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 Ruth Allchurch, currently WE Communications' EMEA managing director, who is moving to Ketchum as its new UK CEO. 

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

There is no denying that we will achieve greater efficiency and productivity with AI, but also we know that there are ethical considerations and threats to privacy and data. The PR industry needs to play its part in driving the conversation, tapping into the opportunities around AI as a powerful tool that will drive efficiencies and impact.  

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

The one-man PR machine that is Tim Spector and the cult status he has achieved through Zoe is hugely impressive. Zoe is of the zeitgeist – empowering behaviour change through wearable tech which improves people’s lives. Society has woken up to gut health and Spector is at the forefront of this movement. The FT describes him as having “unearthed the future of healthcare; a blend of technology, citizen science and common sense”.

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

WE's work for the Lewis Pugh Foundation is one example of the great work the team have undertaken. Endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Push attempted to swim the 315 mile length of the Hudson River from its source to downtown Manhattan to raise awareness of ocean and river pollution. Carefully navigating the risk of what could have gone wrong as well as the opportunities throughout, the team secured top tier coverage and critical policymaker and NGO visibility.

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

That change brings opportunity and that, as a leader, I enjoy change. I used to think I wanted to maintain the status quo and this was the job of a leader, but one thing that Covid showed me was that things can change in an instant – and that is when you have to dig deep, adapt your style and embrace new ways of thinking. I have reframed change as opportunity.

How do you switch off and maintain wellness?

For me, a trip to the theatre is the ultimate way to switch off. Immersing myself in live performance and escaping into a world of make-believe with my phone firmly switched off is so often what the doctor ordered. That, and a daily blast of fresh air remains key to me staying balanced and focused.

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

Brené Brown’s latest book, 'Dare to Lead', which explores the power of vulnerability in leadership. She states: “The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome”. This really resonated with me, as someone who has always prided myself on being in control of outcomes and wearing control as a badge of honour. This was a lightbulb moment for me to realise that vulnerability carries power. 

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

A theatre critic – I am happy to see any form of live entertainment and when I worked on student radio at Brum FM (Birmingham University Radio station), I was given free tickets to theatre performances in return for reviews. It felt like the dream job. But PR is a close second!