Four ways to elevate women’s voices and make the PR industry a level-playing field

Nitin Mantri, ICCO President, Group CEO Avian WE

Just two years into the new decade and the world has seen an astounding number of breakthroughs in science and technology. Shared knowledge resulted in the fastest development and rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine; WHO approved the world’s first malaria vaccine for children; NASA learned how to fly in a Martian atmosphere, IBM launched the most powerful quantum processor yet, and every company worth its salt jumped on the “metaverse’ bandwagon.

The speed at which new discoveries and advances are helping humankind accelerate into a new world is both exciting and ironic. Because all the progress notwithstanding, when it comes to gender equality, we are abysmally behind. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the pandemic has increased the global gender gap by a generation – from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

Gender inequality exists in every industry – from technology to corporate, politics, media, sports, entertainment, and beyond. It is a complex issue and there is no one size fits all solution.

What can we do about this? How can we ensure that the communications industry, where agencies are overwhelmingly staffed by women but often led by men, functions fairly and equitably? Here are four ways we can elevate women’s voices as powerfully, and as often, as we elevate men’s and make our industry a level-playing field:

Gender equality should be a CEO’s top priority

Gender equality must be in the DNA of every communications firm, embedded in its values and culture, and used as a lens for every decision from strategy to recruitment. And it must swoop down from the top leadership. If the CEO and the board of directors are not committed to ensuring a safe and supportive work culture that is conducive for the growth of their women employees, equality will just be a tick box. Change must start at the top of an organisation and the onus to eliminate biases lies on the CEO.

Build a work culture that integrates work and family

Even though we are living in the 21st century, women are still the primary, and at times, the sole caregivers in their families. In the absence of an office structure that integrates work and family, several women are forced to drop out of the workforce every year. We can prevent this by developing policies and programmes that support both women (as mothers and daughters) and men (as fathers and sons). Provide sufficient maternity and paternity leaves; introduce flexible hours for expectant and new parents, give caregiver leave or part-time work opportunities to employees who need to tend to the medical needs of aging parents or ailing family members. This way the burden of family responsibilities will be equally distributed, and women will find it easier to do their jobs.

Introduce returnee programmes
Invest in returnee programmes to balance the gender gap. Many women are not able to restart their careers after a break because the rapid evolution of technology results in their skillsets being outdated. We can address the industry’s talent problem by helping women reskill and upskill and join back the workforce. VMware, for example, started India’s biggest returnee programme called VMInclusion Taara in 2019 to address the increasing gender gap in the technology sector. Over 12,000 women have registered with the programme in a span of two years and around 2,000 women have found their way back into the workforce.

Measure progress to achieve gender equality

Gender equality policies and programmes will remain only on paper, if we don’t track and measure their implementation and progress. The best way to do it is by tying executive bonuses, including the CEO’s salary, to diversity goals. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, Nike, Facebook and Johnson and Johnson, to name a few have already done that. So, while we counsel our clients on the importance of sustainability and purpose, we also need to put our money where our mouth is and incorporate gender diversity goals in our business strategies. This will hold our leaders accountable for their behavior, help them address their unconscious biases, and build a steady pipeline of senior talent.

#BreakTheBias

It’s critical to remember that gender equality is not for the benefit of women alone. When companies empower their women employees, it has a multiplier effect on businesses, families, communities, and economies. High time we made a conscious effort to #BreakTheBias, and bring about genuine structural changes for gender equality in the communications industry.

GWPR Report Highlights Boardroom Barriers but Flexible Working May Accelerate Change

Angela Oakes, GWPR Co-founder & Joint President

By Angela Oakes, Co-founder & Joint President, Global Women in PR

The Annual Index is a GWPR (Global Women in PR) report measuring the position of women in PR around the world. This research-based report* is part of a five-year plan to help us understand the issues affecting women in the industry and to measure the progress towards gender equality.

We recently launched the third edition of the GWPR Annual Index and what has become increasingly clear from our annual research is that progress towards equality continues to be extremely slow. In addition, as a direct result of the Covid pandemic, the pace for driving women forward into a more balanced PR industry appears to have taken a step backwards.

