Networking for ideas

How networking helps generate new ideas

When Gary Jones, Marcia Kinter and Doreen Monteleone sat down for a dinner to plan a health & safety conference, little did they realise this was the beginning of the most comprehensive sustainability movement in the print industry. The three worked for different industry associations, and they discussed some of the current challenges faced by their members. Through this informal dinner discussion, it became clear that sustainability was critical to the future  of the printing industry. From notes on a cocktail napkin, the concept for the Sustainable Green Printing Partnership (SGP) was conceived. Eleven years later, SGP is the leading non-profit certification organisation for the printing industry and its suppliers.

Three people and one idea. What started as notes on a napkin during dinner changed the sustainability landscape for the printing industry. Fundamental to networking is the development and exchange of ideas.

“Fundamental to networking is the development and exchange of ideas.”

Approaching networking as an idea generator makes networks a critical part of innovation and success. Networking can lead to new ways to address challenges in corporate and marketing communications, and approaching personal networks with a focus on ideas provides benefits for all. Consistently, articles and presentation about successful networking focus on open sharing and less on career topics. In 2015, Doris Casares addressed the need for outward focus of networking in Communication Director magazine: “… add a bit more value by using 20% to speak about your brand and leave 80% to bring added value to your users. The logical consequence of this is that we will end up creating a long-term, real and loyal community around us.” [1]

As communication professionals, it is easy to demonstrate successful networking as idea sharing and generating. Andreea Hirica, an international marketing strategist based in Brussels, presented new ideas about virtual economies at the November 2019 Contagious Live Event London.[2] “I feel the most productive relationships come from the networking for ideas vs sales-oriented goals,” she said. “Sharing the opportunities for marketing and brands to interact in the new virtual economies added many C-suite executives to my network. We are now discussing how to address the new virtual realities created by platforms like EVE Online and DecentraLand[3]. The conversations are dynamic and helpful for my network to develop their own approaches to the new digital reality.”

With an outward focus, idea generation in networking is easy. For entrepreneurs, networking can be a key to success in creating and sustaining new innovations and businesses concepts. Their ideas and opportunities are strongly affected by their social networks who motivated them.[4]

Communicators can leverage their networks in varied ways, discussing ideas and concepts with people in other industries and situations. I recently conducted a networking workshop for millennials at TE Connectivity. This was a great place to share ideas and the workshop provide a reality check for the communication and engagement programmes I manage. From our workshop, I have new ideas for mixing digital content with media to create more impact. At the same time, I challenged the participants  to start early, creating a mutually supportive network focusing on best practice sharing and ideas. “As I am just starting my career, sharing ideas is a great way I can contribute to my network with my unique perspective as a student and consumer,” said Natalie Brauneis, working student at TE Connectivity Germany. “Brainstorming and generating ideas provides opportunities for me to interact with all levels of people including top management in a collaborative open environment.”

“Communicators can leverage their networks in varied ways, discussing ideas and concepts with people in other industries and situations.”

Another idea generation source is expert networks. By bringing together experts in a social setting and facilitating a targeted discussion, the results can be better than researching the problem and reviewing information.[5] Having a short presentation with senior leaders is a good catalyst for networking: by sharing a concise, actionable idea – such as how to respond to a difficult question – can create a networking platform for ideas and best practices.

“Another idea generation source is expert networks.”

Networking is about sharing ideas. With this realization, social networks become a critical part of innovation and professional development as it leads to new engaging ways to address challenges and helps develop marketing campaigns and communications in innovative ways. The best value in social networking is the exchange and development of ideas.

By Jonathan Graham

Jonathan Graham is senior manager of global communications for TE Connectivity’s Industrial business in Darmstadt, Germany and serves on the Executive Committee of the Sustainability Green Printing Partnership. In his role at TE, the global leader in sensor and connectivity solutions, he manages external and internal communications. For SGP, the leading sustainability certification for the printing industry, he leads the marketing activities and chairs the SGP Foundation. Jonathan has a master’s in journalism from the University of Mississippi in the United States. Linkedin  Twitter


[1] Casares, Doris. (2015, August 17). A world connected by dots. Retrieved from Communication Director


[3] Article on Andreea`s virtual economies presentation:

[4] Aldrich, Howard and Zimmer, Catherine. “Entrepreneurship through social networks.” California Management Review (1986) 33:1, 3.

[5] Hagel, John. “Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities.” Journal of Interactive Marketing (1999): 15:1, 37.

Hype or hope?

Learn how to adapt agile practices for integrated corporate communication and public affairs

Are you looking to apply agile practices to corporate communication and public affairs? If so, Kirstin Simons and Ernst Weijers’ session at the Global Communication Summit 2020 will be required viewing.

Together, Kirstin and Ernst will share how the Corporate Affairs Team at energy company Essent adapted agile practices by applying Scrum practices to , and the steep learning curve involved. From breaking down silos to delivering more impactful campaigns, from project vision to Sprint meetings, Kirstin and Ernst break down the agile journey, step by step.

In 2018, the corporate communications and public affairs function at Essent co-created a new functional strategy to support its overall ambition to be the number one in energy for everybody in the Netherlands. The functional strategy consisted of five initiatives:

  1. Foster internal engagement and strategy alignment
  2. Reposition the brand towards new products and services
  3. Protect and enhance the reputation of Essent
  4. Support the launch of new products and services
  5. Drive functional excellence within Corporate Affairs

The leadership team of the corporate communications and public affairs function soon realised that in order to be able to deliver its plans more efficiently and effectively, it needed to change its way of working. More specifically, the team wanted to: a) co-create its plans with the business in order to be able to contribute to shared goals; b) use the expertise of all functional experts within Corporate Affairs to make sure its campaigns were relevant for all stakeholders; and c) deliver campaigns with more speed and creativity and learn from mistakes in order to be able to adapt to the ever-changing requirements of an increasingly complex stakeholder and digital channel landscape.

