Maja Pawinska Sims 18 Aug 2023 // 8:00AM GMT
In our Headliners series of conversations, we get under the skin of PR and communications leaders around the world who have made PRovoke Media headlines recently, uncovering what they see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for the industry, where they find inspiration (and how they switch off), what they’ve learned about themselves, as well as the creative campaigns they love and the work they are most proud of.
In this week's Q&A, we chat to Jim Donaldson, FleishmanHillard's UK and Middle East CEO, who is leaving the agency after nearly nine years.
What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for the PR and communications industry over the next 12 months?
I think this is going to be a period of immense change for the industry. Post-Covid hybrid working issues are coupled with the tsunami of AI’s arrival and then mixed with a fractious world of political and economic uncertainty. All of these provide real challenges for building internal cultures and great campaigns, but with huge opportunities at the same time. Agencies need to adapt while not losing their core values. Clients need to think about how they demonstrate value and ROI. The smart practitioners will move quickly. Those who don’t will be left behind in low value, low impact work.
What’s the best PR campaign you’ve seen recently and why?
It is of course tempting to say the Barbie film launch, but they had a massive budget so had it easy really. I love the Orange campaign for the French women’s football team, using special effects to put male players over the female ones. A simple point made very well.
What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?
I am so proud of the work the team does every day across 200-odd clients so choosing one piece of work feels a bit trite. Perhaps a couple of examples from two ends of the type of work we do. We were part of the team launching the new EA Sports FC game a couple of weeks ago; a huge event with massive global exposure and a huge success for our client. The evaluation stats are off the charts. At the other end, a piece of branding work for a recruitment firm that the client described as “amazing”. It is the range of work that makes me proud more than anything.
What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years?
Lots! Covid was a big learning period for all of us. I realised more and more that I cannot afford to get stuck in a routine but need to meet new people, have new challenges and use parts of my brain and skillset that have been a bit dormant. Hence my decision to move on from FH next year, hard as that was to take.
How do you switch off and maintain wellness?
All the obvious things really – a fabulous wife and family, a loving dog and most recently an allotment! Are there any potatoes that taste better than the ones you have grown yourself? Oh – and walking as much as I can. London is an incredible city to walk around.
What cultural source (eg book/podcast/movie/TV show/music artist) has provided creative inspiration for you lately?
I have finally got around to watching the final series of Ted Lasso. Not only is it just great TV, but I draw great solace (and yes, inspiration) from the need to constantly be reminded of the importance of our human qualities, whatever the world throws at us. I am also currently reading a book called The Changing World Order by Ray Dalio. While it covers lots of ground, at its heart it compares the end of the Dutch and British empires to the current global situation – and points out some of the similarities in terms of indicators. There could be a new world order coming…
If I wasn’t working in PR/comms I would be…
I would expect I would be a mix between a landscape gardener and a tour guide, with a bit of music critic thrown in. Some sort of portfolio of different things!