The Actionable Futurist® Podcast

S4 Episode 14: Heather Kernahan from Hotwire PR on the future of PR and communications

June 19, 2022 The Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill Season 4 Episode 14
The Actionable Futurist® Podcast
S4 Episode 14: Heather Kernahan from Hotwire PR on the future of PR and communications
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Public relations is no longer just about sending press releases - increasingly PR has become integrated with sales and marketing functions and relies upon practitioners having a solid grasp of data.

To find out more about the future of PR and communications, I spoke with Heather Kernahan, the Global CEO of Communications company Hotwire.

Heather has spent her career immersed in technology and moved over to Hotwire from Eastwick Communications after its acquisition in 2016.

Prior to this, she was at Autodesk, where she focused on integrated brand communications and led the development of the company’s first sustainability report.

Heather says she “builds outrageously successful teams, companies and brands”, and is the author of an upcoming book UNSTUCKABLE, to be published in 2022.

We recorded this episode live and in person at Hotwire’s London office.

Hotwire has a concept called "Behaving famously" - which means purposely going out and making connections with people; It’s an expectation of everyone that works at Hotwire, no matter the role - you need to behave famously.

We discussed a number of topics related to communications and PR including:

  • How PR has changed during Heather's career
  • The most effective campaign over the last 12 months
  • How dynamic can communications be?
  • The need for data literacy in PR
  • The role of PR in revenue generation
  • Selling more "shirts and shoes"
  • Account-based Marketing (ABM)
  • PR reps as business people
  • The role of PR in remote selling
  • The importance of your digital first impression
  • Diversity and inclusion in modern communications practices
  • The Hotwire Into Tech initiative
  • Evolving the agency
  • Hotwire's team "Behaving famously" 
  • Content that cuts through the noise
  • Coaching Executives around thought leadership
  • Are print and broadcast still important in the comms mix?
  • Meeting the needs of a 24-hour news cycle
  • Branded content opportunities
  • Heather's upcoming Book - "Unstuckable"
  • The one key message from the book
  • The importance of Podcasts in the PR mix
  • Using LinkedIn for promotion & recruitment
  • Lessons from the pandemic
  • The role of data in the PR company of the future
  • Quickfire round
  • 3 Actionable tips for using communication in your business


Resources mentioned in the show
David Goggins: Can't Hurt me
Jane Wurwand: Skin in the game


More on Heather
Heather on LinkedIn
Heather on Twitter
Heather's Website
Hotwire Global website

Your Host: Actionable Futurist® Andrew Grill
For more on Andrew - what he speaks about and replays of recent talks, please visit ActionableFuturist.com follow @AndrewGrill on Twitter or @andrew.grill on Instagram.

Voiceover:

Welcome to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast a show all about the near term future with practical and actionable advice from a range of global experts to help you stay ahead of the curve. Every episode answers the question what's the future of ... with voices and opinions that need to be heard. Your host is international keynote speaker and The Actionable Futurist®, Andrew Grill.

Andrew Grill:

Today's guest is Heather Kernahan, the global CEO of tech PR company Hotwire. Heather has spent her career immersed in technology, and moved over to hotwire from esuite communications after its acquisition in 2016. Prior to this, she was Autodesk where she focused on integrated brand communications, and led the development of the company's first sustainability report. Heather says she builds outrageously successful teams, companies and brands and is the author of an upcoming book unstoppable. Today we recording this episode live and in person at hotwire London office. welcome Heather.

Heather Kernahan:

Thank you how fun to be live and in person.

Andrew Grill:

I used to record these episodes in the studio in London. And I've done a lot of these virtually from now onwards, but it's just nice to have the person across the table smiling at me, it is so great. So you've been involved in the tech industry your whole career? What drew you to it in the first place?

Heather Kernahan:

Well, it was a mistake. I'll start there, Andrew. I was out of university and not really sure what I was going to do with my life. And I ended up at a university working in their alumni relations office. And it was horrible, boring, boring and slow. And I thought what am I going to do with my career? This can't be all there is. And by chance I entered my application into a tech agency job that was in Toronto, I'm from Canada, grew up in Eastern Canada, and flew out on almost no money to take the interview and they said we'd love to hire you. You've got to come to Toronto right away. And I did and ended up in tech by mistake, but realise probably within two weeks. Oh, this is going to be it. It was so fast paced. It was the late 90s When everything was going online, you know, websites were everything. And we were building websites for the big brands of the world.

Andrew Grill:

You remember the tech journals, the time business 2.0 And red herring. They were as thinck as phonebooks.

Heather Kernahan:

Oh, were they ever? Yes, yes. And everything was new and fresh. And it was what's going to happen next. And it was a great time to get into technology. I got hooked.

Andrew Grill:

You've been in PR for a while how was public relations changed over the course of your career?

