Ed Walsh | Influence 100
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Ed Walsh 

Head of Global Integrated Comms & Events 
Phillips
The Netherlands

 

 

 In May last year, Ed Walsh was elevated to the role of chief marketing and e-commerce officer at Philips International, stepping into shoes vacated by Tomasz Lisewski, who left to set up a new venture after 10 years at Philips. Walsh is also still serving as global head of integrated communications and events – his previous role.

Walsh was appointed to lead the communications and events function in August 2014, replacing long-time CCO Andre Manning as the company sought to update its positioning and focus on solutions rather than products. His first priority was the establishment of a fully-integrated global communications function, after the separation of the company’s original lighting business and its refocus on the health technology market.

Walsh had previously spent eight years with global public affairs firm APCO Worldwide, latterly as managing director of the firm’s European region and as lead for some of the agency’s biggest multi-office client accounts. Over the course of his corporate and public affairs career he has counselled on internal and external communications issues across the consumer goods, energy, information technology and healthcare sectors.

The move to Philips marked a return to the client side of the business for Walsh, who earlier in his career spent more than a decade in corporate communications with IBM in EMEA, starting as a speechwriter for the EMEA general manager and rising to director of communications France North Africa. During an 18-month month sabbatical from IBM, Walsh headed communications and marketing for a French Linux software dot com start-up where he led the communications for its IPO on the Paris Euronext secondary market. He began his career at the House of Commons in London, after which he worked in public affairs in Brussels.

Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?Our communications team was in the front line in managing the Covid-19 crisis. Clearly, pivoting 80,000 colleagues to home working, providing them with the right information and resources in real time and keeping them focused and motivated has been a key part of our role as a function, which we have carried out successfully, helping to maintain business continuity. Externally, Philips is one of the leading providers of critical medical equipment used in the diagnosis and treatment of Covid patients. With demand far outstripping supply, managing expectations and demands from customers, many of them government leaders, and the consequent media management challenges has been a Herculean effort, which we have managed particularly well, working hand in hand with our CEO and executive team. This has contributed to business performance in a significant way, helping our company beat expectations in Q2.

What are the comms industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
Finding the right balance in transforming towards commtech. This needs to be done gradually, involving testing of new technologies and ways of working while maintains the effectiveness of ‘traditional’ comms practices. In addition, finding synergies and ways of working with the broader marketing functions on integrated, multi-channel, always-on campaign planning and execution, especially targeting the C-suite, and laddering up to core company thought leadership themes, will be a key point of attention. This need to be achieved while maintaining the communications function’s healthy degree of independence vis a vis the marketing function, especially relating to longer term reputation management anchored in societal purpose and employee engagement.

What have you most admired about this industry in 2020?
The ability to step up to the Covid-19 crisis communications challenge, literally from one week to the next, on a global scale. Our function has gained enormous kudos as a result.

What has most disappointed you about this industry in 2020?
Instances where companies have sought to capitalize on commercial opportunities arising from the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement.

How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness in lockdown?
Frankly, as my family who should have been able to “enjoy” my company more than in the last 15 years of my career will attest, I have dismally failed to do so: managing comms during the pandemic has often been a 24/7 investment of time and effort. I did manage to get my daily steps up significantly though, taking conference calls walking round in circles in the nearby public park!

Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through this year or provided inspiration?
The Economist.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
Doing my best to help in the community and protecting our planet. Philips offers both of these opportunities, so I am a happy camper.

Sum up 2020 in one word.
Unprecedented.