Many corporate communication directors face similar challenges amid increasing business pressure and stakeholder complexity. Can agile help tackling parts of these problems? For the Corporate Affairs team at Essent, it seemed worth a try. Find out more about their one-year journey to becoming more agile, and take home lessons to apply to your own comms and/or corporate affairs team, by joining Kirstin and Ernst at the Global Communication Summit.

Kirstin Simons


Kirstin Simons is Director of Corporate Affairs at Dutch energy supplier Essent (part of Innogy, one of Europe’s largest renewable energy players). She is responsible for communication and public affairs in the Netherlands and Belgium. Before joining Essent, Kirstin worked as Communications Director at AkzoNobel.

Ernst Weijers


Ernst Weijers is Senior Consultant at Innovation Booster. He has led various product and service innovation development and change management efforts together with clients from F500 companies in the FMCG, Retail, Energy & Gas, Banking, Chemical, Staffing and Insurance industries.

Getting climate communications right

A company without a climate pledge is no longer taken seriously. Getting climate communication right is now business critical, as GCS speaker Jo Sullivan explains.

More is expected of companies today than ever before as partners of government in addressing the climate emergency. Companies’ pledges, practices and public positioning are under the spotlight.  Does it add up to one coherent whole or is policy fragmented? Is there a disconnect between pledge and practice? Do employees walk the corporate talk?

At the Global Communication Summit, I’ll be moderating a panel on sustainable communications, from circular economy to climate change. Joining me will be a diverse selection of experts, including Daniel Mittler, Global Campaign Leader for Greenpeace, and Brian Carroll, Global Head of Media Relations at Solvay. As a starting point for the debate,  and grounded in 20 years of climate communication experience, here are my three areas of  climate actions that should be on everyone’s to-do list for 2020.

  1. Harness employee activism for the climate

In September 2019, several B-corporations including Ben & Jerry’s, Intrepid Travel, Lush Cosmetics, Patagonia (whose K. Corley Kenna will also be speaking at the Global Communication Summit) and Pukka Herbs participated in the Climate Strike, many closing shops and operations. German intercity coach network Flixbus offered free rides to climate change protesters; employees were allowed to miss work to attend. In the UK a reported 1,000 companies came out in support of the strikes.

Retaining and hiring committed employees means allowing them to express their opinions on the climate crisis, also at work. Harnessing employee activism around issues such as climate change can help raise corporate ambition and speed up action.

  1. Align public affairs and public positioning

The new European Commission is also getting bolder with its climate targets. A European Green Deal with a goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2050 is the promise. Climate policy surged to the top of the political agenda after environmental concerns played a major role in the European election and took center stage in Ursula von der Leyen’s pitch to become European Commission president: “I want the European Green Deal to become Europe’s hallmark”.

As media headlines on extreme weather events have become dramatic, the industries under most scrutiny as heavy users, emitters or enablers of carbon emissions are many: oil and gas, automotive, aviation and shipping, plastics and chemicals, food and agriculture, textiles and fashion, construction, cement and steel, technology and data hubs. The same industries score high in resource use, so they are equally challenged to deliver on circular economy commitments, also a priority for the new European Commission. Are there enough rare minerals on the planet for all the new smart phones and electric cars?

  1. Partnering with nature on climate ambition

At theCOP25 Summit in Santiago, Chile, December 2019, the UN International Panel on Climate Change warned that we have 12 years to make the changes necessary to reverse and subvert global climate change before we hit a tipping point.

Natural climate solutions will become a bigger part of the climate conversation. Living ecosystems like forests, mangroves, swamps and sea beds have the potential to take up significant quantities of carbon from the air and store them safely. Rewilding strategies are growing in popularity. There is a role for companies to contribute to protecting and restoring nature for its climate cooling and regenerative capacities.

Jo Sullivan moderates a panel on Getting Sustainability Communications Right at the Global Communication Summit on 28 May 2020.

About the author

Jo Sullivan is a senior sustainability communication advisor to corporate, NGO and EU institution clients. She founded Conscience Consulting in 2000 and co-founded the Transition500 Alliance in 2014, a global network of sustainability communication consultancies with offices around the world. In 2005, Jo developed the 20-20-20 by 2020 campaign on climate targets for Friends of the Earth Europe and coordinated a 27 EU country programme of advocacy, media and public mobilisation, resulting in a mass protest on Place Schuman, Brussels outside the EU Summit and huge celebration when heads of state agreed the 20-20-20 climate targets.

A global event, an international capital city

Discover Berlin's most innovative spaces at the Global Communication Summit 2020

Berlin is full of some of the most innovative and creative organisations and start-ups across Europe and home to some seriously big brand successes over the years. By booking your spot at the Global Communication Summit 2020, you’ll get the chance to take part in our Innovation Expeditions to some of Berlin’s buzzing concepts, offices and labs. Learn from speakers in their own setting as they walk you through their physical spaces and how they were developed.

Registration for the tours will be available starting from 01.05.20 – in the meantime, keep updated with the tours on our website.