Heather Kernahan:

Yes, I did a one year certificate in public relations before I went and got my tech job. And then it was really about a lot of media relations. But some things were still the same narrative development was really important more than 20 years ago when I started my career. So that is something that's remained consistently the same. I think the narrow view though, public relations, being mostly about media relations, and Stakeholder Relations, has expanded. Public Relations now is a business function. And I don't know who needs to hear that. But somebody needs to hear it, it has evolved. And it's a really important part of the business. So that's the key change. I've seen over 20 years,

Andrew Grill:

We'll it's risk management as well. I think it's it's also strategy, its marketing. We'll talk a bit later about how marketing and sales works together. But I think it's a really important part. Because the message is sometimes the first thing that people hear about a brand. And that's how they associate the brand with them. Exactly. It's now harder to get that message out. Now there are so many distribution channels and networks, and almost anyone can be a broadcaster. What's the most effective campaign you've seen over say the last 12 months?

Heather Kernahan:

The Ad Council in the US did a very effective campaign for vaccination support, that was probably the one of the most effective ones I've seen over the past 12 months. And what they spent a lot of time doing was really understanding the audiences within the audience so that they could target the campaign. And although there are so many channels, in some places of the world, like Australia, people say there's too few channels now. So what's fundamentally hasn't changed in communications is you have to know your audience. And that's how you do an effective campaign. And unfortunately, in technology, we don't spend a lot of time truly understanding the audiences we're trying to reach. And that's where we can do a better job.

Andrew Grill:

Ironically, tech enables that and with all the data that's out there, we'll talk about data in a minute. It's it's sometimes you just want to get the message out there rather than understanding who who was receiving it. But we have so many channels out there and so many back channels, one of the big social media, yes. How dynamic can communications be these days?

Heather Kernahan:

Really dynamic because we are using technology ourselves. And that's been a shift in public relations over the past, I'd say probably six or seven years. Our tech stack now within hotwire is incredible and rivals, marketing organisations inside technology companies. And we invested it because we want our team to really understand how you use data to find insight. And the Insight is what's going to make your campaign incredibly effective. So we use tech stack that is all the way from analytics and insights into experiences into content syndication. And using that technology is helping us make faster decisions, better decisions, gets our client to their goal faster.

Andrew Grill:

So it brings up an interesting question the sort of person that is attracted to PR the sort of person you would hire. They must require a different set skills now they have to be more data literate. Is that true?

Heather Kernahan:

That is true. Yeah. And there's a spectrum of skills that you need to be in this business. And the parallel I would say, is journalists. So as journalists are still what people we work with all the time. And when I talk to journalists today, the number of journalists that understand the data in their business is just incredible. And it's the same on the PR side, you've got to understand how to read data, how to find insight from data, but you can't lose the core skill of being narrative development. The other advancement over the past few years is that public relations as it's moved beyond Media Relations and Stakeholder Relations, is we can now go all the way through to help revenue generation. And so I'm sure we'll talk about that more later, we did an acquisition of a company called McDonald Butler in the UK last year. And that's helped us to extend all the way through to revenue.

Andrew Grill:

The whole attribution, it's great to have a nice piece of PR, messaging, wins awards, but I've always said did it sell more widgets? I famously saw the former CEO of Under Armour on stage in New York a few years ago, and he has this thing on he has this thing on his whiteboard that said, Sell more shirts and shoes. And it doesn't matter how wonderful the campaign is, and how many likes you get, he always went back to did it sell more shirts and shoes? So my question is, while you know, I've worked in marketing for a long time, so we used to talk about marketing people being the fluffy end. Yeah, but how focused are you on the shirts and shoes that get sold?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, really focused and increasingly so. So when pandemic hit what we saw, within a couple of months, as our clients were shifting their budgets quickly, from awareness campaigns, which often public relations balls into to demand generation campaigns, and they came to us and said, We want to keep working with you help us quickly figure out how to connect to the work you do to selling more, you know, technology shirts and shoes, as you would say. So just about that time, we did the acquisition, and McDonald Butler, and they are an Account Based Marketing focused agency. And so we could take our narrative that we were developing for awareness and pull it all the way through to delivering revenue generating campaigns for clients. And suddenly, we could say, here's the actual number of leads, we delivered. And this is the revenue that closed. And that's the future of public relations and communications is being able to connect reputation, relationships and revenue. And companies who can deliver services along that spectrum, which is what we're aiming to do, I think, will be really great partners for tech companies. Because at the end of the day, if you're not selling, you don't have a business.

Andrew Grill:

Too right. So a nice segue there to Account Based Marketing, or ABM, this requires communications, marketing and sales teams to work together. They want the sworn enemies of each other having worked in both sales and marketing. I know how the tension works between the two. What advice do you have for people looking to deploy ABM programmes?

Heather Kernahan:

You're gonna really have to understand everyone's perspective on this. That's what I would recommend. And I worked inside technology companies for about 15 years, I worked in marketing roles, or worked in product marketing roles where I brokered peace treaties between product and salespeople. So I understand the dynamics of that relationship. And you really have to understand what sales needs, what marketing needs and what product needs to put together an ABM programme. And if you can have empathy for everybody's position, you're going to be able to put together a campaign that's really exciting for people. And that's been transformative with some of the clients we've worked with where we've been able to sit with their salespeople and talk about what are your sales objectives? What's easy for you? What's hard for you? Where could we help you the most, and they they're sharing that insight with us so that the programme we've been bringing back is really exciting for them.

