OPR Brings New Energy to ABB

Off-Piste Radio Network is proud to announce that we are bringing our communications and broadcasting expertise to the Power and Automation multinational corporation ABB.

OPR’s Conor Lennon is seconded to ABB’s global communications HQ in Zurich, providing consultancy services throughout 2016; the main account will be ABB’s partnership with Solar Impulse.

Solar Impulse, a pioneering project to fly a solar-powered plan around the world, is currently half-way through its mission, having already broken several aviation records on the way. As a symbol of the potential of renewable sources and technical solutions to global energy and pollution issues it has been lauded by Governments, UN agencies and industry.

This year, we will help ensure widespread coverage for some of the exciting, groundbreaking and cutting edge ways in which ABB is achieving on the ground what Solar Impulse has achieved in the air. With ABB’s expertise in areas from robotics to energy storage and smart grids, there will be a host of exciting stories to tell.

For more information contact me via Linkedin.

COP21, What Is It Good For?

At COP21, the big-picture message is about political efforts to keep global warming to a 2° C, or even a 1.5°C rise, and how it’s important to keep the pressure on world leaders to find a deal to make this happen. I can’t help thinking that this level of reporting is bound to lead to disappointment. Even if a piece of paper is signed it will inevitably be the end result of horse-trading, pork-barrel, bull and other farmyard metaphors. What it won’t do is magically end climate change.

This is not to say that COP21 is a waste of time. There is movement at each conference, even though it can seem slower than a melting glacier.  And there has been an encouraging development in the form of  a focus on solutions rather than problems, moving away from grand target-setting strategy to on-the-ground tactics. There are hundreds of interesting ideas out there, as presented by the many corporations present in Paris to show what they can contribute to make the world a better place and, yes, make a profit.

ABB (a client of Off-Piste Radio Network), a large power and automation multi-national is one such corporation, with a big presence at COP21 as a partner of the “Solutions COP21” exhibition. Companies such as ABB are directing their energies towards sales of cleantech projects because they are a profitable part of their portfolio with a bright future, but what they need from Governments is a clearly defined legislative framework that allows them to plan investment and divestment; if a “polluter pays” carbon pricing deal is reached then technology responsible for high CO2 emissions becomes less profitable, making it easier for them direct efforts towards clean and energy-efficient solutions.

Some activist groups have reacted with cynicism to the involvement of big business in the climate change debate (why should one listen to companies that have been involved in polluting activities). But one organisation that has been successful in mobilising the general public, corporations and civil society under one banner is Solar Impulse, a pioneering project to send a solar-powered plane around the world in order to demonstrate the extraordinary potential of renewable and energy-efficient technologies (and another Off-Piste Radio client). In short, the message of Solar Impulse is that we can by existing technology we can dramatically reduce energy use and make renewables a much bigger part of the mix. This message has proved to be extremely powerful and has enabled Solar Impulse to bring together a wide array of Governments, NGOs and private companies under one umbrella organisation, Future Is Clean.

This is important because it is only through a consensus between these different groups that a sustainable, workable model for future development will be reached.

OPR Network Continues To Diversify

The past few months have seen Off-Piste Radio Network (OPRN) demonstrate its wide range of services and expertise, with new clients on board and a mix of international and local projects. However, the core offer remains the same: Swiss-based communication services and consultancy, with an emphasis on audio-visual content. Here are some of the key projects we have been involved with this year.

International clients include Solar Impulse, which  used OPRN services during the ongoing Round-The-World flight attempt. Conor Lennon was based at Mission Control Monaco as Communications Manager. The US-based Institute For Global Economic Growth also hired us to take of production co-ordination for the filming of the Swiss episode of their TV Show “Improbable Success”. This involved providing editorial consultancy, hiring the local crew and providing logistical support,

Locally, OPRN provided multimedia content in English and French for Swiss transport company TMR, helping them to reach the international population in Valais and visitors to the region. We also began consulting Lemania-Verbier International School on marketing & communications strategy and provided multimedia content. We are working with the WVerbier Hotel to promote events through online and broadcast media, the municipality of Bagnes has contracted us to produce and promote audio-visual content to highlight the successful integration of international residents and we continue to provide technical and editorial services to mountain radio verbier and Radio Crans-Montana.

