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 talk to the former UK chief executive of Ogilvy PR, Marshall Manson, who is departing Brunswick after five years

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

It’s another period of heightened uncertainty in a landscape that seems forever uncertain. But that’s when PR really thrives. We roll with the agenda, tracking the pulse of the conversation. So the biggest opportunity is helping our organisations and clients navigate that uncertainty. The challenge is letting that uncertainty swamp us.

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

I mean, it has to be Barbie, right? They were everywhere. Dominated the conversation. Embraced the friendly competition with Oppenheimer. Made it fun to go to the movies again. Huge credit to Warner Brothers and the producers for the creativity that made it amazing and the investment that made it impactful.

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

It’s tricky, because our best work is almost always the kind that we can’t talk about. But at the top of my list was helping a client grapple with a serious threat from misinformation and inauthentic networks. It was meaty, intellectually fascinating, and drove seriously cool innovation.

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

Pre-Covid, I didn’t quite realise how much I need to be around people in order to be creative, have ideas, and solve thorny problems. Post-pandemic, I make a point of spending time with people.

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

I’m supposed to say that I love to read, and I do, but nothing serious. I like sci-fi, Grisham, historical epics. Pure escapism. And during Covid, I discovered the gym. After 20 years of not doing very much, I now can’t imagine a week without a vigorous workout. Also golf.

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

The evergreen answer is The West Wing. Some of the best TV writing, directing and acting ever. Great lessons on leadership. Fantastic sense of optimism. More current answer: Barbie again. I loved how utterly bonkers it was. It’s a great lesson in what creativity can do with virtually no limits.

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

Fantasy answer: zoologist or marine biologist. Slightly more realistic answer: teacher. Most realistic answer: wine tour guide.