LONDON--Edelman EMEA CEO Robert Phillips has been tasked with a new global role that aims to ensure the firm remains at the forefront of public relations innovation.

Philips has been appointed global chair of public engagement and future strategies, a position that he occupies in tandem with his existing EMEA leadership position.

Richard Edelman told the Holmes Report that the new role will see Phillips oversee Edelman's efforts to develop its intellectual property and talent in line with new communications trends.

"The future battlefield is going to not just include PR firms, its going to be ad agencies and digital firms," said Edelman. "We’ve got to rig ourselves in a way that we can compete with the holding companies and say we can provide all these assets in one solution. It’s one thing to have ideas and another to implement them."

"What we need to probably be better at is having a defined point of view and mapping that to future talent spotting, training programmes and personal development," added Phillips. "We have to be careful that great thinking doesn’t get trapped in specific practices."

Phillips confirmed that his new global responsibilities would have no impact on his existing EMEA role. Edelman, meanwhile, noted that Phillips' proximity to clients would help ensure a more realistic approach.

"We tried to segregate this into the so-called innovation person last year, but it didn’t work," said Edelman. "It wasn’t grounded in clients and real work. I like the collision of reality and theory."

In addition, the role also sees Phillips oversee Edelman's approach to public engagement, which is based on helping companies change how they behave, rather than just focusing on what they say.

"The most profound change is we are going to be trying to change reality rather than manage perceptions," said Edelman. "The remit is how a company acts rather than what it says. It is more advisory and more creative."

Edelman pointed to the rise of powerful chief communications officers, like Walmart's Leslie Dach and IBM's Jon Iwata, as evidence of this trend. 

"Public engagement is not something that's written in abstract, all it does is codify the new reality," added Phillips, who has written extensively on the subject. "Married to that is an intensive training system in public engagement, and also making sure that we have the right operating framework to deliver that."

Phillips joined Edelman in 2004, when the firm he co-founded in 1987, Jackie Cooper Public Relations, was acquired by Edelman. He was named CEO of Edelman’s merged UK businesses in 2007, before being promoted to CEO of Edelman EMEA in January 2011.