If you would like to find out more about our services, contact me directly at conor@offpisteradio.com.

Now we’re bilingual…

Due to popular demand, mountain radio verbier is now bilingual (in English and French). We added French for the 2014/ 2015 Winter season and received some great feedback.
The Winter season was our strongest yet, with expert snow reports directly from the slopes, thanks to the Téléverbier pisteurs and ski instructors from Verbier ski school, European Snowsport. These new additions joined our regular content: news, weather, events and a host of lunchtime lifestyle shows. Our main presenters are Niko de Rohan, winner of the Verbier DJ Awards, and local broadcasting legend Jonathan Ruppen. This Summer we have our first Mountain Breakfast in both English and French, keeping you up to date with all the main events in the resort.

mountain radio verbier has also become a not-for-profit association, based in Bagnes commune, ensuring that the radio station continues to exist for the promotion of the resort.

TV Presenting…Freestyle

There are absolutely no guarantees. Everything can change from one minute to the next. Are you interested?

This, more or less, was how Solar Impulse Live TV was explained to me back in 2011 by the producer of the company responsible for making SITV happen. And the description turned out to be pretty accurate. We were meeting to discuss the possibility of me working for them as presenter, and what started as a short-term contract has led to the longest professional relationship I’ve had with any organisation.

If you’ve ever looked through the Solar Impulse Website, you’ll know that the team has produced some incredible videos over the years. You might not know that they do so with a very small, talented group of people. The same is true for the live programming. The gallery team consists of a director/vision mixer, a PA/vision engineer/VT operator/graphics coordinator and a sound operator. That’s 3 people doing 7 jobs. And there are 2 studio cameramen for 3 cameras (not including robots, go pros and other fixed views). A team of 3 cameramen and an editor follow the plane.

The SITV live programs are in English, but the gallery communicates to me in French. That took a bit of getting used to although on previous missions, when I was on the road, this communication wasn’t a given. Countdown to Live has, on occasion, consisted of a cameraman shouting “speak now!” ( in French, obviously). And when shooting conditions prevented even him from contacting the gallery, I would just start talking when something interested happened, trusting the director to switch to me (this generally worked out fine).

Before each show I put together a rough running order in the knowledge that it can change a few seconds before going on air. For the same reason I work without a script, using a few notes at most: there’s nothing worse than preparing to read a finely-wrought piece of prose, only to have your guest pull out, new pictures come in or an unexpected situation to comment on. There may be pictures from the camera team with the airplane or there may not, depending on the local conditions (bandwidth availability, for example). During one landing, for example, the only picture from the airport was a soft-focus view from a mobile phone. And many’s the time I’ve had to spin out 30 minutes of content for an hour and a half, or more, depending on the delay.

To work at Solar Impulse you have to embrace constant change and treat the programs as exercises in improvisation. When I joined I decided to act as a privileged member of the audience, asking the questions I imagined they would want answered. Initially, I made of point of not trying to learn too much detail, worried that rote-learning facts in a short space of time would make it harder to step back, focus on the big picture and retain an “outsiders” view. Working as a radio host turned out to be an essential background skill, as it gives you the ability to fill time, change pace and tone when necessary and get the best out of interviewees whatever their position or status. Solid general knowledge is also very important (particularly international affairs, politics and business), especially when you’ve had 20 seconds to prepare for an interview (this has happened on several occasions).

I’ve more or less continued in this vein, albeit with a growing technical knowledge. The more time I’ve spent on the “Round-The-World” mission, the more useful information I’ve picked up. It’s been fascinating to find out more about what each member of the team does and be able to understand the extent to which they really are working at the technical limits. When we say that we have achieved the impossible, it isn’t just PR. At every stage, going back to the beginning of the project, there were many nay-sayers and it needed bloody-mindedness at every step, from getting Solar Impulse built right through to the record-breaking 118 hour non-stop flight.