When asked about the effect of the pandemic, some of the negative feedback included slower progression for women reaching leadership positions, less job security, increased stress from working 24/7 and the belief that it will take even longer to close the gender pay gap.

Without question these are serious career issues for PR women, but the effect goes beyond women.

In an industry where women make up two-thirds of the workforce, the boardroom is still predominantly male. We know from leading management consultancies, like McKinsey & Co; (Women in the Workplace 2020) that there is a direct link between boardroom diversity and a company’s financial performance. Our Annual Index research highlights the benefits to business of having women in the boardroom in terms of productivity, creativity and improved working practices.

Business Benefits

Overall, a significant 89% of respondents believe that more needs to be done to ensure women in the PR industry have greater boardroom presence.

So what should be done and what are the barriers to women entering the boardroom? Not surprisingly the biggest barrier continues to be women taking on childcare or caring responsibilities. Half of our survey respondents had children at home and two-fifths of women reported caring responsibilities had negatively impacted their career.

First and foremost organisations need to offer flexible working practices, so that women with children can schedule their work and home commitments accordingly. On a positive note this is happening much more frequently – and all thanks to Covid. 91% of respondents reported that they are currently working flexibly.

In addition remote working is on the rise – up 20% in a year. Over the next year PR professionals believe they will be working remotely 3 days a week and 21% expect to be doing this full time. Remote working is such an important benefit that more than half rank it more highly than financial reward.

In conclusion, the acceleration of flexible, and in particular remote working, may counter some of the obstacles created by the Covid pandemic, but there is still a long way to go before PR women achieve gender equality in the workplace.

It will be fascinating to see if the long-term impact of Covid will have positively helped women in the PR workplace of the future.

* The 2021 research was conducted Summer 2021 by strategic insight agency Opinium using an online questionnaire. This year 430 PR professionals from around the world participated; over half (61%) were at director level and the vast majority (97%) were women.

 

About GWPR

Founded to connect, champion and support women in senior PR and Communication roles around the world, GWPR is a not-for-profit organisation driven by a desire to change the landscape for women working in our industry.

www.globalwpr.com

Lessons in Transformational Leadership; An Interview w/ Dr. Vivien Chiong

Dr Chiong’s team at NTU Singapore (seen here at a campus roadshow for its augmented reality-enhanced student magazine) has been honoured in every major area of its work with more than 90 awards, including nine international team of the year awards since 2015.

Chief Communications Officer, Dr. Vivien Chiong has been pivotal in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU) transition to its position as one of the world’s leading educational institutions.

Dr. Chiong started out as a journalist due to her love for writing. In time, and following an impressive professional path through media and communications roles in a number of organizations, she joined NTU in 2010.

Since then, the NTU in-house team has received more than 90 awards. Dr. Chiong has also personally won 9 awards, including the 2022 ICCO Global Award for PR Leader of the Year. Amongst innumerable transformational communications strategies, she spearheaded NTU’s transition to increased use of digital tools in communication, including the creation of an augmented reality magazine to reinforce NTU’s “smart campus” branding.

Dr. Chiong also contributes nationally as the Chair of the Science and Technology Branding Taskforce, appointed by the National Research Foundation at the Singapore’s Prime Minister’s Office.

ICCO: You have had an incredible journey from starting as a journalist in Singapore, to leading the communications team at one of the world’s highest ranked universities. Can you tell us what initially attracted you to media and communications and how your views may have changed over your career?

Dr. Chiong: Media and communications is an all-absorbing career and I’m fortunate to be in a job where I truly enjoy the work I do. I started out in journalism because of my love for writing. Initially, it seemed like going into corporate communication was a natural development of my passion for conveying ideas through words, visuals and sound.

After embarking on my postgraduate studies, I became interested in integrating my knowledge of the different aspects of media and communication and to marry theory with practice, and in the strategic use of communication.

I have been in several different industries such as cable television, water and the environment, before moving into the higher education sector. These diverse experiences have helped shape my thinking as a communicator.

For example, working with colleagues at Disney and Cartoon Network in the earlier years of my career, I learnt invaluable lessons about characterisation. Later when I joined Singapore’s national water agency, I created a mascot called Water Wally – as a strategic communication tool for water messages. Today, even after 15 years, Water Wally remains one of the most endearing national mascots in Singapore.

