By LSE MSc student Victoria Spiteri

We are constantly being reminded of the rapid pace at which journalism and media are evolving. Rachel Friend, CEO of Weber Shandwick UK, uses this pace to drive her work, and to invigorate how her company meets the transformation challenges a globalized world presents to the strategic communications industry.

In the current crowded communications landscape where everyone is a broadcaster, internal is external, and content is commerce, interrupting is harder than ever,  and no one wants to see ads. By the end of the year, 40% of people in the UK will have an ad blocker downloaded. Consumers are explicitly telling brands that they are not interested in seeing adverts.  This poses a problem for strategic communicators; how do we cut through this animosity to earn attention? We have to make advertising so interesting that consumers are no longer actively avoiding ads, but engage with, and pass them on to other people. But engaging isn’t enough; adverts have to cut through the abundance of content we interact with every day to “rise through the page of a newspaper or rise through your feed”.

Rachel Friend, CEO of Weber Shandwick at LSE on 30th October 2018

How to strategically communicate

How does Weber Shandwick do this? Through a simple formula: “marry creative with third party engagement and make an impact on the organization’s goals – that’s the secret sauce”. A constant tension in this industry is levelling what brands want to communicate on, and what audiences want to hear.  Weber Shandwick measures audience interests through data, creates  beautiful, engaging content, and enlists third party endorsements to give the content being communicated impact and credibility. If you can capture the moment to earn attention, disrupt with impact, and start data driven global conversations, you can be a player in the strategic communications industry

More than communicating on biscuits

Besides the traditional consumer marketing campaigns typically associated with agencies like Weber Shandwick, Rachel shared some global social responsibility campaigns they’ve worked on in the last three years. Campaigns for Iceland Foods, ActionAid, and Pearson that have captured “human truths” have made Weber Shandwick rise to the top of the strategic communications industry. Iceland Foods became a trail-blaizer in the  supermarket sector, becoming the first in the world to eliminate  plastic from their shelves. The synchronized ‘Brutal Cut’ FGM campaign for ActionAid cut  across screens worldwide and was a stark disruption of usual content consumption – it engaged people around the world to donate, raising funds to build recovery centers in Kenya. Pearson’s campaigns are working to combat illiteracy around the world. Weber Shandwick’s formula for campaigns like these have created tangible differences in the world.

The strategic communications industry is constantly changing, and global agencies are always working to keep up with the pace. Weber Shandwick is a hugely expanding organization that is evolving its strategies to remain one of the largest agencies in the world.

By Victoria Spiteri