Stephen Forshaw | Influence 100

Stephen Forshaw

Managing Director of Corporate Affairs & Managing Director, Australia & New Zealand

As head of communications at Singapore-owned investment firm Temasek, Forshaw handles one one of Asia’s toughest PR assignments, overseeing the sensitive reputation of a company that has attracted its share of criticism in foreign markets. He joined the company in 2011 from Microsoft, having previously led PR and public affairs for Singapore Airlines. A political communicator in his native Australia, has since expanded his role to include operational oversight of Australia and New Zealand.

Forshaw is one of Asia’s most adept comms chiefs where social media is concerned, and has spoken at length about the need to question your organization, rather than becoming “housetrained.” 

Notable career highlight? 
I am particularly proud of the work done by my team in the past year connecting with new audiences in the social media space. Although a Government-owned investment company, we have adopted multiple touchpoints with our audiences - especially younger people - across social media. I am very proud of the people we've brought into the business to build the vast majority of our digital content inhouse. I know it isn't a world first, but the landscape of our business had many complexities that had to be navigated on the path.

What is the most rewarding/challenging aspect about a career in communications/marketing?
Simple - story-telling! Every time I meet people and tell our story - whether it's CEOs of major companies or school students - I get a deep feeling of satisfaction that this is the career path I've chosen. And when those of us who work in head offices work out how much time we spend on internal management, we MUST carve out time to do what we are trained to do, not allow it all to be delegated to the extent that some heads of function never actually tell stories any more!

What skills/experience will the CCO of the future need that may not be required today?
I don't think there are any skills that will be required that aren't required today - it's just the balance will shift. Being a story-teller means in future, embracing a different medium to tell those stories. Navigating increased political/sovereign risk issues and understanding the implications and actions required will grow in importance. Of course, being a social and digital champion is always required, but extending this, I would say we have to be champions of disruptive technology, disruptive talent management and lead the smarter ways of telling our stories. Simplicity will be a key in a growingly complex world - cut-through needs stories told simply, so they create impact. And more of our function's leaders have to get serious about being great people leaders, developing talent that will be better than we are at doing our jobs in future years.

What skill/experience is required of today's CCO that might not be as relevant in the future?
Writing press releases!  They're a dying way of communicating. Other than that, all our skills will still be required, with many more on top, but I wouldn't say any skills or experience will not be required - at the end of the day, those skills and experiences make us well-rounded and better at our jobs.

Who or what inspires you to be your best? 
Frankly, my team! I am incredibly proud of how they've all developed and grown in their roles, and it is exciting to see how younger joiners so quickly establish their presence in the team. I know, as they grow, they are looking for guidance, experience and teaching along the way.

What is on your must-read/view/listen to list? 
Lucy Kellaway at the FT, and anything by The Economist - two publications that are must reads for me!

Most interesting place you've traveled to?
Last year, I spent a week in Costa Rica - amazingly beautiful, great people and some of the most stunning nature experiences I've had. Overall, for me, still love Tokyo - food, people, civility at its best - can't beat it!