Maja Pawinska Sims 08 Dec 2021 // 7:42AM GMT
This year we’ve published 65 PRovoke Media Podcasts, including content with our partners, with agency and corporate guests from around the world joining us – still remotely, of course – to talk about hot topics from the ongoing challenges of the pandemic, to the evolving impact of the sustained focus on diversity, equity and inclusion on the communications industry, business and brands. Here are the 10 episodes that were most listened to this year, kicking off our 2021 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 sponsors during this year: the Bulleit Group and Notified.
1. Vaccine confidence with Novavax’s Silvia Taylor and Crisp’s Adam Hildreth
Our most-listened to podcast of 2021, unsurprisingly as the world rolled into year two of the pandemic (but with the silver lining of the remarkable global effort to develop and roll out vaccines), was focused on the reputation issues facing the pharmaceutical industry. In this episode, published in February, Paul Holmes talks to Silvia Taylor, senior vice president of corporate affairs at American biotechnology firm Novavax and Adam Hildreth, founder and CEO of British risk intelligence service Crisp, including discussing the disinformation Novavax had to deal with as part of its clinical trials, and how Covid-19 has accelerated the urgency for transparency and humanity in healthcare communications.
2. What happens when journalists become PR professionals?
PR and journalism have, of course, always had a symbiotic relationship, and over the course of 2021 we again published a number of stories about senior print and broadcast journalists moving into agency roles. In this episode from June, the second most-listened to of the year, Aarti Shah talks to former journalists Dylan Tweney and Kathleen Gratehouse about how the way in which journalists are brought into the PR industry is evolving. Tweney, formerly of technology news publishers VentureBeat and Wired, joined technology specialist Highwire this year as the agency's first editor-in-chief, while Highwire principal Gratehouse was previously a CNN producer. In this conversation, the trio shares experiences and observations, and provides lessons for the PR industry as it continues to expand its hiring pool to journalists.
3. Mastercard’s Raja Rajamannar
A regular name on our Influence 100 listing of the world’s most powerful CMOs and CCOs, Raja Rajamannar is chief marketing and communications officer for Mastercard, and president of the company’s healthcare business. Since joining the financial services giant in 2013, he has been responsible for building the Mastercard brand, as well as driving business and competitive edge, and integrating the marketing and communications functions. In this episode, broadcast in March, the third most-listened to of 2021, Rajamannar joined PRovoke Media editor-in-chief Arun Sudhaman to discuss his new book, Quantum Marketing, which declares that the obsolescence of marketing has begun. Rajamannar also explores the importance of genuine integration between marketing and communications, the rise of risk and reputation management, and the underrated virtue of “decency”.
4. Why it's time for all PR firms to embrace remote work
In fourth place, it's no surprise that we have an appearance from one of the hottest topics of the past two years: the shift to remote working and what happens next for agencies, with no clear consensus around what the future of the workplace looks like. In this episode of the PRovoke Media podcast from August, Aarti Shah talks to Beth Haiken, executive vice president of Chime agency Method Communications, about the firm’s journey from an office-first culture to one that prioritises finding and keeping great talent, no matter where people are based. Haiken talks about how Method has shifted its focus from the number of hours worked, to the quality of work, bringing with it a more intentional focus on culture, creativity and collaboration across its US and UK offices.
5. Creativity In PR 2021
The annual PRovoke Media Creativity in PR study, now in its ninth year, is always full of fascinating insights into how creativity in the industry is evolving. This podcast from June, in fifth place, examines how the PR industry has risen to the unique creative challenges posed by the lockdown cycles of the Covid-19 era. The discussion is a perfect example of how the podcast itself has evolved during this time to feature more international conversations, featuring Creativity in PR co-author Claire Bridges, from Now Go Create in London, and Lesley Backus, senior lead on the global creative strategy and planning team at FleishmanHillard in St Louis, who talk to Arun Sudhaman in Hong Kong about how creativity had changed during the previous 18 months, and why authenticity has emerged as the key driver of great creative campaigns.
6. A conversation on tech PR & diversity
The industry’s focus on all facets of diversity, equity and inclusion continued apace throughout 2021, and this very candid conversation from March about race in the workplace was the sixth most-listened to podcast of the year. Aarti Shah talks to Silicon Valley-based Syreeta Mussante, EVP of technology at Brooklyn-based Praytell, about her experiences of the isolation of being a Black woman in technology PR. They are joined by Richard Fogg, CEO of UK-based technology specialist agency CCgroup, who talks about the responsibilities that white PR leaders have when it comes to dismantling white supremacy and tackling racism within the workplace, as well as rooting out other biases that can compromise diversity, inclusion and equity efforts.
7. The challenges of higher education communications
After working in senior global communications roles for the likes of gaming giant Activision Blizzard and leading corporate comms at Amazon, UCLA’s Mary Osako became her alma mater’s first vice chancellor of strategic communications in September 2019, with the goal of maximizing the impact of the university’s new strategic communications division. In this podcast from July, the seventh most-listened to of the 2021, Osako talks to PRovoke Media’s senior reporter Diana Marszalek about how she has forged ahead with her goals while also managing pandemic communications targeting nearly 50,000 students.
8. Clean Creatives on its campaign against fossil fuel PR firms
It’s unusual for podcasts later in the year to make the Top 10 list, simply because there’s been less opportunity for them to be listened to. As COP26 and ESG commitments dominated headlines and press releases, however, this podcast from November clearly struck a chord, and makes eighth place. Duncan Meisel, the campaign director for Clean Creatives, which brings together agencies, their employees and clients to address the advertising and PR industry's work with fossil fuel companies, joined Paul Holmes to discuss the group's efforts to stop PR firms — most notably Edelman — from working with the fossil fuel industry. In a spirited debate, Meisel asserts that such work obstructs urgently needed government action on climate change, and impedes climate justice solutions.
9. Margot Edelman on the family business and Silicon Valley
An inside peak into the personalities and practices within the world’s biggest PR firm always garners high engagement, and Aarti Shah’s conversation in June with Margot Edelman, general manager of Edelman's Bay Area hub, was no exception. In this podcast, the ninth most-listened to of the year, Edelman reflects on growing up in PR's most famous family – and why that has been something of a double-edged sword. She also talks about how Edelman's technology practice has evolved to become one of its mightiest business drivers, and the new approach she is taking to growing and expanding the agency’s presence in Silicon Valley.
10. Milk & Honey on building a sustainable agency
Right at the start of 2021, the year of COP26, the tenth most-listened to podcast of the year was another on the heightened themes of sustainability and purpose. In this episode, Milk & Honey PR founder Kirsty Leighton, one of our EMEA Innovator 25 in 2020, and partner Fiona Gildea, who leads on ESG and sustainability at the female-led agency, joined EMEA editor Maja Pawinska Sims to talk about being a B-Corp and building a sustainable and purpose-led business, including diversity initiatives and collaborative industry projects.