DAVOS—AkzoNobel is restructuring its global communications approach, as part of a broader transformation that is underway at the €15bn Dutch MNC, which owns Dulux along with numerous other paint, performance coating and chemical brands.

The centralisation of communications follows the arrival of Leslie McGibbon as AkzoNobel's corporate relations director six months ago. It comes as AkzoNobel attempts to behave less like a holding company for its various brands, and more like an operating company with its own brand.

McGibbon, who joined the company from GSK, told the Holmes Report in Davos today that the restructuring includes a number of new departments within the new function, along with a regional structure that aims to share communications resources across the paint, performance coating and chemicals divisions.

In addition, revealed McGibbon, the company will consider its PR and marketing agency support once the restructuring is complete. AkzoNobel currently works with numerous agencies across its various brands and geographic markets.

Previously, each division functioned as a standalone entity with its own communications and marketing departments. Communications now report into McGibbon, who is also creating new global departments and roles for such areas as content and creative services; planning; social listening; internal engagement; and, public affairs.

"We need a communications function that’s got creativity, a campaign mentality that understands social media and can create advocacy," said McGibbon. "So the skillset becomes much broader."

Several appointments have been made for the new roles, with some positions — including European head of communications and public affairs — still open.

For example, corporate brand director Natalie Quere has been elevated to oversee brand, content and creative services, which McGibbon views as an important function as AkzoNobel attempts to shift towards a more realtime content marketing approach.

"We want to move from being focused on the quarterly cycle of reporting to content and newsjacking," said McGibbon. "Surfing on an existing wave is a big opportunity".

To support this initiative, AkzoNobel is also investing more in social listening, using the BuzzRadar platform to identify immediate relevant trends. Another internal appointment, Diana Abrahams, has been named global director of media relations, which includes social media.

McGibbon also wants AkzoNobel's public affairs efforts to reflect more of multi-stakeholder approach, including NGOs and community relations, focusing in particular on the company's three themes: sustainability, innovation, and 'human cities'.

"I wanted to examine what becoming purpose-led really means for this company," said McGibbon of his decision to depart GSK for AkzoNobel. "I really believe that purpose and profit are the same thing. Corporations are far more than the sum of their numbers four times a year."

The restructuring will not, added McGibbon, result in the comms function becoming any smaller. "A lot of roles will be changing, aligned to our new agenda," he said, noting that the new function will be complete by March/April of this year, pending EU workplace consultations.

​After that, McGibbon will review the company's agency support, which includes Edelman and Portland, along with numerous agencies on specific brands.  "We need great partners to help us achieve what we want to achieve," said McGibbon. "Do we need 100? No. We need a handful."

That review will focus on AkzoNobel's key geographic markets, which include Brazil, China, the Netherlands, UK and Europe. "I don’t know if it means consolidation or not," said McGibbon. "We just need the best agency model."

And McGibbon is also aiming to take a more rigourous approach towards the measurement of AkzoNobel's communications activity, linking communications metrics with such business metrics as employee engagement, employee turnover, market share growth and volume growth.

"Comms people can’t hide anymore," said McGibbon. "The first thing that should be a measure of comms is the company P&L — we need to become clever about showing the linkage between the work we do and the business results."