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 with Rebecca Lowell Edwards, who recently joined Merck spinoff Organon as chief communications officer after leading comms and marketing for the ACLU.

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

Misinformation/disinformation. If we thought it was bad already, just wait until the US presidential election cycle intensifies. Maybe because I started my career as a journalist and I’m still married to one, it breaks my heart how the world of trusted news sources is shrinking—perhaps most acutely felt with the decreasing footprint in local media. Then just when I want to see hope in the democratization of content sharing through digital media—or I see something super creative-- I get discouraged by the power and influence of bad actors. Please, someone invite me to help with a media literacy effort.  

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

I’m in awe of the Barbenheimer phenomenon. Whomever came up with the campaign to enhance the simultaneous release date strategy with that counter positioning is a genius. And the team who is behind the creative expressions--I mean, “chef’s kiss.” Fans have really made it their own with Etsy selling merchandise, people posting their “Barbenheimer” fashions and signing on for double-feature viewings. It couldn’t be more fun to see the fan-generated content and clearly it has demonstrated an impact at the box office. I refuse to believe it was not engineered by some PR geniuses.

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

For most of the past year, I was still with the ACLU and I really love the work the team did with the help of Oberland to demonstrate how members, community partners, donors and staff commit every day to defending and extending rights and restoring justice. The campaign is called We Show Up. When I was doing my research on Organon I was super impressed with the campaign to launch the brand over the past two years. It included beautiful, inclusive creative and voices from inside and outside the company to amplify the unmet needs in women’s health. 

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

That I have a novel in me. Now I just need to sit down and write it. 

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

I recently started running again. Right now I’m building up to a 5K but I’m hoping to get back to running half-marathons. My true passion is rowing. I have been a rower since I was 15 years old but doing it on my indoor machine isn’t as fulfilling as being in a boat.

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

I’m taking an online class with the Gotham Writers Workshop and that’s exposing me to a lot of great inspirational thinking from the instructor and some of the links she provides to other authors or filmmakers. Honestly, I also get a lot of joy and a refilling of my creative reservoir by listening and dancing to the Affirmation Song by Snoop Dogg or Brown Skin Girl by Beyonce and Blue Ivy. Sometimes it just takes reminding myself that I have great power within me to originate ideas that others will appreciate, even though they don’t have to, to make them worthwhile.

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

 … consulting on the movie production of the film based on one of my published novels. As I mentioned, I have yet to write said novel.