 

ICCO: Can you tell us about a mentor or someone that inspired you in the early stages of your career?

Dr. Chiong: I have been blessed with good bosses throughout my career, who have always been willing to put their faith in me and are open to my counsel on communication matters. Whilst they may not have been experts in the intricacies of communication, their clear expectations of how they wanted it to help fulfil specific objectives have driven my team and I to stretch ourselves and come up with creative solutions to meet these objectives.

 

ICCO: Part of your growing legacy is your creative use of digital technology. In a continuously and rapidly evolving technological landscape, how do you identify developments that are going to be impactful in your work?

Scan the magazine cover to see the rest of the room: As a “smart magazine” that combines print with augmented reality, NTU’s magazine HEY! uses video, 3D models and 3D animations to engage its young target audiences. The augmented reality features are produced in-house and creatively applied across the magazine to make the pages “come alive”.

Dr. Chiong: I am fascinated by technology and what it can do. In the past, many in corporate communication focused on media publicity but the landscape has changed dramatically with digital technologies like mobile applications and social media. I’m especially excited by augmented reality and virtual reality because they bring new dimensions to storytelling.

At NTU, we revamped our print magazine HEY! into an augmented reality (AR) title to reinforce NTU’s Smart Campus branding. All photos in the magazine are taken using smartphones including the cover. Here’s an example of how we use AR. On a HEY! cover showing an NTU dorm, when scanned with the HEY! AR app, the photo seamlessly transitions into a video showing other parts of the room, giving the illusion of a 360-degree photo.

To create such communication effects requires a change in the editorial process. The creative director needs to decide on the cover photo on the spot – instead of poring over hundreds of photos back in the office – so that the video producer can ensure the video flows seamlessly from the chosen photo.

We also experiment with 3D models of objects that readers can scan and then bring into their immediate environment and interact with. Besides videos and 3D models, we also experiment with animation, sound and space. We have been very energised by all these new possibilities to better tell a story.

One of the best things about working in a university is that we are big on exploring the unknown. I have been very motivated to experiment with new ways of communication.

 

ICCO: Can you speak to an underlying strategy that you have applied across your work over the years that you are personally proud of and tell us why you think it is so successful?

Dr. Chiong: When I first joined NTU in 2010, my strategy was to integrate three existing pillars of communication – media publicity, content marketing, marketing communication — and to introduce social media as part of the university’s communication strategy. Later, I read in communication literature that there was a new term coined for this called PESO which stands for paid, earned, shared and owned media.

The PESO model of communication has served NTU well, given its diverse target audiences. It has also helped us to be smarter in the use of our modest resources. Most valuable to me is that the integrated approach ensures team members are not siloed in their area of work and learn to work collaboratively. I always confidently tell new staff joining us that here, you will get to broaden your skills to cover the full spectrum of communication work. This will lay their foundations to become a communication leader one day.

To help us in planning, scheduling and content sharing, we designed a bespoke system on Airtable which enables us to track more than 1200 communication activities a year. When we shifted to remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic, it had no impact on our productivity and teamwork which continued to be high.

 

ICCO: As ICCO’s PR Leader of the Year, can you tell us what the most important attributes are for a successful leader, particularly in communications?

Dr. Chiong: All leaders need to have a vision and be able to show the way to achieve the vision.

A communication leader needs to combine strategic insight and creativity with their vision and leadership to help fulfil the organisation’s mission and objectives. He/she sets clear goals, manages complexities and upholds high ethical standards.

In my experience having led several in-house communication teams, all communicators, no matter how junior, want to know how their work can help in achieving their organisation’s goals.

As a manager, it is important to motivate the team to work towards the organisation’s broad objectives. So I value qualities like teamwork, creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.

I place emphasis on the professional development of my team members. I may not work directly with each one of them on a daily basis but I observe and assess their individual skills, aptitude, interests and attitude. Working closely with my deputies, we expose them to a range of assignments and experiences that will stretch them and build their competencies. This also helps to prevent them from getting bored or stuck in a rut, or suffering from burnout.

