At which time do you wake up in the morning?
That’s a bit of a juggling act, you see. It all depends on when the kids are up and about, and in Switzerland, those school bells ring pretty early. If I’m not tied up with commitments, I’m all for catching extra time in bed. I’m more of a night owl, and I often find myself working with the US, which influences the nighttime schedule.
What is the first thing you do?
I switch on the coffee machine. If could double myself, one part of me would put on the moka so that the other part of me could wake up with that fresh coffee smell… Fellow Italian readers – this image is for you.
Which news sites do you read (if any) in the morning?
My day usually starts with a quick check of my company’s Slack, just to see if any urgent messages are waiting for me. Then, I make a pit stop at a mainstream Italian news site. Even though I live abroad, my heart is in Italy, so I’ve got to stay in the loop. I then often move to LinkedIn and my social channels to keep those feeds fresh.
At which time do you go into the office (or start working remotely)?
My workday kickoff time is a bit of a moving target. It all depends on whether I’ve got any in-person meetings lined up. But, here’s the deal: I’m not a fan of the whole morning commute chaos, so I try to dodge it whenever I can. Most of the time, I kick off work at home – handling calls and tackling my inbox – and then eventually make my way to the office.
How many times a day do you check emails?
Emails, my frenemy. I’m in and out of that inbox all the time. It’s a necessary evil with clients and projects in motion. But, here’s the golden rule – no email checking during meetings. That’s a non-negotiable for me. If something’s urgent, we’ve got our trusty Slack for team SOS, comments, and any other need.
When is your first meeting?
In an ideal world, not earlier than 10. As I am answering this, I am still wondering why breakfast meetings are (still) a thing…
How do you plan your meetings across the week?
Meeting planning is a bit like a roll of the dice, and I try to keep free Monday mornings and Friday afternoons. I have a lot of weekly / regular meetings planned, so I need often to work around the schedule. I have to say that while Monday mornings are generally calmer, Friday afternoons are always incredibly busy – because I work with a lot of US-based clients and partners.
What is the split between internal and external meetings?
External meetings are the big players here, no doubt. But, with our team scattered all over the globe, we’ve got our fair share of internal meetings to keep things on track. Slack is our go-to for quick texts and huddles. And, since we’re growing our presence in Geneva, face time is becoming increasingly important.
How do you follow news development between meetings?
It depends on the day. I like to know what’s going on, and you can easily follow now with notifications reaching you anywhere. Sometimes I find a quick browsing for news very helpful to disconnect in between tasks or meetings – like a quick reset.
How do you organize your calendar?
As I mentioned earlier, my calendar has quite a few “set” meetings that pretty much steer my schedule. On a “techier” note, I did try color coding, but it ended up being a bit more time-consuming than I’d like, so I ditched that idea.
How do you take notes?
I have a few fancy notebooks that I rarely use, especially when I travel – as they take too much place. I generally prefer written notes rather than using Word or similar. If I am in big meetings though, board meetings, international conferences, I am using my computer. I’ve toyed with digital pencils, but they haven’t won me over yet. And, with AI in the picture, we’re exploring more efficient note-taking solutions. Content-wise, I prefer sound bites and note down ideas that pop up in my mind related to what I am hearing.
What is your relationship to Excel?
Love and hate. A rollercoaster of emotions.
What is your favorite app & why?
For work, Slack. I am falling in love with Calendly lately. Scheduling is incredibly time-consuming for me and even more for my team. I am not yet sure if sending someone a link to your calendar is polite enough… but efficiency-wise it’s definitively an upgrade.
How many external lunches do you have a week?
It depends, but a fair average would be 2 per week. We tend to eat together with our team – it’s a good moment for connecting.
Which time do you go to bed?
Late, very, very late.
Where do you keep up to date on Public Affairs?
LinkedIn mostly, but also some podcasts and a few specialized sites.
What is your best tip for managing work/life balance?
I am much better at this in recent years, and I need to thank my kids for this. Managing the work/life balance is an art that needs practice and consistency. It has become a priority for me over time, and I have made a lot of progress, but still now it’s difficult to take a holiday week or postpone that outlook refresh. In consulting you could literally never stop. So.. when it comes to tip: take a break when you see the inexorable email drama hitting you on day 1 of your holiday. Is that really a drama – can it wait? Try to stay optimistic about the schedule, delegate, say yes to having fun. This is easier to write than practice, I know.
What is the biggest challenge in Public Affairs right now?
Taking the risk to sound obvious, I see the rapidly evolving digital communication landscape and the impact of disinformation on public opinion as critical elements to consider. This dynamic digital environment, coupled with challenges related to public trust, regulatory changes, and crisis management, presents a complex backdrop for public affairs professionals. Additionally, addressing the growing focus on environmental and social responsibility, as well as diversity and inclusion, poses significant challenges for many organization which are not equipped to do so. As organizations adapt to remote work and virtual engagement, the practice of public affairs must evolve accordingly. Issues related to data privacy, security, and international relations also demand attention in this changing landscape.
What is the biggest challenge you are working to solve right now?
A positive and exciting one, working on opening new verticals for our business using our established role as trusted advisors, policy experts and convener in healthcare, life sciences, and sustainability.
When you go on vacation, do you still answer emails?
I try not to, especially during summer and end-of-year holidays. It happens during the year that I am off at times when the world is still running full steam around me, and in these cases I check my emails only when I know I am not eating into face-time with family. I should also probably have more consideration for myself, but there, but in my role, I have to make sure everything is running as it should. I have a great team and delegation is becoming easier and easier. Fun fact: I am having this interview while on holidays.
Which book did you read recently or are you currently reading?
Let me start with this: I would love to read more and to have the time to read more. The best moment for me to read is on planes, during work trips. I try to do all I need to do for conferences, meetings, etc., before I fly, so that I can have that space for me. I tend to read quite a lot about spirituality, psychology, etc. Down to earth, I am now reading Dave Grohl’s Storyteller, borrowed by a colleague of mine. For a musician like me, this is one of the best reads.
Which skills will PA pros need the most in 5-10 year?
That is a long horizon. We have the challenge to adapt more and more rapidly to a changing and challenging political landscape. And for public affairs professionals the advent of AI will be a critical variable to manage. Because of the latter, I believe that skills that are less likely to be subject to automation will be critical. I am thinking to global awareness, cultural competence, ability to embrace diversity and inclusion, and ethics as important elements that make a “pro” PA even “more pro”. Then of course, policy expertise, ability to connect the dots, and storytelling will remain “technical” skills that need constant refinement.
Where should the PA function ideally be based in an organization & why?
Deciding where to position the Public Affairs function in an organization is indeed a matter of debate. The optimal location should align with the organization’s strategic objectives and the nature of its public affairs activities. It’s essential to choose a placement that allows PA to effectively shape policy, nurture positive stakeholder relationships, and contribute to overall success. In an ideal scenario, the PA function should be well-equipped with resources, closely integrated with various strategic departments, and receive strong leadership support. From my perspective, placing PA at the highest level of the organization, closely aligned with the executive leadership team, is ideal. This positioning reinforces the critical role of stakeholder management in achieving business objectives.
Mario Ottiglio is a Managing Director at High Lantern Group, a strategic positioning firm. Mario serves as a trusted advisor and convener in healthcare, life science, and sustainability, both globally and across various sectors. As a former pharmaceutical industry spokesperson, Mario frequently appears as a commentator in the media. When he’s not working or spending time with his family, you can find Mario playing drums with his alternative rock band, who are gearing up to release their first album soon.