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Last May, Apple filled its top communications position by hiring Stella Low from Cisco, where she had spent two years as chief communications officer, before which she had held senior communications roles at Dell, EMC and Unisys. As head of corporate communications, she reported directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook.
It has turned into a brief interlude, however, as Low was replaced at Apple in January this year with the company saying she was leaving ‘to spend more time with her family’. She is now set to join HP as head of corporate affairs and chief communications officer this August
While at Cisco, Low was on CEO Chuck Robbins’ executive leadership team. She had joined Cisco nearly five months after she stepped down from Dell after leading that company’s global communications for more than two years. Before becoming Dell's global communications SVP, she led global communications for EMC (now Dell EMC) for nearly four years, a period that included its $67 billion sale to Dell, the largest tech deal in history at the time.
Can you share a moment in your career when you saw PR's direct impact on business performance?
PR directly influences business performance in so many ways. The business will most often expect us to make an impact through product launches and with crisis management, but some of the best moments can be when PR leads the way with ESG thought leadership, because this will galvanize employees and leaders internally to do the right thing and understand the ‘why’, as well as influence and change the world at large in unexpected ways.
What are the communications industry's biggest challenges and opportunities in the year ahead?
The last few years have been challenging for many of us. From dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic, to coping with the blurring lines of work and home, to experiencing the biggest and most complex societal and geo-political issues of our time. I don’t see any of these issues abating in the coming year and, with the possibility of recession looming, it may be the toughest year of the decade so far. The biggest opportunity is continuing to have a seat at the table to support the company’s business strategy while being an agent for change in the world. Comms has an opportunity to continue to give our employees a sense of belonging, to promote our products and services, to bring to life the company’s purpose, values, and culture, and to tell a story of leadership and continued innovation for good. It’s more important than ever to continue to shine a bright light on what the company is doing around social justice and to create a more equitable world, as well as on climate action, and how we are galvanizing others and making a real impact. Plus, with hybrid work here to stay, comms has a very real opportunity to think about employee comms anew. What will we need to do differently going forward to ensure that a sense of belonging continues for employees that may have never met their peers in person or ever entered an office. Overall, employees, customers, and partners are looking to corporate leaders more than ever to help make sense of the world and to create some sense of stability. The role communications teams will play has never been more important and vital.
What have you most admired about this industry over the past year?
It has been amazing to see how the industry has stepped up once again over the past year. Communications has been at the core of some of the biggest decisions over the last year to keep our employees and customers safe, putting pressure on the push for social justice and climate change, supporting societies that need it most, and helping to navigate the many challenges we’ve seen around the world. And that’s it addition to business as usual.
What has most disappointed you about this industry over the past year?
Nothing, but I’d always like to see more diverse hiring. We can always do more.
How have you switched off from work and maintained wellness over the past year?
I changed roles this year and I was lucky enough to be able to take a much-needed break in between. I owed it to my family and to myself to reenergize and concentrate on our health and well-being, and it proved to be very worthwhile. We were able to spend time traveling to see family we hadn’t seen since before the pandemic, we’ve been walking and hiking and taking the opportunity to reconnect with nature, and to do some serious gardening, which we love.
Which book/movie/TV show/podcast/playlist/other cultural source has helped you get through the past year or provided inspiration?
Ted Lasso was definitely a highlight this year on TV, as it was inspirational to see empathy and kindness at the center of everything. This world needs a ton more of that. The HBO series Station Eleven was pretty special too, showing how art and kindness can bring hope to catastrophe.
If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
Somewhere in the world running an NGO to get food to people who need it. There’s also a part of me who would love to run a garden center.
Sum up 2022 in one word.
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