RT: You have had a long innings in the world’s two leading firms spanning two decades in leadership positions. Do you miss life in a consultancy?
CJ: The experiences I have had in global communications firms and in-house departments have been equally rewarding. Consultancy life provided me with the opportunity to work with people who shared my passion for communications and allowed me to learn about many different industries and cultures. There was collective energy that was harnessed for our clients, underpinned by a strong sense of team. This shared purpose and the enormous fun we had in the pursuit of success are what I miss the most.
RT: Where do you see the role of reputation management evolving five years from now?
CJ: In a world where technology is ever evolving, it’s hard to predict what tools we will be using for reputation management in 2025. Whatever the platform or technology, companies will need to be more intuitive and hyper-local as the world moves increasingly towards micro-communities getting their news and information in real-time from like-minded people. The challenge will be to avoid splintering communications and over-engaging, which risks removing a clear narrative and sense of ‘who you are’. Companies must continue following the guiding principles that have stood the test of time:
- Being consistent in what you say and do
- Walking the talk – actions always speak louder than words
- Listening, then acting
- Treating employees with the same respect as external stakeholders
- Being transparent
RT: In a career spanning 30 years what have been your top five learnings that the current generation would benefit by reading about?
CJ: My top five learnings would be:
- Hire great people. If you don’t think a candidate has just what you are looking for, then they are not the right one. Keep looking.
- Follow your gut instinct – it never lies.
- If it is still on your “To Do” list after two weeks, it’sprobably not worth doing. Drop it or suggest an alternative that will get it done.
- Delete emails from people you don’t need to engage with. It’s empowering and good for your mental health.
- Always keep up to date with the latest news. Knowing what is affecting the world around you keeps you informed and grounded.
RT: You have lived and worked in three continents. How does each of them differ in the way Public Relations is practiced?
CJ: This is an interesting question and one that is hard to answer as what was different two decades ago is probably not the case today.
In the 1990s in the UK, PR was still very much the poorer cousin of advertising. We had to work hard to obtain a share-of-wallet from the marketing budget. This forced PR teams to be very creative. I worked at the Saatchi & Saatchi agency, so creativity was an intrinsic part of the way we worked. I still see the UK as a powerhouse of new and creative thinking.
Asia is so diverse that it’s hard to know where to begin. However, I see a common thread across all countries, which is sheer hard work with a total customer focus. I am amazed by the hours consultancy teams work to deliver to seemingly impossible deadlines. From Mumbai to Manila to Singapore and Beijing, this is a trademark of Asian firms.
Europeans are very pragmatic and academic in their approach. Working in the global headquarters of a European pharmaceutical company was inspiring, as I worked with some of the smartest scientists and executives in the world. There was mutual respect, and people were measured and calm, it was not frenetic.
In my native Australia, working life is about finding opportunities. Australians are positive by nature and we believe anything is possible.This can-do approach translates into a willingness to try new ideas and embrace change. I would say the business here has re-invented it self really well, which is a reflection of this ethos.
RT: What should the communication professional look forward to in 2021?
CJ: More marketing budgets available to execute great work that is not crisis management; More flexibility; More fun!
Christine Jones is the VP & Global Head of Marketing and Communications at AG&P Company and is a Keynote Speaker at SPECTRA.
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