“Change Is Always Hard”: Edelman CEO Steven Spurr

“Change Is Always Hard”: Edelman CEO Steven Spurr
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Last month, B&T held an event to promote diversity and inclusion in our industry. Changing the Ratio was a bold event – but for change to happen, continued efforts are necessary.

Edelman was not only one of the sponsors for Changing the Ratio, but an all-round supporter of a diverse and inclusive work environment, which Edelman Australia CEO, Steven Spurr said was “a hugely important issue”.

“At the end of the day we have to serve all the different communities we’re trying to reach,” he said.

“We need to be able to understand all those groups ourselves, so we need that diversity of thought internally so we can accurately target and reach [those groups] with what they’re interested in.”

For the uninitiated, Edelman is a leading global communications marketing firm, who partners with some of the world’s largest and emerging businesses, helping them evolve, promote and protect their brands and reputations.

And they’ve also exceeded gender equality in the workplace.

Some 66 per cent of the agency is female and 66 per cent of the leaders are female – and they have ongoing inclusion initiatives running within the company.

Their Global Women’s Executive Network (GWEN) has been running for over 10 years – and is their longest running initiative.

“[The] mission is about ensuring that we have equal representation of women in leadership and that we reflect the overall gender mix of our agencies at senior levels,” Spurr said of GWEN.

Coincidentally, the last GWEN event was the week of Changing the Ratio, and Spurr spoke highly of it.

“We had Mia Freeman in talking about work life balance and what that really means and how you really have to understand that there is no perfection,” he said.

“You ultimately have to balance many parts of your life.

“Whether you’re a woman, a mother, whether you’re anyone, we all have things that we have to lean in and lean out of at different points to focus on. We cannot do everything perfectly all the time as that world doesn’t really exist for anyone.”

But one of the most popular events the company has ever put on was for another initiative, EQUAL – which functions as both support and promoting awareness around LGBTI+ people in the company, and the world.

“We do a number of activities through EQUAL that are about raising awareness of this very diverse community. There’s distinct needs for each sub-group of that broader group,” Spurr said.

“[EQUAL is about] bringing a level of awareness to the agency of the breadth of that community and what that means. So everyone can get comfortable and ask questions that they may not be willing to ask in other environments.”

EQUAL has been running for around four years, and Spurr is the chair of EQUAL Australia – which gets great feedback from staff and clients alike.

“I think one of the most popular events we ever did was a breakfast discussion for EQUAL that was both internal and external,” he said.

“We had a couple of clients talking about their initiatives in the LGBTI+ space, we had a representative of the transgender community and one of our Edelman EQUAL members talking about their experience and talked about what true inclusion really means.

“It’s not just about being tolerated, or accepted or even having a seat at the table – you need that seat and you need your opinions valued, respected and understood,” Spurr added.

The CEO has been at Edelman almost 20 years and has seen the company evolve from a PR organisation to a company that covers a broad range of marketing services including strategy, creative and market research, to name a few.

“Change is always hard, but delivers great reward” he said.

“The great joy of Edelman being independent is that we can invest in lots of things, experiment, see how they worked, show that they worked, show that they didn’t work, and then make it better next time.”

Spurr said 2018 trends lie in snappier campaigning built from market research and testing and a seamless integration with technology – more specifically, functional creative technology which takes away challenges and problems.

“A hugely important thing I think is voice and voice assistants – we’re only seeing the very beginning of what that will change for all of us and how we then work with voice as a way to activate campaigns, there is a risk here, voice assistants could genericise brand voice in the short-term” he said.

“Although far from new integration of data into our everyday lives remain important. It just keeps changing and we are only just starting to understand the power and problems that data will have on all our lives.

“At Edelman our research team can micro-test across different demographics, psychographics and even language to see how campaigns, ideas and messages are resonating with different audiences, which is allowing us to be so much more targeted,” Spurr added.

“Your sweet spot is in the overlap between what the audience wants and needs, and what the client can offer. This is where our efforts continue to be placed for real business impact.”

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