Leaders of the Future:  Collaborative, High EQ and Data-Driven


There’s no denying the influence of technology on communication practices, however it is with the value of human experience, honed gut instinct and emotional intelligence that PR leaders of the future will shape the industry.

Our first Creating the Future of PR Meetup in Sydney recently brought together a panel of industry leaders with varied backgrounds to discuss the skills, capabilities and qualities required of our future communications leaders, and how best to nurture their talents.

All panelists agreed our future leaders must be more flexible in their thinking, comfortable with being data-driven and working with people across the broader business, not just within the communications function. The technology plus human relationship is critical where tech will be led by human intuition.

Below are key discussion points shared by our panelists during the event.

Caspian Smith, Director Brand & Communications, IBM Asia Pacific


  • Greater requirement for transparency in communication.
  • Communication leaders as custodians of the brands they manage – it’s their job to help employees understand what the brand stands for; they will be the voice of the brand and shape interactions.
  • We will work with people across the business and become adept at working in multi-disciplinary teams, e.g. IT, product developers, psychologists, software engineers etc.
  • Cognitive machine learning is the future and something IBM is currently working on with IBM’s Watson Technology: it will allow us to learn at great scale. Communications teams will help guide the creation of tech for one-to-one communication at mass scale. We will teach the technology and the technology will teach employees with consistent, up-to-date and ‘on-brand’ information.

Kieran Moore, CEO, Ogilvy PR Australia, Regional Talent Director, EXCO member, STW Group Australia, Board Member, Ogilvy PR

  • As communications leaders we need a better understanding of data, insights, strategy, planning, and digital technology via a team of specialists with each of these skills. A collaborative approach is essential and the days of marketing disciplines fighting each other are gone; whoever gets the jump on paid and social will do well.
  • We need to understand the value of paid and search to know where people go to look for content. People aren’t going to brand websites for information anymore. PR has been great at creating content but if we don’t know where to distribute this content then no-one will see what we create.
  • We need really good EQ (Emotional Quotient) to nurture teams and future leaders. One of the best things about the role of communications in this digital era is the role of people in decision-making, relationship building and the communication process. Even if you have the best tech in the world you still need a human touch.
  • Future leaders will need to understand changing demographics and the nature of work, value employees as influencers, be more transparent and understand that loyalty to consumer brands is not there anymore.

Kim McKay, director and founder, Klick Communications

  • Leadership qualities aren’t going to change. Leaders will still need to be visionary and see what’s coming while being inspiring enough to take people along with them.
  • We need to think about the future of work and what that looks like, working with freelancers and remote staff, and we need to be able to lead and motivate geographically dispersed teams. We need to get people inducted and up-to-speed on the business and brands they’re working on quickly to best manage agency employee turnover.
  • SEO and social media as industries “should not have happened on our watch … We’ve always been in control of the words, where they go and how they’re applied” so to miss these are bad for PR. PR should have gotten in early with social and claimed it early but I think we’ve learned from this as an industry and now we’re focused on the what’s next and what our role will be.

Professor Jim Macnamara, Associate Dean UTS was unable to attend but contributed some key thoughts as below:

  • Get out of silos and ghettos and work collaboratively.
  • A more strategic focus, and evidence-based and data-driven communication is needed.
  • We will see a move towards greater social conscience.

Audience Discussion

Here are some comments from the audience shared via Twitter on the night.