6 questions for PayPal's Franz Paasche

The leader of a recently combined communications department at PayPal talks about his company's decision to enter the Cuban market, but pull back from North Carolina after its controversial bathroom law went into effect.

Since splitting from eBay almost one year ago, PayPal has been building a global corporate communications function by integrating several divisions into a single entity. Its corporate affairs group includes external and internal communications, governmental relations, and social innovation.

Spearheading this effort is VP of corporate communications Franz Paasche, who joined PayPal from McKinsey & Company, where he was head of external relations for North America. He leads the online payment company’s global external and internal communications functions and its government relations activities worldwide.

Paasche talked with PRWeek about PayPal’s plans for Cuba and its decision to pull a planned facility from North Carolina over the state’s controversial bathroom law.

PayPal’s withdrawal from North Carolina over its anti-LGBT law earned it a lot of praise. Why was it important for PayPal to take this stand? How did you get the word out?
From the point of view of our corporate affairs team, this was an example of how bringing together our government affairs, government relations, public affairs, communications, and social impact teams enable us to bring the best thinking together in service of our company’s mission.

The company decided to withdraw building a global operations center in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was a decision we felt reflected what PayPal stands for — that we believe in inclusion and people have a right to be treated equally. We believe our values and principles are really at the core of PayPal’s mission, and we felt it was appropriate to demonstrate that commitment with action. It was the right thing for our employees, customers, and community.

We’re fortunate that we have a CEO who’s a very effective communicator. We felt, and [chief executive] Dan [Schulman] felt, that he wanted to speak out directly. This really was something that came from an expression of our mission and what we believe in as a company. And we speak out about democratizing the financial system. We have a strong vision of inclusion that’s our vision for what we stand for externally and internally. It was really an organic decision that came from who we are as a company.

Will you consider pulling out of other states with similar policies?
We have a strong commitment to our mission and values, and I think for PayPal, we are going to look at all the situations where we feel we can act consistently with our mission.

What role did communications play in working to enter the Cuban market?
Again, PayPal’s value proposition is expanding, and we’re really proud to have welcomed Xoom into the family of companies that are part of the PayPal community. [PayPal said in March that it wants to allow money transfers to the island nation via Xoom later this year]. 

So our group has had to expand to represent the new PayPal, which includes Xoom. We’ve been active in how we communicate that expanded value proposition and the way PayPal continues to expand in how it connects merchants and consumers and how we build out our platform. Communication is part and parcel to that expanded vision. So we’re working with Xoom to expand and enhance its financial participation and financial help, and to build out the way it is enabling the mass movement of money across many geographies.

Experts interviewed by PRWeek say demonstrating goodwill toward the Cuban people and government is paramount to working in the state-controlled market. How does PayPal do that? 
By virtue of the way we work to represent the interests of our customers and do our best to bring customers and merchants together in new ways that enable them to interact in productive and positive ways. I think that builds goodwill.

What are the biggest communications challenges facing PayPal this year?
After PayPal separated from eBay, we built a strong corporate affairs function. Some of this year was a building year, bringing together our communications team, external and internal communications, creating a structure that brought them together with government relations and social innovation. It was a terrific opportunity to do great work together and to draw on each other’s skill sets and really develop a new identity as a corporate affairs function.

As we continue to build this team, we’re going to be able to do even more to extend PayPal’s reach and the way in which we connect with stakeholders. For our corporate affairs group, there’s constant opportunity and challenge to build out the PayPal community. 

What’s the status of your PR AOR search?
Regarding our recent global product and Americas pitch, Edelman has been selected for a 60-day scope of work to support the transition of this work. Edelman’s existing scopes with us include work in EMEA, APAC, corporate, and digital.

This story was updated to correct when Xoom may allow money transfers to Cuba. That timeline is set for later this year, not in March.

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