Fiona Benharoosh, marketing director for aerospace specialists Ascend, talks to PRmoment

Business to business markets require a different skill set to consumer sectors. Fiona Benharoosh talks to PRmoment about the applications of digital communications in B2B marketing.

Benharoosh says that her greatest challenge at Ascend was three years ago, when it was spun out of its parent company Airclaims. This would be the first time the company had been independent for three decades. Benharoosh explains: “Under the new Ascend brand name we embarked on a strategy to build a competitive, well respected global brand, expanding from our Heathrow base to New York and Hong Kong.“ Looking for new ways to engage with global clients, Benharoosh realised that emerging social media tools could create a range of new discussions, debates, and be a way to encourage an exchange of information with the worldwide community. She adds: “This proliferation of new websites, sales presentations, blogs, v-logs, webinars, online newsletters and surveys put new pressures on the marketing team in London. We’ve managed as much as possible in-house, but have also relied on our external PR team Tannissan Mae for strategic support.

“It was hard work for everyone, but the pay-off has been extremely valuable. Our managing director now attributes one fifth of Ascend’s rising value to the PR achievements. “ 

All about connections

Benharoosh says that the favourite part of her job is connecting Ascend’s analysts and consultants to their community, as these conversations help improve the quality of work going on in the sector, as well as inspiring everyone involved. She is enthusiastic about the people she works with, saying: “The aerospace industry attracts very skilled people, who are also passionate about their subject. I often think that aviation must be in the DNA – once people become immersed in the sector it’s often for life.”

The company has recently opened a Hong Kong office and is expanding its business into mainland China. Benharoosh expects the value of projects there to increase, and senior members of London and Hong Kong-based teams are invited to speak at a growing number of industry events in China as many as five times a year. Benharoosh discusses the challenges of the Chinese market: “As everyone knows, China is a key growth market. However, it’s also a very different market from the more mature American or European markets and there are many cultural considerations for us to get to grips with. We are fortunate to have the experience and local knowledge of our Mandarin speaking colleagues in our HK office to advise on marketing and communication activities.

“Like everyone, we are learning on the job, but I find this really motivating. Ascend is linking up with Chinese aviation authorities, key media contacts and running specialist market briefing sessions to establish our presence. But we still have some work to do to feel as closely connected to our Mandarin contacts as we do our English-speaking contacts.” 

Silence is deadly

Another challenge for Benharoosh is to get internal analysts to respond to media requests, which are often urgent. She explains: “Helping our people appreciate the value of their knowledge to the media, helping them understand the importance of deadlines, and so on, can be a challenge, especially when they themselves are on tight project deadlines.” Nevertheless, the coverage of the company in the world’s key media shows that Benharoosh and her team are so far succeeding, to get the information and analysis required to the relevant media channels.

Having worked in communications roles for 13 years, Benharoosh has plenty of advice for those coming into this industry now. She says that graduates should amass as many additional skills as possible: “If you’re interested in design, teach yourself Photoshop via their online course. If you’re interested in writing – get blogging. If you’re finding it tricky to get interviews – try to get some voluntary experience in the sector you are interested in.”

If Benharoosh herself ever decided to try a new career, she says she would like to try writing something less corporate, “If I wasn’t doing this I’d like to be writing travel guides and touring the globe – what a cool job!” 

Career history

2008: Board director, marketing and communications, Ascend. Responsible for all areas of Ascend's global corporate marketing communications (Europe, The Americas and Asia).

2004: marketing and communications manager, Ascend. Managed the re-branding of the company from former parent company Airclaims.

1999: Business development manager, marketing and commercial services, International Air Transport Association (IATA). Managed the development, production and marketing of business-to-business commercial aviation publications from design through to delivery.

1996: Staff writer, Industry and European magazine, covering all sectors of the business environment.

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