As for me, this project has been proof that you can never stop learning, never stop improving and that the journey is as important as the goal. People in the team don’t really speak about success or failure any more. First of all because failure just means giving up before you succeed and maybe because they know that, once we get to the end, the team will no longer be together. So for now I’m making the most of each day with these special people, and hoping that my next project measures up, in some way, to this one.

If you have any comments or questions about Solar Impulse TV (or anything else) please get in touch.

Climate Change Not Just Leftist Concern

Maybe someone can help me out: why do some people insist on polarising climate change concern as a left-wing conspiracy? I’m writing this in the wake of Pope Francis’s encyclical on ecology and poverty. Commentators on Fox News have popped up to denounce his dangerous denunciation of the cost to the developing world of a global economy built on fossil fuels.

But it’s hard to see how Business As Usual is, well, good for business. Climate change brings unpredictable weather patterns, floods, hurricanes, rise in temperature. This brings uncertainty and, as I understand it, uncertainty is bad for business.

Some years ago I saw Al Gore deliver his Inconvenient Truth presentation at the BBC. I was sitting next to a representative from Swiss Re who said that insurers are concerned about climate change, because it means more big pay-outs. Insurers (like the 90% of scientists who concur that climate change is predominately man-made) are not generally characterised as hardcore marxists.

Swiss Re is now an Official Partner of Solar Impulse, for whom I am currently working (as a member of their Marcom team). You can look at any number of the project’s partners and you’ll find big companies whose main aim is to make a profit. But the CEO’s of these capitalist enteprises have thrown their weight behind Solar Impulse. Why? Because the message is by no means anti-business. On the contrary, we’re convinced that huge numbers of jobs can be created in the fields of energy efficiency and cleantech and we can construct growth models that favour less-polluted societies with a correspondingly healthier workforce.

But political will is needed to put in place a level playing field on an international scale, promoting renewable energy and efficiency solutions whilst ensuring that polluters pay. At this December’s UN conference on climate change, it’s hoped world leaders will finally have the nerve to agree to a binding commitment to massively reduce fossil fuel use worldwide. And already, in anticipation of this agreement, many of the world’s biggest oil and gas companies have contacted the UN to ask for involvement in the development of a global carbon pricing plan. Having seen which way the wind is blowing they’re adjusting their business plans accordingly.

A long time ago, back in the 1980s, a politician wrote “it is possible that with all these enormous changes – population, agricultural, use of fossil fuels – we have begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet”. And who was this tree-hugging Cassandra? Margaret Thatcher, that’s who.

A New Radio Station for Crans-Montana!

Off-Piste Radio Network is proud to announce its involvement in Radio Crans-Montana. The M4 Cultural association contracted Off-Piste Radio Network to develop its concept for a radio station that would act as an online promotional tool for the resort, integrated within Crans-Montana’s overall communication strategy.

Following several months of development work and testing in 2014, the radio station was launched on the 21st of January 2015. The project has been led by Jonathan Ruppen, who is from the village of Flanthey, just below Crans-Montana.

You can read a press article about the launch of Radio Crans-Montana here.

An app will soon be available but for now you can listen to Radio Crans-Montana here.

Following Solar Impulse Round The World!

Off-Piste Radio Network is getting ready to follow Solar Impulse on its next adventure : the first journey around the world powered exclusively by the sun’s rays. Here’s mountain radio verbier’s report on the dismantled plane’s transfer to Abu Dhabi, the start point of the attempt, from Payerne Airfield:

Off-Piste Radio Network has been involved with Solar Impulse since 2012, when Conor Lennon was brought in to present live video coverage of the Destination Morocco mission flight and script & present features on each leg of the flight such as this:

For those of you who are new to Solar Impulse, this endeavour began over 10 years ago when Bertrand Piccard, best-known for his pioneering non-stop round the world balloon trip in the Breitling Orbiter 3 with Brian Jones, teamed up with former Swiss fighter pilot André Borschberg to develop a plane that the aeronautical industry deemed impossible. Undeterred, Borschberg assembled a team of crack engineers and designers who didn’t know it was impossible (drawn from Formula 1 and boat design, among others) and Piccard used his considerable skills as an inspirational speaker to convince major international companies and organisations to come on board as financial partners. Today, there are over 100 people working to make the project a success, and major partners include such well-known companies as Omega, ABB, Schindler, Solvay and Google.

