60 Seconds with CNBC’s Lee Thompson

Lee Thompson, international communications lead at CNBC, explains how Davos has kicked off a busy year for the business news broadcaster, and shares how he deals with the challenges of international communications.


Lee Thompson

What are you currently focusing on in your role at CNBC?
The team and I have recently returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos, where we were busy publicising the incredible interviews we had on the ground.

This year we spoke to in excess of 100 CEOs and world leaders over the four-day conference, which is quite something. Most of these were exclusives, so we were incredibly busy.

Now we’re back in London we’re gearing up for a busy few months ahead; we have a number of new shows and also some landmark anniversaries that we’ll be shouting about.

Over the last 12 months we’ve really tried to turn up the volume. We have an engaged audience and some really amazing content. When people think business news, I want them to think CNBC.

Who are your key audiences/stakeholders?
The CNBC audience fits into two distinct groups: the influential and the aspirational.

Every single day we have more CEOs consuming our content than any other network. At the same time, as we’ve broadened our reach digitally (via CNBC.com and social), we’ve attracted a new, millennial audience who are coming to CNBC for content that will help them to get ahead.

From a PR point of view, I want to promote and showcase the amazing editorial content we’re creating, but also attract new people to CNBC that may not have thought to come to us before.

Another key stakeholder group on my radar is the advertising community, and supporting my commercial colleagues in positioning CNBC as the number one choice for organisations that want to engage with the world’s most influential business leaders and investors.

In addition, I spend a lot of time talking to other PRs, explaining what CNBC is about and why it’s a great place for companies to tell their stories.

What are the key messages you aim to convey?
That really depends on the audience. Ultimately though, CNBC has been the number one business news network in Europe for decades. There’s a reason for that. We’re delivering actionable content that’s helping business leaders and people who are moving up the ladder every single day.

Our unbiased analysis is delivered with a colourful personality you just don’t get from other networks. So the overarching key message is affirming CNBC as the number one business and financial news network on the planet.

What do you like about working for a media brand?
I love that I’m in a landscape that’s changing at a rapid rate. Thanks to digital distribution, media brands are evolving and transforming the way they deliver content. I’m excited to be with a network that’s embracing this change and transitioning its content to be truly multi-platform. As a communicator, it’s exciting for me to be able to help shape this story.

What are the advantages of working in-house?
The main benefit of working in-house is the opportunity to get under the skin of a brand, and to get to know it inside and out.

The senior leaders at CNBC really value PR and communications. My constant dialogue with the CEO and leaders across our international business allows my team and I the opportunity to help shape the future of the business.

What are the challenges of communicating internationally?
Half of my team are in Singapore so time zones are obviously a challenge. Luckily though, I’m an early riser and am often messaging with my Asia comms manager at 5.30. The team have regular conference calls and we’re always emailing to make sure we’re on the same page and on track with deadlines.

Being a news network that broadcasts in over 385m homes around the globe, there’s also the temptation to cast the net too wide. We have to be strategic in our communications and where we place resource. For me, ensuring we’re front and centre in places like the UK and Singapore, where we have studios, is essential.

  • Gorkana met up with CNBC International’s news editor Katrina Bishop, social media editor Cristy Garratt and managing editor of digital, Phillip Tutt at a Gorkana media briefing in January 2016. View the conversation here. To sign up for Gorkana’s 2017 media briefings, including the March 9 briefing with Kamal Ahmed, economics editor at BBC News, visit the Gorkana events page.
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