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Informing the public about classification
! Véronique Dutrech*
“The revision of the classifications of activities and products is a useful, coordinated project undertaken as part of an
international initiative. It entails a change in the activity code (APE) for enterprises and their local units. The official
statistical service—comprising INSEE and ministerial statistical offices—will inform you and assist you in adjusting to
the change.” That is the thrust of the communication campaign aimed at sections of the public concerned by the 2008
revision of the French classifications of activities and products. The external communication campaign is characterized
by strongly coordinated messages and actions, the variety of target audiences, early publicity, a multimodal, long-term
information program, and active involvement by all relevant national and local players.
he message sent to all segments Tof the French public concerned
by the revision of classifications
stressed the following points: the
international dimension of the 2008
revision of classifications of activities
and products; its consultative
development; its purpose; its
usefulness; timetable; practical
consequences; support measures by
the official statistical service.
A consistent message
As soon as the coordination
mechanism for the “classification
changes” project was launched
in 2006 (see article by Lienhardt),
In See ’s external c ommunications
Division began to examine ways of
supporting the process. Given the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Lyon, France: façade on Place de la Bourse, illuminated
for 2007 “Festival of Lights”variety and number of audiences
concerned, the Division focused
on designing a consistent message
with representatives of enterprises, – The convergence of international and sought out the most effective
i.e., statistics users. classification systems entails a new
information channels.
coding of categories in the French
– The new classification meets real of activities (nAF). The The messages were therefore prepared
needs. First, it allows closer tracking present four-character coding is collectively and disseminated by all
replaced by a five-character system. of changes in technology and in the players: In See and the ministerial
The impact for users is a change in economic and social organization statistical offices (Services Statistiques
the “principal economic activity” code of businesses. Second, it fosters Ministériels: SSMs) in liaison with
(Activité Principale exercée: APe) for international comparisons by firms.
all natural and legal persons recorded increasing convergence between the
in the SIRene business register, major classification systems used in The main themes selected for the
managed by InSee.the world. The new classification gives communication campaign were as
greater room to “rising” sectors—follows:
* Véronique Dutrech is on the staff of InSee’s namely, environmental, information,
external communications Division.
– French classification changes form and communication activities. It offers 1. o riginally published as “Accompagner le
a more refined matrix for analyzing changement de nomenclatures,” Courrier des part of a vast and vital revision process
statistiques (French series), no. 125, nov.-
conducted at all levels—world, activities, particularly business
Dec. 2008, pp. 89-92, http://www.insee.fr/fr/ffc/
europe, and France—in consultation services. docs_ffc/cs125o.pdf.
courrier des statistiques, english series no. 15, 2009 81
Source: WikipediaVéronique Dutrech
– InSee and the SSMs are developing audiences concerned, sufficiently notified enterprises of the operation
products, tools, and services to early but also in step with the complex in April 2006—a full year and a half
inform enterprises about their new technical operations described in the before the scheduled implementation
APe codes. These resources include: other articles of this issue. date of January 1, 2008.
correspondence tables between
the new classifications and the The obstacles to communication In o ctober 2006, we conducted
classifications in effect until January were of two kinds. First, the APe several high-profile communication
1, 2008; detailed breakdowns of code change has repercussions on, campaigns through diverse channels.
classifications; data files; tools for among other things, internal corporate
retrieving new APe codes; intensified information systems—hence the risk – The medium of choice was
telephone assistance; and more. that some firms might regard it as the Internet. Going online to find
yet one more bureaucratic chore. information is now a well-established
The resources are tailored to the Second, there was the risk that the habit, the high proportion of businesses
audiences targeted by each part of code change might revive baseless and households with Internet access
the communication campaign. but persistent fears, for example, the justified such a campaign, and
need to change collective agreements the impact of online messages is
and the “obligation” to print the APe Varied audiences: unique. on our website, www.insee.
code on company letterheads and enterprises, SIRENE users, fr, we therefore posted all of the then
business documents (see article by statistics users, and others available details on the goals of the
Roussel). revision, the kinds of changes that
To perform their public-service would be made, draft classifications
mission, InSee and the SSMs must and correspondence tables, the
inform all their audiences and partners, tentative timetable, and answers
classified in three categories: to selected questions. At the same
time, the ministerial statistical offices – The eight million enterprises,
(SSMs), which maintain contacts natural persons, and legal persons
with firms, published alerts on their recorded in the SIRene register are
websites regarding the classification the foremost group concerned by the
revision, with links to www.insee.fr.APe code change resulting from the
nAF revision.
– In See ’s Director-General sent
– Another target consists of an initial letter to the partners and
SIRene users. They include InSee’s associates of InSee and the SSMs,
administrative partners, such informing them of the planned
as commercial-court registrars, changes. The letter was sent to trade
chambers of commerce, URSSAF, organizations and subscribers to
and local tax offices. other groups are SIRene dissemination bases.
concerned as well, notably SIRene
subscribers, redisseminators, banks, – During the same period,
and IT service firms (for commercial representatives of business firms
dissemination of SIRene). Yet other were informed in the various forums
institutions, such as employment of the national council for Statistical
courts and social-security funds, also Information (cn IS), including the
use nAF and the APe code. “Business statistics” cross-sectional
task force.
