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 speak to Lavanya Wadgaonkar, who Nissan promoted to chief communications officer earlier this month as it starts implementing its EV transition plan.

What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for the PR and communications industry over the next 12 months?

The biggest challenge we face today is building trust. In a constantly changing world where disruptions are common, gaining and maintaining trust has become a difficult task. Stakeholders are often sceptical about corporations’ motives, adding to the challenge. However, this also presents an opportunity to stand out. By communicating authentically and responsibly, we can differentiate ourselves and build trust with our stakeholders.

What’s the best PR campaign you’ve seen recently and why?

I’m impressed with the “Go Beyond What You Think” campaign by Saudi Tourism. According to the CARMA report, it has received overwhelmingly positive feedback. What worked well was their clear focus on the message — dispelling stereotypes. They effectively targeted high-volume markets like Europe, India, and China, which not only have significant tourism potential but also the ability to influence public opinion.

The campaign’s execution was well thought out, with a multi-channel approach, a simple script that appealed to emotions, timely alignment with the winter season, and a clear call to action. Additionally, highlighting Saudi women trailblazers added a positive narrative that further enhanced the campaign’s impact.

What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?

Our comprehensive campaign for the Japan Mobility Show, utilizing a range of communication channels to deliver a strong and unified message.  There were many firsts. We created symbolic anime characters and a captivating three-dimensional digital billboard in Shinjuku. Additionally, we hosted an unprecedented 24-hour YouTube lo-fi music streaming channel that ran for a remarkable 553 hours. We also engaged our audience through livestreams of designers’ Q&A sessions on Instagram and TikTok. To connect with gamers and younger fans, we developed an exciting mini-game within the Fortnite metaverse, featuring our concept cars and characters.

What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years?

Working with a diverse team in Japan has taught me to be more appreciative of differences. As I welcome many unique perspectives, I find myself becoming more accepting of my own differences. It is like creating a vibrant tapestry where every voice is valued and celebrated.

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

I’ve found the perfect combination that keeps me grounded — running and reading. I make sure to achieve my 5 km goal at least three times a week and thoroughly enjoy diving into the pages of a book. The subjects I choose to read about vary.

What cultural source (eg book/podcast/movie/TV show/music artist) has provided creative inspiration for you lately?

Books: "Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual" by Luvvie Ajayi and "The Courage to be Disliked" by Ichiro Kishimi & Fumitake Koga (you can see a pattern). Movies: "The Beautiful Game," "Kingdom" (Japanese).

If I wasn’t working in PR/comms I would be…

A script writer.