Mysteries of Cheek Kissing Unlocked by New Draghi Press Chief

As European Central Bank President Mario Draghi struggles to build bridges between quarreling Governing Council members, he soon will have a specialist in international kissing by his side.

Draghi hired Christine Claire Graeff, 39, as Director General for Communications and Language Services, the ECB said in an e-mailed statement. Graeff, who joins the Frankfurt-based institution from communications firm Brunswick, will succeed Elisabeth Ardaillon-Poirier.

As head of communications, Graeff will help Draghi communicate his vision to the euro region’s citizens and to the global financial market as the 17-nation currency union struggles to stay together. She’ll also be responsible for streamlining communications within the central bank, one of Europe’s most multinational workplaces. Graeff declined to comment.

Her cross-cultural expertise includes the subtleties of international corporate kissing.

“Because a kiss is not necessarily just a kiss,” she wrote in an article published on Brunswick’s website in 2009, she created a “cut-out-and-keep guide” for those traveling and kissing across countries and continents.

Belgians do a three-cheek kiss, for instance, while it’s generally two in France and not often deployed in business settings there. Spaniards may kiss at the end of meetings between total strangers. In Italy, Draghi’s native country, two kisses are exchanged in the north and three in the south.

Man Kisses

And then there’s a whole different set of rules for man-to-man kissing. “Men’s cheeks should not touch unless as a sign of close friendship or emotional encounter,” Graeff wrote. Those guidelines might be useful for the ECB’s 22-member governing council, which hasn’t had a female member since Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell’s term expired in May last year.

Graeff will join the ECB as one of two women in leadership positions, at a time when European lawmakers are withholding the appointment of Yves Mersch to the executive board in protest over too few women in top jobs.

As the daughter of German and French parents, Graeff also speaks English, Spanish and Italian. She set up Brunswick’s Frankfurt office in 2001 and leads the company’s financial institutions team, according to Brunswick’s website. Her specialties include corporate positioning, mergers and acquisitions, and crisis and restructuring.

A marathon runner, she started her career at Dresdner Kleinwort Benson in London in 1995 and also worked for Burson-Marsteller public relations firms.

As head of the communications and language-services directorate, one of 21 departments within the ECB, Graeff will be responsible for press relations, public information, publishing, events, protocol and language services once she starts next Jan. 1. Ardaillon-Poirier will become an adviser to the executive board.

It remains unclear whether Graeff will be able to improve relations between Draghi and Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann, who took issue last month with Draghi’s jibe that Weidmann says “no to everything” on the ECB council.

According to Graeff’s memo, the German level of corporate kissing is “mostly none.”