Edipresse SA

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.