I’m proud that in the last three years, three of my junior staff have been recognised with Newcomer of the Year awards. At NTU, we have also won nine international Team of the Year Awards since 2015 – the biggest being the 2020 ICCO In-house Digital Team of the Year Award – so thank you, ICCO!

I’m very grateful to award organisers and judges for all their hard work as the international peer recognition goes a long way towards motivating staff to continue to strive for excellence in communication.

 

ICCO: Having developed an NTU in-house team of at least 30 members representing multiple ethnicities and age groups, can you explain the benefits of such diversity, and how do you ensure all voices and perspectives can be heard?

Dr. Chiong: NTU is a cosmopolitan university competing globally and Singapore is a multicultural society. Operating in such a richly diverse environment coupled with NTU’s wide-ranging set of stakeholders, our communication can only benefit from having a diverse team of different age groups and ethnicities working on it. Because we work collaboratively and not in a linear fashion, many pairs of eyes will go through a piece of work. The idea is not for one person doing the assignment to send it through to his/her immediate supervisor for approval. They engage different team members and other internal stakeholders who bring different sensibilities and talents to improve the final product.

 

ICCO: The Global Women in PR annual index found that in 2021 73% of women “would be more likely to choose a job that offered flexible working over one that did not”. What is your experience of this within your team, and has NTU adapted to accommodate this growing need?

Dr. Chiong: Covid-19 has shown us that flexible and remote working doesn’t have to affect the quality of the work we do, particularly in communication.

A hybrid work arrangement could become standard in the future. Long term remote-only working will affect team bonding as Zoom sessions cannot replicate real life social interactions – those corridor and pantry chats that are good for camaraderie and the sparking of serendipitous ideas.

But equally, a change in environment can spark creative ideas. Clocking fixed hours at the same office desk may not be that good for creativity. If a hybrid arrangement is going to thrive in the workplace, it will need all staff to demonstrate the self-discipline and ability to deliver on their assignments.

My team has been operating on a hybrid work arrangement and we recently had a team bonding event where internal awards for the last year were presented. The nominees presented the challenges they faced and how they overcame them, so it was a wonderful sharing session for everyone to feast on some best practices and lessons learnt. The winner in each of the five categories was chosen by their peers. We had not brought every team member together in person for a long time, and I could see that everyone was delighted to be able to finally be in the same room.

 

ICCO: Retaining talent is the top priority issue for PR right now. What advice do you have for junior and mid-level communication professionals, who want to stay in the industry for the long haul, particularly younger women? And what can leaders do to improve talent retention?

Dr. Chiong: I think the age-old proverb “a rolling stone gathers no moss” offers a caution for junior communicators. It takes time to learn about a new industry, to roll out your communication programmes, and show your results. If you keep hopping around, you will never stay long enough to show any results that are truly your own.

Many junior and mid-level communicators get into the field because they love the creative aspects of the work. But a passion for words and an aesthetic eye are not enough. A full-fledged communicator must also learn to conduct formative and post- campaign research, have a keen interest in analytics and in new emerging digital technologies.

As for talent retention, I think communicators will stay in a job where they feel their work is strategic and valued by the organisation, where there are opportunities to experiment and grow, and where their professionalism is recognised.

A Time For Authenticity and Action

Extracted from the 2021-22 ICCO World Report.

Sudha Singh’s thought provoking reflections on diversity, equity and inclusion are featured in the 2021-2022 ICCO PR World report.

As I review the data from ICCO’s World PR Report, I sit with the awareness and understanding that countries and cultures are not homogenous, they are different and unique. That when we speak about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), we are at different points in our journey; sensitivity and awareness levels may wildly differ from country to country within a region or a continent. It is important to understand that priorities differ from country to country and sometimes in the same country the drivers of DEI differ from one region to another.

The US and UK – parts of the West that were roiled [in 2020] after the brutal murder of George Floyd and ‘Black Lives Matter’ (BLM) – and Latin America fared poorly on the question of ethnic representation. The US was at 3.6 and the other two at 4.1. The key takeaway here is that there is heightened awareness and recognition of the inequalities in these geographies which is great, because it means that there is an acknowledgement of a) the problem and b) the need for urgent change.

This is further reflected in the fact the same three countries score highest on firms that have a diversity and inclusion policy with the US at 71% followed by Latin America(62%) and UK(60%).