As the co-founders often say, Solar Impulse is designed to carry a message, rather than passengers (there is only room for one person in the plane, the pilot): that we can do extraordinary things by making better use of technology that exists already, massively reducing our energy consumption and dependence on fossil fuels. If you want to support the project, there are many ways to do so and you can find more information here.

Now, in 2015, it’s finally time to attempt the Big One: a journey around the world, starting and ending in the Gulf and taking in Indian, Burma, China, the US, Europe and North Africa. Conor Lennon will once again present live coverage and videos along the way. We’ll be sharing updates, videos and other information on the mountain radio verbier social network channels and onair. It’s going to be an exciting year!

Tax Deals For Wealthy Foreigners Safe…For Now

The latest round of Swiss voting has taken place today (Sunday) and the three national initiatives on the table have met with a resounding “no” from the electorate. The vote most likely to have affected our listeners, “End Fiscal Privileges for Multi-millionaires”, has been defeated by around 60% of voters. This is good news for Bagnes municipality – which includes Verbier – as foreigners benefiting from lump-sum tax agreements represent approximately 8 million francs of tax revenue per year.

But this isn’t the last time we’ll see initiatives with the potential to damage the local economy. Prepare yourselves for the debate around the Law on Inheritance Tax. There is currently no federal inheritance tax, although cantons levy one at the local level. The initiative in the pipeline is proposing a federal inheritance and gift tax of 20% (With some exceptions). Some business owners in Verbier are already getting worried about an exodus of wealthy residents should the initiative become law…

Verbier Tourist Office Launches The Winter Season

The Winter season is almost upon us. Téléverbier, Verbier’s ski-lift company, has already successfully stoked media interest by pouncing on some early snowflakes and partially opening up for the weekend. According to rental agencies we’ve spoken to, pre-season bookings are healthy and, with a host of new bars and restaurants opening up, there’s a positive, expectant buzz in the air. It was against this propitious backdrop that Joël Sciboz, the latest head of the Verbier tourist office, presented the events and activities planned for the forthcoming season during a meeting for local business owners and interested parties. The meeting was well attended and the atmosphere generally positive.

This year the season’s curtain-raiser is on Saturday, the 6th of December and will be based around the Place Blanche, with entertainment taking place throughout the day. The big sporting news for the resort is its hosting of the Ski-mountaineering world championships in February. The region is home to several world-beating athletes in this discipline and, as media partner, mountain radio verbier will be covering the event in full.

Many of the events and attractions presented at the meeting were what you could call perennials. The big guns are still there: the Verbier Xtreme, Park 9 and  the High 5 for example, as well as the smaller more regular activities (night skinning, night sledding, etc). The tourist office has plans for new weekly attractions in the pipeline include ice sculpture, ice discos, an indoor play area, night skiing at les Esserts and apéro-concerts. A Christmas market at the Place Blanche and freestyle on the Rue de Médran were also mooted. At the time of writing these have not been confirmed: more information is expected at the next information session on the 11th of December and we will report in full.

For those expecting an overhaul of the much-criticised official website (www.verbier.ch) we have bad news: it will not be replaced this season. The site has poor navigation, and it’s difficult to find out what events are taking place throughout the season (the Téléverbier site has a basic calendar of events here) and all the main stakeholders of the resort agree that it isn’t fit for purpose. The tourist office has decided instead to concentrate on releasing an updated Smartphone app for this season. Their view is that the current Website will suffice until sometime in 2015.