New Edelman boss wants to make agency one of Australia’s best places to work

Steven Spurr

Spurr wants to make Edelman Australia one of the top places to work

Incoming Edelman Australia CEO Steven Spurr is aiming to make the agency one of the best places to work in Australia citing culture and talent as a key focus in his “three-point” plan for Edelman’s future.

Spurr will be stepping into the local CEO position from next March, replacing Tim Riches who resigned at the beginning of November.

Speaking to Mumbrella on a recent trip to Australia to meet agency staff and clients Spurr, currently the COO of Edelman UK and Ireland, outlined his vision for the agency in a three-point plan, saying he wants it to be a “top talent destination”.

“Number one is about consistency and experience. When you bring in a number of different disciplines, the number of services we’ve added to the Edelman offer, you have to make sure that all of them are equally strong and that there’s integration between those new bits of talent and delivering those to the clients,” he said.

“That’s my number one the consistency of the integrated experience.”

His second point is “ensuring Edelman is a top talent destination”.

“I’m very culturally focused as a leader. It’s really important to me that we develop a strong, creative culture in the organisation where people have clear client opportunities, working on great clients and have great experiences so they can develop their career with us for a very long time,” he said.

Edelman_LogoSpurr cited Edelman UK’s 46th position on the Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list as something he wants to emulate in the local agency.

“That’s the sort of thing I really want to focus on. As you can imagine as part of that and being an Edelman veteran, rewarding loyalty of staff is something I’m very focused on. That’s part of the culture mix,” he said.

Spurr’s final point to his three-point plan was around the agency remaining an “earned-centric company”.

“It’s about earning relationships, making influencers under the proposition of our clients. We have creative services, we have a great social and digital, but we shouldn’t try and do everything. We have to be strong in our heartland,” he said.

“We have added a lot of new services but we’re not saying we do everything. Sometimes we partner with others and sometimes we have to say no we’re not the right agency for this product. It’s important we don’t try and do things and do them badly.”

Edelman clients in Australia include Audi, Telstra, Samsung, Coles, KFC and Adobe.

Spurr is also looking to focus on influencer marketing when he steps into the Edelman Australia CEO role in March.

“Influencers are the heartland of PR. PR is all about relationships and stories and how you work with influencers is all about relationships and stories,” he said.

“Influencers are often seen as bloggers and people with huge Youtube followings, influencers can come in many different shapes and sizes depending on the corporate mission. Sometimes they might be a scientist or an academic and we’ll be looking at how they influence and connect in the marketplace. It might be politicians and people they’re working with, and it will also be more consumer-led influencers.

“Influencer marketing is something I’m going to be focused on in this role. There’s a real chance for us to connect the old form of top down influencer relationships with the new form of peer to peer influencer relationships in a really compelling way for our clients.”

Looking at the local market and what’s he’s learnt from his introductory trip to Australia and the Aussie Edelman team and clients, Spurr said his key learning was “how incredibly integrated this marketplace is”.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the clients to really help them solve their business challenges and making sure the agency keeps up with the pace of change that our clients now demand,” he said.

“My plan is really to make sure we keep being a front-foot agency. The marketplace is changing so quickly and we have to keep up with that demand to be delivering for our clients.”

Gain ends nearly six-year run with Edelman to join Amazon's Audible

Gain ends nearly six-year run with Edelman to join Amazon’s Audible

On the recent changes at the agency – which include COO Matthew Gain departing for Amazon owned Audible in the new year – and how the agency will successfully transition to new leadership, Spurr focused on the agency’s “market leading” talent.

“This agency is incredible. Yes, there have been some changes but the talent here is market leading, it’s incredibly strong. We bring the added value with Edelman of being able to bring in the changing dynamic from around the world to benefit our clients,” he said.

“The actual making sure we’re profiled and people know where we’re at, I’ll be working with my entire leadership team to make sure that in each part of our business we are high profile, we are working on great clients.”

Spurr has been with Edelman for 17 years, with the last four as chief operating officer in London.

On the differences between the UK team to the local team, Spurr said the need to be more integrated leads to talent coming to the agency with a “broader viewpoint”.

“I work in an agency, and have built an agency, of 570 people in London so you have a lot of specialists facing their particular client niche or their particular expertise. The challenge in those bigger offices is to make the integration work by having people work across the whole business,” he said.

“That isn’t a challenge here because the business is very strong across the whole mix and people have a very strong knowledge of the need to integrate across corporate, consumer, creative and digital.”

Looking at the challenges of the PR industry as a whole, Spurr is concerned with “staying still” and trying to do what the industry has always done.

Edelman“There will be some elements of the PR industry that are still tried and tested – classic executive positioning still needs to happen for executives, they need to be in the right places and media relations with the top tier media has evolved, but it isn’t going to change completely.

“For many other parts of the media mix the amount of titles and publications that still exist is much smaller and having to survive and cover much bigger beats,” he said.

“In the UK trade media is really under attack and struggling to survive. It changes the ways traditional PR people would use traditional B2C and B2B communication levers – you have to change, you have to get more social and you have to have a social mindset first.”

The way the PR industry is changing means it is important for the industry to be looking to other disciplines – media, digital, creative – for talent.

“The important thing is understanding the full marketing mix and as a PR agency where your lifeblood is storytelling in the news cycle, you have to understand the full marketing mix because all those things could impact your news cycle piece,” Spurr said.

“So yes we have bought in people from those disciplines. The important thing there is the mindset of how those people can really understand news worthiness and the pace of news rather than the pace of campaigns, they’re very different.”

While Spurr is concerned with remaining the same, he is not worried by the trend locally of clients moving away from retained relationships with agencies to working with them on a project by project basis.

“If you’re a strong agency and you’re delivering strong ideas, strong work and strong stories, how you’re financially compensated doesn’t matter,” he said.

“Our clients can get more value and more focus of their value when they work with us on a project basis. Retainers are a vestige of times gone by. I’ve been at Edelman for a long time, many of our markets have seen a shift away from retainer.”

Miranda Ward


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