However, there seems to be worrying shift though in the Middle-East, Asia-Pac, and Africa if we compare with last year’s data: representation of ethnic minorities has gone down in percentage terms. Surprisingly Western Europe fares the worst amongst the eight regions surveyed and we need further data to understand why that is. Overall, the data is indicative of the absence of sub-stantive progress across countries/corporates and that may very well be due to the fact that in the past 18 months companies have paused to reflect and review their efforts in the direction. Or that most corporates have been fairly oblivious to systemic inequalities. It is encouraging to see that a large number of those surveyed review their policy at least once a year if not more.

The DEI agenda in the West was propelled by the horrific murder of George Floyd, BLM and the pandemic that exacerbated racial and ethnic inequalities. It required seismic events to spotlight the trials and tribulations of marginalised communities.

The impetus in some regions/ countries is regulatory requirements and for many companies it gets to the top of the agenda because of the associated business and reputation risks. In India for example the conversation centres largely on gender; the LGBTQ agenda comes to the fore at multinationals – where DEI policies at the HQ become the trigger points in local markets. Western multinationals have the power to enable positive change in the countries and communities where they operate.

However, it is critical to keep in mind that companies must not try to force fit their policies in local markets, they must be mindful of local realities and engage with teams and experts to identify priorities or focus areas.

The last 18 months has laid bare the stark inequalities in our world. As we slowly move towards recovery, the outlook is fairly positive for our industry. This has also been a time for the sobering realisation that we are failing abysmally on representation, equity and inclusion, and the consensus all around is that it will require transformative changes if we are to build a fairer industry. For businesses as they struggled with aftershocks, it has been a time to align their core purpose to broader societal needs, listen to their stakeholders, take a stand on important is-sues and not just because of share holder imperatives. CEOs and the C-suite are grappling with the pace of change, to adapt, and understand whatever state of flux we are in at that point in time. For an industry that aspires to have a seat at the table, and advise clients on purpose and sustainability, this puts us on the back foot. How can we advise clients authentically if we as an industry are not equitable or inclusive?

As we look to the future it is important to think about what we can do to build a better and fairer industry. We can start by creating awareness about best practice through setting benchmarks and making cultural intelligence a key skill for all practitioners. According to a recent article in Forbes, the rise of awareness about diversity and inclusion has been one of the most transformative cultural trends of the last 10 years. How can we ride this wave, and what can we do to take advantage of the momentum?

Prioritise on just two things:

  1. a) Be Authentic
  2. b) Take Action

To be authentic live the values that we preach. Don’t just say it to other people or for your clients, embed inclusion into your business. Start with C-Suite buy in and accountability; listen to your employees and stakeholders; create an inclusive hiring process; be transparent about the pay gap; consider intersectionality; be a sponsor and monitor constantly.

Take Action: Before you head to the next conference or write the next blog on equity and inclusion check your equity and inclusion policy. If you have one, map where you are on the journey; share your journey including your challenges. If you are not on the journey, get started.

ICCO suspends Russian PR Association indefinitely

The International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) has suspended the membership of the Association of Consulting Companies in the Field of Public Relations (AKOS) indefinitely, with immediate effect.

The decision – taken by ICCO’s Executive Committee – follows Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and flagrant violation of international law.

The Executive Committee acted following concerns that AKOS had failed to distance itself from the actions of the Russian Government.

ICCO was founded and operates on the principles of truth, trust and integrity. Today’s decision is driven by the belief that international law and human rights must always be respected. The move is consistent with a broader wave of international sanctions against Russia.

Nitin Mantri, ICCO President said:

“Our thoughts are with all those suffering as a result of the invasion. This decision was not taken lightly. ICCO wishes to state publicly its support for a great number of Russian communications professionals who oppose the actions of their Government. Yet we must strongly condemn any agency involved in proliferation of misinformation or suppression of free speech. “

Francis Ingham, ICCO Chief Executive said

“We condemn the Russian Government’s actions in the strongest possible terms. ICCO stands committed to the principle of international law, and have a responsibility to our members and the public to send a clear message that this activity is not tolerated.  ICCO does not tolerate membership of any Associations that do not to oppose inexcusable breaches of international law and human rights.”

