Maja Pawinska Sims 09 Dec 2020 // 7:00AM GMT
This year we’ve published 60 PRovoke Podcasts, including content with our partners, with agency and corporate guests from around the world joining us – remotely, of course, since March – to talk about hot topics from pressing pandemic challenges to the evolving impact of the Black Lives Matter movement on the communications industry, business and brands. Here are the 10 episodes that were most listened to this year, as part of our ongoing 2020 Review.
Remember, you can subscribe to the show via iTunes, Spotify or the direct feed. And a big thank you, as ever, to the team at Markettiers, which produces the show, and our sponsor again this year: the Bulleit Group.
1. How Covid-19 will affect the PR job market
Our most-listened to podcast of 2020 was, as is true of most of the top 10, on a topic that we could not even imagine visiting and revisiting this time last year. And of all our pandemic pods – unsurprisingly in a year where layoffs have been a cause for employer and employee anxiety in firms of all sizes and in almost all sectors – this was the one that most hit home, broadcast as it was in April, at the peak of the global pandemic, with much of the world in lockdown, and with business insecurity rife. The conversation, between recruiter Jamie McLaughlin – who had left Capstone Hill in 2019 and has since set up his new firm – and Diana Marszalek ranged from the first wave of impact on the job market, to how Covid could lead to long-term changes in hiring.
2. Where Black Lives Matter goes from here
The second most-listened-to PRovoke Podcast of 2020 was, fittingly, on the year’s other big story. After the murder of George Floyd on May 25, the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement prompted this conversation two weeks later between IPG's PR and marketing group diversity and inclusion leader Margenett Moore-Roberts, Rogers & Cowan PMK multicultural head Stephen Macias and Diana Marszalek, discussing systemic racism and how the communications industry could harness the energy around the tragedy and protests to move towards racial equity.
3. The Google News Initiative and inclusive storytelling
In this episode from July, Google’s head of media representation, LaToya Drake, talked to Aarti Shah about the emergence of the Google News Initiative: the technology giant’s effort to work with the news industry to ensure journalism can thrive in the digital age, especially in an era of misinformation. Drake, a founding partner of GNI and a champion for inclusive storytelling, talked about how the effort elevates underrepresented voices in media, and also discussed diversity in technology and communications, and how brands and agencies can work towards more inclusive storytelling in their own narratives.
4. PR’s failure to act on diversity and inclusion
In an industry that had been hand-wringing over its woeful lack of racial and cultural diversity inclusion, especially in the West, for a few years and getting nowhere fast, the events of 2020 were a wake-up call. As the PR industry looked for bolder ways to address its longstanding issues in this area, we talked to many Black PR professionals about their lived experiences, including this conversation in June between Aarti Shah and Taylor senior vice president Sabrina Lynch, about her working life in New York and London, including powerful examples of handling microaggressions, especially in encounters with clients.
5. Hong Kong’s search for a PR agency
This episode from May continued one of the top themes from our 2019 coverage and podcasts, as Arun Sudhaman broke a new series of exclusives on the progress – or otherwise – of Hong Kong’s latest tender process to find a PR agency to relaunch its battered reputation on the world stage after more than a year of protests. In our conversation, Sudhaman – who is based in the city – explored why agencies had pulled out of the process, why so many firms had chosen to steer clear of the brief, and which agency might land the controversial assignment, which eventually went to under-the-radar firm Consulum.
6. Social impact and racial justice
As a specialist in social impact, racial justice and storytelling, BerlinRosen’s senior vice president Janna Pea has been at the forefront of managing communications around the heightened focus on civil rights this year. In this episode of the PRovoke Podcast from September, she joined Diana Marszalek to explore the many PR challenges that advocates and activists are facing among continued racial strife in today’s volatile political environment, and how to overcome them.
7. “All companies can find a way to be relevant right now”
Jim Weiss has spent decades in healthcare PR, starting his career in the HIV/AIDS space. As CEO of healthcare powerhouse W2O Group, Weiss has spent 2020 leading his clients, including almost all of the world’s top 25 pharmaceutical companies, through the pandemic. In April, in the midst of global uncertainty about the best ways for brands and their communications teams to move forward, he spent time talking to Aarti Shah about the “Covid-19 playbook” (hint: there isn't one) and why “acting local” has been critical this year.
8. Inclusion through product design
The topic of inclusion came up again from another innovative angle in this episode of the PRovoke Podcast from June. Google's head of product inclusion, Annie Jean-Baptiste, talked to Aarti Shah about the movement she created three years ago inside Google to help underrepresented users feel seen throughout the product design process. In this conversation, she advised communications professionals on how they can help the organisations they work with design more inclusive products – and ensure PR campaigns for those products are just as inclusive.
9. Covid communications challenges
Right at the start of the pandemic becoming a global phenomenon, in the first fortnight of March, Arun Sudhaman sat down with PRovoke’s Asia-Pacific correspondent David Blecken, who had authored an early two-part series on the communications challenges of the Covid-19 crisis that were facing corporates and governments around the world. The duo discussed the balance of internal and external communications as workplaces, supply chains and earnings were significantly disrupted, and explored the misinformation and opportunism that has continued to bedevil responses around the world. Blecken, who is based in Japan, also talked about the marketing implications of the cancellation of the Tokyo Olympics.
10. Twitter is not the territory
As a febrile political and social environment continued into the summer, our number 10 podcast in July was a conversation with George Coleman: co-CEO of Current Global, formed last year by the merger of two of Interpublic’s PR firms, US-based Current Marketing and Weber Shandwick unit Creation. Coleman joined Maja Pawinska Sims to talk about how the PR industry can rise above unconscious bias and tribalism on social media, and why PR teams need input from a broader range of specialists to avoid “marketing by selfie stick,” including the valuable role of behavioural scientists.