Oct 27, 2022 - Economy & Business

Communicator Spotlight: Paul Gennaro, Voya Financial

Photo illustration of Paul Gennaro with abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: courtesy of Paul Gennaro.

Paul Gennaro has 35 years of communications experience, mostly as a chief brand and communications officer — the title he holds at Voya Financial.

Flashback: Gennaro got his start in the U.S. Navy, where he served for seven years before transitioning into corporate communications.

  • He credits the Navy for his ability to stay calm under pressure, and he now leads quarterly crisis communication drills for his team on potential crises.

🏗 How it’s structured: Gennaro oversees a team of 40 who manage strategic, brand and corporate communications; meetings and events; advertising; and research and consumer insights.

🌡 Hardest day at work: Realizing his employer's former intern was leading the Khamis Brigade in the Libyan Civil War.

  • In 2011, Gennaro's then-employer, AECOM, was managing an infrastructure project in Libya and "we were asked to provide an internship to Khamis Gaddafi," he told Axios.
  • Khamis — the youngest son of Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi — was 27 at the time, attending IE Business School in Madrid.
  • "One Thursday, he cut the internship short and flew back to Tripoli. By Saturday morning, I received news that the ground war broke out after the Khamis Brigade attacked the Libyan civilians in Benghazi. ... I was thinking to myself, 'I hope Khamis is really a common name and this isn't our Khamis.' But in fact, he was leading that branch of the Libyan military.”
  • At the time, AECOM had 170 expatriate employees in Tripoli and 10 in Benghazi.
  • "Goal number one was to get our employees out safely, "Gennaro said. "The U.S. was not evacuating people in Benghazi, so we liaised with the British government. Five days later, we were able to get our people out on the Royal Navy's HMS Cumberland.”
  • Once staff was safe, Gennaro knew he’d have to handle the internship issue, and he advised leaders to be transparent in their response.
  • “When companies go into crises, no matter what the circumstance, how they respond is as important as the crisis itself,” he said.

⏰ Clock out: You can find Gennaro spending time with his wife and four kids or watching Philadelphia sports teams.

📱Open rates: The note-taking app, Noteshelf, keeps him paperless.

🗞 News diet: Gennaro reads Philly sports news, followed by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, CNN, Fox News and The New York Post for "entertainment value."

💡 Words of wisdom: "To be a good communicator, you must build trust. "

Subscribe to Axios Communicators.

Go deeper