 

 

Sapio Research Join ICCO as New Partner for 2022

Sapio Research is an award-winning, international full-service market research consultancy and has joined ICCO as Research Partners for 2022. Sapio offers quantitative and qualitative research, welcoming complex, challenging briefs. They can help to formulate the approach, to create the scope and design the process. This is done through ABC: Audience understanding, Brand research and Content research.

Jane Hales, Co-Founder and Director, Sapio Research said:

“I am delighted Sapio has become ICCO’s new exclusive research partner, this is an endorsement of our excellent relationship with the PR industry and ability to deliver Audience, Brand and Content Research. We look forward to working with ICCO and their member agencies around the world to deliver valuable work in 2022, including the World PR Report later in the year”.

Rob Morbin, Deputy Chief Executive, ICCO said

“Adding Sapio Research to ICCO’s roster of recommended partners will support our members around the world by offering quality, precise research with an international outlook. Facts and evidence are the cornerstone of good communication and quality research allows our members to develop storylines and decisions with confidence”

To find out more please contact Jane Hales, Co-Founder and Director, jane.hales@sapioresearch.com

CMS More Accessible with 5 New Auditors Added to Roster

For more than 20 years, PRCA and ICCO have offered CMS audits framework for independent certifications to help agencies be accountable and to improve their business processes. Customers’ growing demand for trust and accountability is fuelling a desire from clients to work with more quality certified agencies.

The growing international demand for certifications has, in turn required ICCO to actively grow its pool of approved auditors, making the standard more globally acknowledged and accessible in alternative languages. The most recent a CMS auditor development course took place in Vienna from 16th to 18th February, hosted at the premises of The Skills Group. Organised by ICCO’s audit partner organisation AgencyExperts.org

Five distinguished PR experts and ICCO board members have successfully passed a state-accredited auditor exam under the auspices of the inspection organisation TÜV, comparable to BSI or ISO.

Now AgencyExperts has a growing pool of international CMS auditors who can be booked to run quality certifications in communications agencies and in in-house comms departments. The newly certified CMS auditors are all in the leadership teams of their national PR associations and experienced agency managers:

Alexander Dourchev, Bulgaria
Dimitris Roulias, Greece
Elena Fadeeva, Russia
Patrik Schober, Czech Republic
Andras Sztaniszlav, Hungary

(Photo: from left to right, incl. Anita Mohl, CEO AgencyExperts, Juergen H. Gangoly)

The new auditors are enlarging ICCO’s and AgencyExperts existing auditor team with experts from 11 different countries, additionally including Austria, Germany, Egypt, Switzerland, and the UK. With the PR associations of Ireland and Turkey also processing audits.

The next CMS auditor development course shall take place in autumn 2022. If you would like more information about gaining CMS accreditations or becoming a certified auditor, contact rob.morbin@iccopr.com

Almost a third of PR leaders ‘Open to 4-day week’

London, 21st February, 2022

 

23% of global communications leaders are interested in trialling a four-day working week with no reduction in pay and a further 9% have already adopted the model, according to new research published by the ICCO and PRCA.

The study – conducted by Question & Retain – follows a recent PRCA MENA study revealing UAE professionals believe they work more efficiently under the new four and a half day working week adopted in UAE.

128 CEOs, Directors, and Department Heads took part in the latest ICCO and PRCA  quarterly Confidence Tracker, which assesses market confidence in the global public relations industry.

Market confidence boost

The study reveals impressive levels of confidence amongst PR and communications leaders. The research shows more than two-thirds (72%) of PR agencies and in-house teams globally are hiring and almost nine out of 10 (87%) respondents are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ about the future of their organisation – this is a three percentage point rise since the last Confidence Tracker in October 2021.

Download the ICCO results here and the PRCA results here.

 

ICCO Chief Executive and PRCA Director General and  Francis Ingham MPRCA said:

“The data from our latest Global Confidence Tracker is very encouraging. Market confidence around the world is now higher than at any point since the beginning of the pandemic and the growing confidence is reflected in the number of organisations hiring. The four-day working week is an interesting proposition for agencies and in-house teams, many of whom are looking for creative ways to attract and retain the most talented professionals. The model won’t work for everyone but there are clear benefits for those willing to embrace change.”

