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Opportunity on the Mountain: Navigating #WEF20

January 23, 2020
By Michael Moroney

The annual World Economic Forum meeting, convened in Davos, Switzerland, provides more than 3,000 delegates – including titans of industry, NGOs and world leaders – a unique opportunity to discuss and find solutions to some of the most pressing, global socioeconomic and geopolitical issues of our time.

The “Authenticity in Action” report shows that three out of four consumers globally expect CEOs in particular to take a stand on issues that have an impact on the company’s customers (74%), products and services (72%) and employees (71%).

For 2020, the week-long Forum will focus on seven primary themes that impact society across business, government and culture.

  • Healthy Futures
  • How to Save the Planet
  • Tech for Good
  • Society & Future of Work
  • Beyond Geopolitics
  • Fairer Economics
  • Better Business

When President Trump announced that he would attend the Forum in 2018, many attendees began developing intricate contingency plans to account for added security and potential political fallout. However, given the already heightened security and plethora of world leaders in attendance, Trump’s visit was significantly less disruptive than anticipated. Of consequence, the President held a dinner with 15 global CEOs, and addressed the full hall with a speech that touted the U.S. as “open for business.”

Flanked by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer in his trip to the mountain this year, President Trump focused heavily on trade during his remarks.

Coming off the successful passage of the USMCA and the “Phase 1” trade deal with China, markets closely watched President Trump’s address – and Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng’ s three hours later – for developments in trade relationships, as well as the President’s evolving approach to Europe. President Trump doubled down on his rhetoric Tuesday at a press conference, noting that he is serious about imposing tariffs on European automobiles if he can’t strike a trade agreement with the European Union.

With such a heavy focus on trade, and an “America First” agenda, the Administration held a number of high-level meetings with other world leaders. For companies and NGOs attending WEF, and meeting with government officials (from any country), here are a few questions to consider:

  • Can your organization justify the significant investment to stakeholders, and explain how attendance furthers your larger organizational objectives?
  • What is the likelihood that what you discuss in private meetings is reported in the media, and would you like the narrative it creates?
  • For any reports that you are launching at WEF, how can you give them news legs off the mountain?

In today’s politically tumultuous climate, a high-profile meeting with senior administration officials carries innate risks, however, also offers unique opportunities. It’s important for communications professionals to be able to provide a simple, concise answer tying these meetings back to organizational objectives, long-term vision and core values.