and KPN.

Her experience also bolsters Stampa’s increasing work in the legal sector, offering European PR expertise to internationally-focused clients.

Before joining Stampa, Eveline spent five years working in New York and Amsterdam as a lawyer for the Dutch law firm NautaDutilh, focusing primarily on corporate law, structured finance and intellectual property law. Most recently, Eveline worked as a consultant in the recruitment industry, headhunting lawyers for top-level positions in the corporate and financial sector.

Stampa director Marina Millington-Ward says: “Eveline is an excellent addition to our growing team. Her combination of specialist sector knowledge and broader consultancy skills make her a natural fit across our international portfolio.”