PR Rising Star Victoria McNish on nurturing a career in political communications

In December 2021, Victoria McNish won the Rising Star of the Year award at the ICCO Global Awards—another crowning moment to add to an already impressive run in the industry. Having studied politics at Durham University, McNish’s career began in Parliament working in an MP’s office, followed by a two-and-a-half-year stint at public affairs agency Newington Communications. In 2019, she took up post as a consultant at DGA Interel UK where she worked her way up to Account Director. Outside of her time at DGA Interel, McNish serves as a mentor for I Have a Voice; a social enterprise working to improve political literacy among young people in the UK from disadvantaged backgrounds. She also sits on the industry’s youth committee – NextGen Public Affairs.

 

ICCO: Can you describe how you were first drawn to communications?

Victoria McNish, Account Director at DGA Interel, won the ICCO Global Award for Rising Star of the Year in 2021.

VM: I always wanted to pursue a career in the world of politics and having started my career working in Parliament for an MP, I came to realise how important it is that businesses and organisations contribute to the policy development process. As the on-the-ground experts in their field or sector, it is critical that businesses and organisations communicate their insights and make recommendations to decision makers. Political communications – or public affairs as it is better known – provided the perfect opportunity for me to do just that.

ICCO: What do you most enjoy about working in communications?

VM: For me, it has to be strategizing. From sitting down with a new client to get to grips with their bottom line or the regulatory barrier they face, to working with them to identify their desired political or policy outcome and translating that into a comms objective, and then mapping the path to get them from point A to B. Then the hard work starts!

ICCO: What are your thoughts on being nominated for and winning the 2021 ICCO Global Rising Star of the Year award?

VM: I was delighted just to be put forward by my very supportive colleagues, let alone be nominated or to have won. While it’s a personal achievement I’m very proud of, I am also pleased to bring a bit more recognition to ‘public affairs’ and why what we do is important as a lesser-known contingent in the comms world.

ICCO:  Which one of your most recent campaigns or projects are you especially proud of contributing to?

VM: I am most proud of the work my team did to support the UK’s beauty and wellbeing industry during the pandemic. The industry was one of the worse affected having been completely shut down with no access to cash flow. In the Government’s first lockdown lifting plan in 2020, they were bottom of the list with no reopening timeline and its thousands of practitioners – 85% which are women – were mocked by male MPs and the PM himself during PMQs. Our 4x award winning (5th pending!) #NotALaughingMatter campaign resulted in a momentous step-change in how the industry is perceived, and not only was it one of the first to reopen in April 2021 alongside non-essential retail, but the Government also set up a whole new ‘Personal Care’ team in Whitehall dedicated to supporting the sector.

ICCO: Are there any personal characteristics or skills that communications demands of you (or anyone) that you’ve developed in your role?

VM: Flexibility in communication approach and the ability to constantly adjust this is a key skill and one that I’m constantly learning – both externally and internally. Whether it’s how to best communicate a client’s position to political stakeholders while in keeping with their style and tone or changing the approach you take to each differing client relationship, or how you communicate with those on your own team internally in a way that best suits their needs and ways of working.

McNish’s DGA Interel team also won the Public Affairs award at the PRWeek UK awards in 2021 for the ‘#notalaughingmatter’ for the APPG on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing’ campaign.

ICCO: As agencies battle for top talent, what would you say to a young person considering a career in communications to convince them it was the right choice? And what do firms need to do to retain their best staff?

VM: I would always recommend comms as a sector where young people have the opportunity to hit the ground running and progress fast. You are often thrown in the deep end and have to learn as you go, but you are surrounded by colleagues who’ve done exactly the same thing and can provide you with the safety net you need. Many agencies offer staff the opportunity to seize ownership of projects early on and move up at regular intervals, which is a great incentive for bright, ambitious individuals. Yet people shouldn’t have to arrive first and leave last to prove themselves. Agencies should empower staff to take on new challenges and progress, while also offering them a fair work life balance, a family-feel atmosphere and wellbeing support. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, which is a great thing about working at DGA Interel.

