It's a frustrating experience trying to visit Edipresse but,
I've learned over the years that it's pretty much the norm when
dealing with media companies. Switzerland is divided into three
distinct regions; the German-speaking north, French-speaking
south and the Italian-speaking east. Edipresse pretty much has
the newspaper monopoly in the French-speaking part. Edipresse,
with revenues in 2001 of $456 million and over 3,800 employees,
does business in other countries besides Switzerland including
Spain, Portugal, Poland and Greece.
Several blocks from Lausanne's main train station there's a 12-story,
reflective glass tower housing various company activities. However,
it's behind that structure in a new five-story building where
the company executives reside. My first visit I spend 22 minutes
standing in the lobby as the receptionist makes a slew of phone
calls trying to find out who ended up with my letter of introduction
sent a month earlier to CEO Pierre Lamuniere. She has no luck.
Obviously I would have liked to talked to Lamuniere's secretary
myself but evidently she doesn't speak English and Lamuniere
himself is out of town.
Returning the next day a different receptionist takes a shot
at it and after 19 minutes (yep, I keep count), she too comes
up empty. It was quite a frustrating experience for her too as
she quipped, "this is suppose to be a communications company
but nobody here communicates with each other". Why is it
so difficult? Why can't I just talk to someone in corporate communications
or public relations?
Not giving up I go
for the ace up my sleeve: Olivier Toublan, an editor at Bilan,
Switzerland's premier business magazine and part of Edipresse.
I met Toublan several years ago and know he has an office here.
We talk, I tell him my problem and ask if he could call up to
find out what's what. The result: my letter was referred to Mr.
Horwath, who's in charge of corporate communications. Horwath
went on vacation, won't be back for several weeks and evidently
neglected to tell anyone about my pending visit. So from what
I can see, the company's corporate communications department
comes to a complete standstill when the head guy goes away and
nobody knows how or has the inclination to take the initiative.