Jackie Cooper chats with us about empathy and the importance of face to face meetings in this digital world
Role: Global Chair, Creative Strategy Organisation: Edelman Twitter: @JackiePRCooper Jackie Cooper was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Janie Emmerson, MD of Communications at Hanson Search, interviewed Jackie to find out how she made it in the industry.
Why did you get into communications?
My dad. I didn’t get school, I just didn’t get it. However, a tutor at my college told me that when you find something you love, you’ll thrive. That was really positive feedback and it was just what I needed to hear then. The only thing I was really good at was writing, so my dad said that I should think about a career in journalism or PR. I didn’t even know what PR was! Of course, at school they don’t tell you about it as a career path. So I got a summer job in a PR firm as a receptionist and ended up staying there for three years. I just loved everything about it. I found the freedom there that I’d struggled to find anywhere else. The agency was run by a former features editor of the FT and he was old school. He had his old fashioned type writer and a cigar hanging out of his mouth and there was a real newsroom atmosphere. It was a great way to learn. Things were not so technologically driven then so you had to get off your arse and see people and sell something. It gave me a great grounding.
What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?
Empathy. It’s about having that antennae that allows you to read a room, and read a situation. I didn’t have the education, but it was empathy that helped me succeed. I feel very strongly that the skills that can bring you into this business don’t have to be academic ones. It’s about personality and ambition. Empathy has been an underestimated skill and it is featuring more in coaching and future forecasting as we try and balance this out against fast tech progress.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?
People like the status quo too much. Staff, clients, and the media too. Why accept the status quo when something that will allow us to make more progress is on offer? Like a shark, you have to keep going otherwise you’ll die. You’ll never have today again, so why not make the most of it? I’m still hugely energised by these feelings. I won’t settle.
Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
I’ve worked with so many inspiring people over the years. Because of my background and education, which wasn’t a positive experience, I couldn’t wait to get out of school. A friend sent me link to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk. It’s actually the most-watched TED talk of all time. It was around the fact that our western education system is based on the same principles as the Victorian manufacturing system. If you don’t think like that or you’re slightly left of field, you don’t fit in. When I saw this TED talk, it was a revelation for me. I realised that I didn’t fail, the system failed me. And then I was lucky enough to be introduced to him and even luckier that he became my friend. And even more lucky that we’ve decided to do some work with Unilever together. He’s an awesome person.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
Again, it’s from my dad and it’s that you should meet everyone once. You never really know what you can learn from people and until you meet them face to face you never really know them. It’s empathy again. Meeting people can also often help you put pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. Another one is don’t expect too much from meetings. We’re so process driven and always asking what the objective of a meeting is. The best ideas often come when you’re not thinking about something. You need to give your brain the space to think and meeting people does that for me.
In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?
I don’t think we’re really going to have audiences any more. I think we’re going to have participants. Technology is going to continue to fuel the way people work, and that will have to fuel the way we communicate. I also think that virtual reality will have a huge impact on how we communicate. New behaviours out there mean that we need to adopt new behaviours in here, in the industry. It’s sort of terrifying and wonderful in equal measures, but I’d always rather live on a rollercoaster than a roundabout.
What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator?
Passionate. Honest. Simplistic.
Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications?
I think it’s actually the role I have now. It is so multi-format in terms of what I do. I help pitch and help to drive the creative vision. It’s a brilliant way to ensure I’m never bored, having several different careers rolled into one. It’s a pretty good place to be.
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