ICCO: How do you think public affairs will change over the next five years? (The way it’s conducted, the priority issues, influence of social media, tech etc)

VM: The pandemic has already had an irreversible impact on public affairs. Where once you could be waiting weeks for a politician to fit you in for a Portcullis House coffee, now if you capture their interest, you’re set for a zoom two days later. While the pace of engagement is quicker (I’ve had calls with MPs as they hop on a train back to their constituency), I question whether the same depth of relationships will be built over the screen as in person, and whether the ability to influence will be diminished as a result.

On the other hand, social media has already changed the way we communicate and will continue to do over the next 5 years. DGA Interel recently polled MPs and found that 95% check social media at least once a day, 49% say their use has increased during the pandemic, and 45% say it is important for engaging with business, charities and stakeholders. We now have an integrated digital unit as more and more of our clients are seeking this kind of support to run really effective political campaigns.

 

 

This is part 2 of a 2-part interview series with 2020 and 2021’s ICCO Rising Stars of the Year. Click HERE for interview with 2020’s winner; markettiers’ Max Mitchell.

HAHM SHOUT DOODLE Makes History as first South Korean PRCA Member 

HONG KONG, 25th January, 2022 – The Public Relations and Communications Association Asia-Pacific (PRCA APAC) has announced Hahm Shout Doodle as its first ever South Korean corporate member.

Hahm Shout Doodle is a full-service PR and marketing agency, offering strategy, PR and risk management, digital, creative and influencer solutions. They work with more than 300 clients across industrial, distribution, culture and entertainment.

The PRCA’s regional voice in South Korea will also be strengthened with Hahm Shout Doodle’s CEO, Siwon Hahm, joining its PRCA APAC Board.

As the world’s largest professional PR association, the PRCA has become the leading body for communications professionals across the Asia-Pacific, with members in Australia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Vietnam, and now South Korea.

 

PRCA Director-General Francis Ingham MPRCA said:

“Raising professional standards all around the world depends on our ability to understand nuances across local regions. We want every PR professional in South Korea and across the wider APAC region to have access to world-class support and representation. And so, it’s a pleasure to welcome one of South Korea’s most dynamic PR agencies – Hahm Shout Doodle – to PRCA APAC, as well as the esteemed Siwon Hahm to the Board.”

 

Siwon Hahm MPRCA, CEO of Hahm Shout Doodle, said:

“As the newest member of the PRCA Asia Pacific, Hahm Shout Doodle is truly excited for the various global networking opportunities our inclusion in the PRCA will present. As a representative of Korea, we look forward to sharing our know-how and expertise with the esteemed member agencies of the PRCA and are eager to begin the highly fruitful partnerships.”

 

ABOUT PRCA

The Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA) is the world’s largest professional PR body.

We represent more than 35,000 PR professionals in 82 countries worldwide. With offices in London, Hong Kong, Dubai, Singapore, and Buenos Aires, we are a global advocate for excellence in public relations.

Our mission is to create a more professional, ethical, and prosperous PR industry. We champion – and enforce – professional standards around the world through our Professional Charter and Code of Conduct. The Code compels members to adhere to the highest standards of ethical practice.

We deliver exceptional training, authoritative industry data, and global networking, and development opportunities.

We also manage the International Communications Consultancy Organisation (ICCO) – the umbrella body for 41 PR associations and 3,000 agencies across the world, and LG Comms – the UK’s national body for local government communicators. Additionally, we support the delivery of the Motor Industry Communicators Association (MICA).

 

ABOUT HAHM SHOUT DOODLE

Hahm Shout Doodle is the industry FIRST MOVER which constantly drives innovation, creating value through communication. Whereas most PR agencies settle for PR 2.0, Hahm Shout Doodle leads the industry with IBC (Integrated Business Communication) that produces real business results.

As a First Mover in the era of Communication 4.0, we aim to become a leader in the communication ecosystem through PR/marketing services, online and offline integrated advertising, and marketing automation platform business. Helping business succeed with integrated communication service, Hahm Shout Doodle is Korea’s leading PR & marketing agency moving the market with communication.

Hahm Shout Doodle boasts professional expertise in each field of business, including strategic planning, operation, design, video production, advertising, etc. to provide optimal solutions for the specific characteristics and circumstances of clients.