Business Engagement at ICANN – How Three Big Companies Engage
In an effort to surface best practices on how private sector organizations engage with ICANN, I spoke with representatives of Facebook, Telefonica and Philips – three global powerhouses in very different sectors – to find out how they engage. I asked them what works (and what doesn't).
FACEBOOK: "You have to show up"
Susan Kawaguchi has been Facebook's Domain Name Manager for five years, and served in the same role at eBay prior to that. She says many companies don't recognize that registering and managing a domain name entails more than just a clerical exercise. There are strategic and risk implications. Having worked at a company like e-Bay that is dependent on its domain names and a strong web presence, Susan has been able to convey the bigger picture to her colleagues across Facebook. When she started coming to ICANN public meetings, Susan was astounded that momentous decisions about domains -- decisions that implicate millions of dollars of revenue for some companies -- are made largely by the people who happen to show up. The people at the table represent a huge variety of organizations and interests, but not necessarily those of every company. "You have to show up to know what is at stake and to accurately reflect your company's interests," she asserts.
Susan sits in the Business Constituency (BC) of the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO), but she also has a legal background in trademarks and intellectual property, allowing her to follow legal and IP issues across other ICANN bodies as well. As a result, she can alert her Facebook colleagues to any pressing issues that arise, often bringing in business owners and senior leaders at Facebook on important decisions, for example, like whether to apply for a gTLD. Also of note: the number of Facebook attendees at ICANN meetings will be up this year, with policy and security teams represented at upcoming events.
Susan's advice to the ICANN newcomer? "Find a mentor – and be sure to make use of the Newcomer Lounge at the meetings."
TELEFONICA: "The model might seem a disaster, but it's better than any alternative!"
Alfredo Timermans was head of global public policy at Telefonica and now leads their United States office. Telefonica has had representatives in GNSO constituencies and in other policy bodies in the past, and is currently a member of the Internet Service Providers (ISPCP) constituency.
Alfredo is a self-described "policy person". For him, the value proposition for participating in ICANN is clearly as a link to broader issues of Internet governance. ICANN also represents multistakeholder policy development in action.
Alfredo's frank view is that new gTLD program had a challenging roll-out that posed a reputational risk to ICANN. For companies like Telefonica, operational stumbles, plus the expense and complexity of the process required a great deal of patience, effort and investment. ICANN's strengthened operations and energetic engagement on global Internet governance issues have helped to restore his confidence, and Alfredo is hopeful ICANN is on a positive trajectory.
Echoing a famous quotation about democracy, Alfredo asserts: "the ICANN model might seem a disaster but it is better than any alternative." He continues: "It can be very slow, complex, and time consuming. Sometimes it's hard to feel like you have an impact at ICANN, but you can see that everyone has a voice."
Telefonica is a digital and global company. The products and services that benefit their customers in turn benefit from an open, global and scalable Internet. ICANN represents one way the company participates in work that helps keep the Internet growing.
As for advice to newcomers, Alfredo offers with a smile: "Do not act as if it is a mess – It is! But do attend, listen, speak and participate. You will find the effort really useful. "
PHILIPS: "Balancing risk and opportunity"
Philips is consistently ranked as one of the world's most recognized brands. Ingrid Baele, responsible for Operations and Country Management in the Intellectual Property & Standards group, contributes to its protection.
Ingrid was already following ICANN's work when the new gTLD program was announced. She immediately recognized the potential impact on Phillips' brand. At the same time, she also envisioned opportunities for her colleagues in digital marketing and brand management. Fortunately, the gTLD program launch coincided with Philips' appointment of a Head of Digital Marketing. It was in coordination with him that Ingrid convened an ad hoc committee, seeking participation from across the company. Her own IP team, the information technology department, and a selection of business units participated. Her e-commerce and brand management colleagues were represented as well. Once Ingrid explained the program, the digital marketing team went to work, developing forward-thinking ideas on domains to apply for. Philips applied for two strings: .philips and . 飞利浦 (.philips in Chinese).
One lasting effect of this approach is that there is a now network of teams across Philips that is interested in ICANN's work. The network can be activated as the need arises -- Ingrid serves as a liaison to ICANN among her colleagues. "The important thing is for me to be a partner to the business units. There may be risk, but it also usually comes with opportunity. Seeing both and balancing them is the value our IP team brings to Philips," she explains. Certainly, being able to explain the complexities of ICANN is also a great service.
Ingrid attends some, but not all, ICANN meetings, sitting in on multiple groups and sessions. These include the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) and the Brand Registry Group. Like many participants, Ingrid finds it hard to keep up with developments, but makes full use of ICANN's growing number of communication vehicles to stay informed. She also has spoken at new gTLD strategy events, explaining Philips' approach to other companies and gathering ideas for Philips' TLD roll-out.
Ingrid offers the following advice to those who are new to ICANN: Although ICANN's scope is much broader than relevant for brand owners, it is important to be aware of their programs and to connect personally to ICANN staff and community leaders responsible for the areas in which you have questions or issues.
I'm grateful for the time and insights these business stakeholders shared. We will work together to incorporate this feedback for ICANN Business Engagement activities going forward. Do you have insights or advice to share? Please contact me directly, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Mondini is Vice President of Global Stakeholder Engagement for ICANN