Gurpreet Brar of Edelman talks global communications and finding his passion for public policy at a young age
Following the success of our Global Power Book #PRProSeries, we continue the series exploring the careers of the most powerful communications pros around the world today. We sat down with Gurpreet Brar, MD of Edelman, to find out how he made it in the industry.
How did you get into public affairs?
The honest answer is I always found public policy and political activity exciting. I remember the local Labour candidate, Adrian Bailey, knocking on my door when I was around fifteen canvassing our family for support during his by-election. He was talking to my parents and I managed to overhear them talking about politics and asked how I could get involved. Next thing you know I was out campaigning with him for the next couple of weeks and that’s how it all started.
What personal attribute do you think has most helped you in your career?
Consistency. For me, it’s simple that people get noticed and respected for consistent delivery. It doesn’t matter if you’re a woman or a man, black or white, gay or straight, everyone appreciates consistent delivery.
Who is the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
There are so many. I’ve had several mentors and role models and they span different times in my life. The most intelligent mind I’ve ever worked with has to be Lord Turner, without any doubt. Here is a man who can absorb and focus on any policy issue or political challenge and, within minutes, come up with a solution. From an intelligence perspective, I’ve always admired and respected him. There are others, such as Tony Blair, who I’ve always thought of as unparalleled in terms of leadership qualities. Notwithstanding the talk about Chilcott and Iraq, he was a leader. Then there are people at Edelman, like Ed Williams and Alex Bigg, who are both fantastic individuals who really understand the world of communication. Great mentors to learn from and be around.
What’s the best piece of careers advice you’ve ever been given?
The best advice came from a good friend of mine, who works at a FTSE 100 company. He told me to never ever say no to a fantastic job offer because of your own doubts. Good, senior roles jobs don’t come up often, and therefore you have to snap them up when they arrive.
What do you think will be the biggest changes in the global communications industry in the next 10 years?
As far as the global communications industry is concerned, I think that there’s not going to be much drastic change. Over the last 10 years we have seen a sea change. The balance between traditional media and online media is going to be something that becomes more of a normality rather than having a drastic impact in the future. The real change is something we have been tracking at Edelman for many years now, and that is Trust. The trust in institutions and individuals has been transformed, most recently of course in the Brexit debate. How communications is best used to build the appropriate messaging, narrative and content will be interesting to see in the years to come. For public affairs specifically I think the change is going to be much more drastic. As an industry, there really hasn’t been that much change and I think we are now seeing the intellectualisation of PA starting to happen. The recent launch of our Edge product does precisely that so this is an exciting space and I’m looking forward to being part of the transformation of this specific discipline.
What three words best describe you?
Consistent, professional, creative.
What is your dream role in communications?
Policy is increasingly becoming a global discipline rather than a local one. And we are seeing interesting players starting to come up with and formulate policy thought. How this trend continues to materialise and how as a result the industry changes is going to throw up some very interesting roles in the future.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced?
It’s more personal than professional. I’m a proud British Indian, but I’m also a gay man, and the two haven’t always been natural bedfellows. For many years talking to my family about it was a challenge, but I’m a firm believer that education and patience are the way forward. Ten years later I am happily married to a man I love and am surrounded with the love and warmth of a fantastic family. A lot has to do with the support of my sister, but the story really is how sensible steps can overcome what can feel like the biggest of challenges. Today I feel my responsibility is to share my experience with others but also continuing educating those that are completely ignorant of what it is to be a gay man in a minority community.