Mark Webb, head of comms for Shift.ms, joins us to chat about some irreplaceable skills an effective communicator must have.
Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?
I had always been a communicator of sorts without ever realising it could be a career option.
My path was a definite stumbling one. My first real job — after holiday and ski-repping — was to be a cast member at the opening of EuroDisney, now Disneyland Paris. My first role there was to look after A-List celebrities. Michael Jackson, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Gloria Estefan.
Crazy, brilliant times which also exposed me to all flavours of media.
PR and Comms, via some TV production work, seemed like a natural progression.
What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?
Creativity, flexibility, fluency.
Creativity because a brand or product story doesn’t fly just because it’s interesting. It needs new thinking. A great idea. Packaging up in the right way for media to be interested. We don’t need to float anything else down the Thames!
Flexibility, because the world is moving so fast now. As are consumers, the media cycle, media channels. I’m old enough to remember physically cutting and pasting reams of coverage to fax to clients. And planning ‘Sunday for Monday’ press releases.
24/7 media and social media demands whole new approaches to successful Comms. What’s the next Facebook, the next media giant, the next story to ride with?
Fluency — or lack of — is a bugbear of mine. We’re Comms professionals. And whether it’s an impromptu tweet or a long-planned campaign, our work should dance off the page and reflect our brand.
What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?
I’m severely disabled — with advanced Multiple Sclerosis. Whilst I am well aware of my own physical challenges, it’s actually the external world that actually holds me back. There’s a massive stigma around disability and illness. And with 15-20% of the world’s population being disabled, we’re not just missing out as potential employees, we’re also neglected consumers worth trillions.
My own ‘journey’ has been amazing and positive: understanding and committed employers and colleagues at Dixons Retail through diagnosis and progression.
And now a great charity, Shift.ms, to work with. And speaking opportunities to die for.
What one thing would make your working life easier?
A world made accessible.
How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?
It’s given immense bandwidth and given our brand is ‘edgy’, I can happily play with it!
What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?
Learning. Always learning and evolving.
At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?
I’d love to give a great answer to that but have we cracked that yet? I’m all ears...
Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?
Dunno, but I’ll be there!