France – A Blend of Tradition and Innovation

May 20 2024

Faces and Markets of PRGN is a new series of blog posts in 2024 that puts PRGN member agencies and their markets in the spotlight.

Each week, expect to read about a market from an economic, business and communications point of view, brought to you by the very people living and working on the ground in that country, state or region.

The blog pieces illustrate the vast amount of in-depth knowledge of business, media, communications and marketing PRGN brings together having presence in more than 40 countries and 70 cities on six continents through its member agencies globally.

In this week’s blog post, Stéphane Billiet, Vice-President of WE change describes the business and communications environment in France and offers advice to businesses navigating his home market.

Business Environment in Paris and France

France boasts a diverse business environment characterized by a blend of tradition and innovation. Its strategic location in Europe, well-developed infrastructure, and skilled workforce make it an attractive destination for investors. The country’s strong industrial base, particularly in sectors like aerospace, automotive and luxury goods, contributes significantly to its economic prowess and France’s influence in the world. Additionally, the country’s commitment to research and development fosters innovation, with thriving startup hubs in cities like Paris and Lyon. Despite bureaucratic hurdles, high taxes, and rigid labor laws posing challenges, France’s economy remains resilient, with government initiatives aimed at fostering entrepreneurship and foreign investment.

Paris France
Paris, France | Photo by Chris Karidis on Unsplash

While GDP is estimated to have grown by 0.9% in 2023, driven by strong growth in the second quarter, it is expected to grow moderately, by less than 1% in 2024. Private consumption is set to drive GDP growth on the back of rapidly declining inflation. Investment is expected to remain subdued until the second half of the year due to still restrictive financing conditions but is then set to start recovering. Net exports are projected to make no contribution to GDP growth given that imports are set to rise – pushed by strong demand – while exports of goods are only expected to progressively catch up with their pre-crisis level.

Communications, Media and PR Market in France

The media landscape in France is diverse and dynamic, with a mix of traditional outlets and digital platforms. One thing to pinpoint is France’s strong public broadcasting sector, overseen by organizations such as France Télévisions (TV), Radio France (radio), and France Médias Monde (international broadcasting). These organizations are funded through a mix of license fees and government subsidies and are tasked with providing quality programming that serves the public interest.

Obviously, online news websites, blogs, and digital-native outlets provide alternative sources of news and information to traditional media. Platforms like Le HuffPost, Mediapart, and Rue89 are popular digital news sources, and while they work on a paid-model, they perform well as they offer solid investigation stories, a genre that the French audience particularly likes.

France also has regulations in place to ensure media plurality, diversity, and quality. The Arcom regulates broadcast media and aims to uphold journalistic standards, protect media freedom, and prevent media concentration.

However, like media industries worldwide, the French media landscape faces challenges such as declining advertising revenue, digital disruption, and changes in consumer behavior.

Key expertise of We change

1) Media Management:

The team at WE change is made up of consultants and former journalists, allowing us to know the vision and ethics of the media, as well as suggesting the most cutting-edge angles for our clients. Essentially, we know how to successfully place our clients’ stories.

2) Crisis Management and Consulting:

No company is exempt from crises, which is why a fair relationship with the media, transparency in communication and adequate strategic advice are always the best allies of a company.

3) Executive advocacy:

We help our clients build their image and reputation both in traditional media and social media. Thus, we pitch out journalists to “sell” portraits of CEOs, train them and position them as voices that count in their sector and ghost-write for them comments and by-lines on LinkedIn to help them become the experts in their businesses.

Top 3 Advice for Companies Seeking to Navigate the Media Market in France

France fervently advocates for the “French exception,” emphasizing its unique cultural, economic, and social characteristics as integral to its identity and resilience. So:

1. Do not copy-paste the global comms strategy:

The media will not pick up info that is not local-relevant. While English is widely used in business, journalists will be reluctant to meet not French-speaking spokespeople.

2. All your news are not necessarily news-worthy.

French journalists do not talk or write about the same company every other day. In order to stand out in French media, make sure that you have solid news with – again – local-relevant content.

3. Be patient.

French media are very picky, so it might take a little time to catch their attention. However, once you’ve got the contact, you can easily have privileged relationships with them. That always helps, right?

Most Influential Media for Corporate and Consumer Communication in France

As far as corporate media are concerned, daily newspapers like Les Echos or Le Monde remain the most influential, targeting opinion leaders in all sectors and sub-sectors of the French economy.

