Leadership Lessons with… Caroline Coventry, Managing Partner at Nelson Bostock Unlimited

Whether employee demands are actually changing, and why greater integration between PR and other business units could be the missing link in brands' outcomes. We spoke with Caroline Coventry, Managing Partner at Nelson Bostock Unlimited all about what PR is and isn't in 2023.

Take a look.

What do you see as the key role of a PR leader in 2023?

We have briefs regularly coming in that ask for 'modern PR' - a term that should be redundant in such a fast-paced industry! Media's changing so much that anyone in PR must be equipped to continually support their clients with innovation. Relationships remain as important as they ever were – however these are taking on new and different forms. New technology brings new opportunities and as a PR leader we need to adapt and educate as we build our understanding of what’s possible.

What do you think are the key qualities needed from leaders at the moment?

First is openness - to new ideas, and ways of working. We need deeper collaboration than ever before, both within the industry and with other business units within our clients’ organisations.

Second, It's so important for leaders to embrace the mindset that everyone's voice matters. Recognising that great thinking can come from anywhere and creating the regular forums that draw out those views and ideas.

Third, adaptability is imperative in this world, as is bravery. We need to be unafraid to challenge and sometimes 'break' the guardrails between PR and marketing.

What challenges do you think are facing leaders in 2023?

Integrating with marketing, and communicating the value of earned, creative PR ideas first. Particularly against the backdrop of a flat macro-economic environment, PR is capable of driving major cost-efficiencies for brands. Some businesses really understand that in order to engage target audiences in a meaningful way - rather than transactional - building brand warmth and a sense of belonging around their products and services is paramount. Others are still thinking of PR as a media relations function that exists to drive brand mentions. This has to change.

How do you see leaders developing company culture in a remote or hybrid world?

Get the foundations of trust and respect right, and productivity and success will naturally follow. In a hybrid world, managing and owning your schedule is going to become more and more important, and leaders and managers will need to be able to support talent with the right tools and resources to make this easy.

But not everything is changing. People still enjoy coming together and we still need to create these moments where we unlock the magic of in-person workshops and knowledge sharing over a coffee.

Employee demands are changing. How can leaders meet these evolving needs and wants?

Perhaps controversially, I don't think employee demands actually are changing.  As human beings with a relatively short lifespan on this planet, people have always wanted to find purpose in their work, whether it's social contributions or personal fulfilment. And that can be found in the benefits we offer, clients we partner with, or wider company initiatives. Talent simply has a stronger voice today. We're better able to vocalise what we've always wanted in a company and a role - through more forums and openness in company structures - and that can only be a good thing.

How have you seen the industry supporting the wellbeing and mental health of employees?

It does seem that many agencies and businesses are reacting to a problem that's existed for a very long time. Access to counsellors and support has become a lot simpler for employees, and we've recognised the impact a great mentor can have - talking with one another, and sharing more.

I believe that a more proactive stance on wellbeing is what we need and it starts with promoting greater inclusivity in the workplace. Ensuring people know they're in a space where they can be their whole selves.

In terms of skillsets, what will businesses be looking for now and in the coming years?

There will be higher demand for people who can bring specialists together. Those who can look at a brief through the lens of multiple disciplines and services, and create a broader, more strategic view. There's more emphasis now on knowing who the right people are to bring into a room: insights, data, different experiences. That's what really drives ideas that secure brilliant outcomes for clients.

What can leaders do to drive better diversity and inclusion?

We have to acknowledge our shortcomings and not shy away or cover up the issues. There are some great programmes and companies that are supporting people from all manner of backgrounds to encourage a more diverse industry, but it's still not having the impact across disciplines and levels of seniority that we need.

A major issue I recognise is that people from diverse backgrounds enter the industry and then leave it quite quickly. We need to get to grips with why that’s happening and identify meaningful ways to support diverse talent that will lead to retention.

Posted on 25.09.2023

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