- Statistics users concerned by the
classification revision form a large
BNP Paribas building in Paris 2007-2012: a long-term group: the public sphere, students,
information programresearchers, regional public-sector
players, urban planning agencies—
We deliberately devoted 2007-2008 to and statisticians themselves. Internet and postal
intensive communication in support communication and oral
of the change. Representatives of presentations starting in A tall challenge—how to
business firms at cn IS received 2006disseminate the right level
continuous updates on the operation of information at the right
InSee and the SSMs decided to and were involved in the discussions.time—but some obstacles
communicate as early as possible in the way
to audiences concerned by the In January 2007, we stepped up our
The major challenge consisted classification revision. For this purpose, direct messages to firms. enterprises
in communicating effectively to all we set up a multimodal program. We requesting a status certificate from
Source: WikipediaInforming the public about classification changes
the SIRene register were alerted by
means of a notice printed at the back
of the certificate. From February to
June, enterprises contacted as part of
the Business-Register Improvement
Surveys (eARs) and Annual
enterprise Surveys (eAes) were
informed in the cover letter sent with
the questionnaires. We arranged a
meeting with SIRene redisseminators
and large corporate accounts.
A month and a half after the decree’s
promulgation, InSee sent a letter or
cD-RoM to all employer enterprises
recorded in the register (1,700,000
excluding agriculture and the public
sector). They were thus informed of
their own new APe codes and the
ones for each of their local units.
Entrance to Commercial Court (Tribunal de Commerce), ParisWe also engaged in direct
communication via specially expanded
“InSee contact Service” teams and associates with a letter signed by In 2008, when the Institute published
register-management teams at our InSee’s Director-General. the first results of surveys under the
Regional offices. new n AF, statistics users became
We mailed an initial press release to the prime target of our information
For our “general public” 300 journalists in December 2007, campaign.
communication, we relied primarily enclosing the FAQ. We sent a second
on the Internet. The websites www. release to the press in January when This communication effort will
insee.fr and www.sirene.fr invested the decree was published and the continue until 2012. That year, the
heavily in information access and in new nAF came into force. results of all statistical operations
the information content itself. on the will be disseminated under the new
second site, we expanded the FAQ We prepared a brochure for classifications, as the backcast series
section on the SIRene register and businesses, published several articles will be available.
put contact forms online. in Insee Actualités Magazine, and
placed regular announcements in
General mobilization on www.insee.fr, visitors can look InSee e-newsletters.
up an FAQ section on the expected
In short, the “n AF c hange” practical consequences of the
communication campaign mobilized classification changes (see Box for
all players at both national and local sample questions). We also put online
Box: “NAF FAQ: sample levels. At InSee, they ranged from the dissemination products that we questions” the Director-General to switchboard prepared to assist with the crossover.
operators at our Regional offices and Aren’t the APe and nAF codes the
SIRene register clerks. In the public same thing?Alert messages were posted on www.
Why revise nAF? sector, actors included ministries, insee.fr’s associated sites such as
What is the purpose of the APe ministerial statistical offices, and the enterprise Portal and o fficial
code? In See partners in a position to Statistics Portal. La Documentation How do I find out the new APe
transmit information to firms.Française (a government publishing code of an enterprise or local unit
agency) and the economy Ministry in early 2008?
InSee set up a network of experts Do I need to change the APe code also relayed the information on their
to answer technical questions from on my letterhead, invoices, and own sites.
order forms? journalists and the public.
When do I need to put my new
We updated our interactive voice
APe code on pay slips? o n
servers. Progress reportadministrative forms?
could the collective agreement that
We sent the FAQs on practical In the second half of 2008, we began applies to my enterprise change
consequences of the classification with the new classification? the third phase of our communication
changes to all Institute partners and program, targeted at statistics users.
courrier des statistiques, english series no. 15, 2009 83
Source: WikipediaVéronique Dutrech
At this stage of the operation, we from nearly 13,000 visits in December online information at www.insee.
can make a partial assessment of 2007 to 74,000 in February 2008. The fr was reproduced, sometimes with
our communication strategy aimed at same is true of the page informing comments, on several private-sector
websites in the business sphere (trade enterprises, our “information relays,” enterprises on how to obtain their
organizations), the legal community, SIRene users, and the general new APe codes, which jumped from
the accounting world, and so on.public. 8,000 visits in December 2007 to
almost 58,000 in February 2008.
The campaign seeks to inform these even if they were convinced
groups about the classification – number of calls on SIRene voice by the arguments in favor of the
changes and convince them that server (0825 332 203): The number classification revisions, enterprises
the revision is well-founded. It does climbed from 226 calls in the first experienced disruption in their habits
due to the assignment of new APe not seek to win acceptance by week of January 2008 to almost 3,900
codes—which, moreover, had a enterprises of their new APe codes, in the second week of February, then
new structure. The official statistical nor to heighten the profile of “public eased to 3,800 in May.
service’s communication program administration” on this occasion!
– number of calls to “InSee contact” sought, among other things, to give
We can use several indicators to Service: In January and February 2008, enterprises advance notice of the
assess the effectiveness of our it rose more than 50% on the same change and help them adjust to
multimodal communication drive: year-earlier period. Most questions it. one return on investment worth
noting is the absence of scathing came in after the personalized mailing
– Visits to new information pages on editorials in the media! nto employer enterprises.
the 2008 revision of classifications
on www.insee.fr: The new section’s We noted scant coverage in the
home page alone registered a surge print media. By contrast, the

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