Regarding consumer media, TV is still a strong medium, especially TV Channel M6. But digital platform Konbini is coming in full force, as people can watch short informative videos and interviews on all kinds of topics on their phones or tablets, directly on their social media platforms.

The most popular social media channels in France*

Facebook: 73.3% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Despite declining popularity, especially among younger generations, Facebook was the most popular application in 2023.

WhatsApp: 59.8% of internet users between 16-64 in France. WhatsApp has officially overtaken Facebook Messenger and is now the messaging service most used by the French.

Instagram: 58.6% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Instagram is overtaken by WhatsApp compared to 2022, but remains very popular despite an algorithm and features that don’t always meet with unanimous approval in France.

Facebook Messenger: 57.8% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Slightly less popular than WhatsApp and Instagram for sending messages, Messenger nevertheless continues to be a must-have for many users.

LinkedIn: 56.4% of internet users between 18-64 in France.**

Snapchat: 44% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Although younger users are beginning to tire of Snapchat, preferring TikTok, the app is still very popular.

TikTok: 37.6% of internet users between 16-64 in France. While Generation Z’s favorite app retains the same position as in 2022, there has been a sharp increase in usage, from 29.9% last year. TikTok could well surpass Snapchat in 2024.

X/Twitter: 30.9% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Twitter, which topped the rankings for a long time in the 2010s, has struggled to return to the forefront, retaining the same position until 2022.

Pinterest: 28.1% of internet users between 16-64 in France. Pinterest continues to be a source of inspiration for artists and anyone looking for new ideas.

* – Source: Le Blog du Modérateur ** – LinkedIn prevents people below the age of 18 from using its platform – figures from Datareportal.

Most important international events in France in 2024

The 80th anniversary of the Normandy and Provence landings in June: Major ceremonies and tributes are planned to mark the 80th anniversaries of the Allied landings on the French coast in Normandy and Provence in 1944. On June 6 in Normandy, Emmanuel Macron will preside over a major commemorative ceremony in the presence of foreign allies at Saint-Laurent-sur-Mer (Omaha Beach).

Tour de France, end of June – end of July: This will be the first Grand Départ from Italy and the 26th from abroad. Due to the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, and for the first time, the final finish will not take place in Paris but in Nice.

Bastille Day on July 14: Known as “La Fête nationale” or “Le 14 juillet” in French, is a significant national holiday in France. It commemorates the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris on July 14, 1789.

Olympic and Paralympic games in Paris in July: The sporting competition is one of the most watched events in the world: more than three billion people watched the Tokyo 2020 Games and 4.8 billion those of London in 2012. From July 26 to August 11 for the Olympic Games, then from August 28 to September 8 for the Paralympic Games, the eyes of the world will be on Paris to follow the sporting exploits of thousands of athletes.

Reopening of Notre-Dame de Paris in December: After a dramatic fire and years of renovation, the cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris will reopen its doors to the public on Dec. 8, 2024. On this occasion, the President of the Republic expects to welcome Pope Francis, who has been officially invited.

France by the Numbers*

Population 68 million
Languages spoken French
Religions (% of population) Catholic (29%), Muslim (10%), other (10%), no religion (51%) – according to a 2019-2020 self-report poll. France keeps no records of religious affiliations.
GDP per capita $44,408 (2023)
(Real) GDP growth rate 1% (2023)
Inflation rate 4.9% (2023)
Unemployment rate 7.5% (2023)
Key sectors and industries (% of GDP) Agriculture (2%), industry: (18.7%), services – commercial, food industry, hotels (83.5%) – (2023)
Mobile penetration (X per 100 people) 95 (2023)
Internet users (% of population) 92.5% (2022)
Corporate profit tax 1.25% (“CVAE” – 2023)
Rate of consumer tax or VAT Standard rate: 20% Intermediate rate: 10% Reduced rate: 5.5% (2024)
Stéphane Billiet
Vice-President, WE change

With 30 years of public relations experience, Stéphane plays a strategic role in We change’s work, especially in corporate communications and issue and crisis management. Before We change, Stéphane was CEO of Hill+Knowlton Strategies Paris from 2000 to 2012, counseling world leading brands and companies. Prior to that, Stéphane served as Associate Manager in charge of the PR capacities of TBWACorporate.

Stéphane is Deputy Chairman of the French PR association SCRP and Adjunct Professor at CELSA, a school of reference in the information and communication sciences within the University of Paris, Sorbonne. He has written and co-authored books on Public Relations and communication in France. Stéphane graduated from business school IAE Lyon III.

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