Andrew Grill:

That's refreshing stereotypically, when I look at a PR or comms agency, they're all about just the message. And once the campaign is over, that's great job done. But it's good to hear that you have that feedback loop and you're now using data and different skill sets to really drive more revenue.

Heather Kernahan:

We are and what I asked my team here as the business people. Yes, we're working on a communications consultancy, but at the end of the day, you need to understand business. I went back and did my MBA a few years ago because I wanted to understand better how business worked and what was my role working in a marketing organisation, as related to business. And that really transformed how I thought about work. And so that's some of the training that we do with our team here is how to understand what a business needs and then we can bring the right solutions to help them solve their problems.

Andrew Grill:

So I read it assessing report from McKinsey that was started in the early days the pandemic around April 2020. They surveyed 3600 B2B buyers, and the overall message was that selling through the screen was here to stay even post pandemic and often use a quote from the report where they said sharing content and insight with buyers builds awareness establishes thought leadership forms the foundation of credibility and trust and solidifies value. So how important is the PR and communications function now remote selling is here to stay and how must the profession adapt?

Heather Kernahan:

We're about everything is here to stay. I would say that for sure we're gonna get back to in person like we are but we're definitely still going to be selling through screens and meeting through screens. Even if someone is looking through a screen at a demonstration video or they're looking at white paper or they're looking at something their ability to quickly search out lots of different and sources for validation, it exists. So I think, as communications operates in that infrastructure, we have to think about who's the person on the other side of the screen where all the places they are gonna go, they might go to a journalist, they might go to Twitter, they might go to an analyst. And so our job is to understand that spectrum and make sure that we're showing up with our clients message and all those channels.

Andrew Grill:

That brings me to a really interesting point about your digital first impression, because public relations has always been about creating that good impression. But now the first time we touch a brand or a human is that digital first impression, how important you believe that is and what the companies need to do to reorganise or reorient, having that great digital first impression.

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, some of them are still struggling with that is what I would say even though we're two years into the pandemic, they're trying to get their their digital traction really, right. And I think you've just have to do digital. First, you've got to have someone in the room from a communication standpoint, saying, Who is it we're trying to reach? Where is that person going first? That's so fundamental. I mean, that's been part of marketing for decades and decades, right? Understand your buyer, that is a fundamental that will stay the same.

Andrew Grill:

So when we talk about diversity inclusion, how important is this in modern communications practice? And how can diversity and inclusion be embedded in all aspects of the communications programme?

Heather Kernahan:

Well, it is really important and many companies and technology and consultancies, they launched their dei strategies in mid 2020, late 2020. And so we ourselves have to make sure that we have a very strong point of view in our own business on diversity, equity and inclusion, and that we encourage our clients to do the same. I think the only way that you're able to go to market with diversity is if you have diverse perspectives around the table with you as you do your insight work as you do your campaign development and as executive even in the executive team to sign off on what's happening. And so that's something anyone listening to this podcast can do, they can look around the room and say who's in the room with us making these decisions, maybe there's somebody missing, there's a target audience missing that we need to get into the room with us.

Andrew Grill:

Now the next generation of communications specialists, you've just launched a free programme to help train this next generation called the hotwire Intertek initiative. Tell me more about it.

Heather Kernahan:

Oh, I'm so excited about this one. Probably for about three years, we've been really struggling with hiring people, because we're growing very quickly. And we don't have the team with the right resources or understanding out there in the market. And so we talking to lots of other agencies in the tech space that are struggling as well. And one thing we know for sure is that technology is going everywhere. So even if you work in consumer area, technology is going to influence you. So we thought about what we could do. And we thought we will put together a free training programme that targets mid to senior level marketing and comms professionals and cross train them into the tech industry. And we thought, let's do it for free. And let's just see what kind of traction we can get from it. So it's going to launch February 15, there's still time to sign up. And it's a three part series, we'll see what the feedback is on it. And our goal is really to have people outside the industry feel confident enough to apply for jobs at hotwire, hopefully, but also any technology company in the world.

Andrew Grill:

It's a really great initiative. And of course, you'll get the first look at the best candidates. But hopefully, you'll encourage people to make that leap and make a career change. Because you might have great business people out there that know how to wrangle data. And if just they had then the comms piece on top of that they'd be an even more useful comms professional.

Heather Kernahan:

That's right, or what I've noticed in interviewing a lot of different people, because that's what I spend quite a bit of my time doing interviewing folks, if they're outside the core technology industry, they probably have done some work with technology, but they don't associate it as being tech. So this I interviewed a woman who was working in the hotel industry, and she was telling me how she rolled out touch lists technology throughout the hotel. And I said, That's really interesting. Why don't you apply for a job in tech? And she said, Well, I've never really worked in tech. And I say, oh, yeah, you have Yes, you've got some great case studies already that you can show. So I'm just trying to help people build their confidence to take that leap and attack. In my mind, this is the best industry in the world. And it's only going to get bigger.

Andrew Grill:

Tech touches absolutely everything. If you think of your day, when you wake up through when you go to bed, you are literally physically touching technology at some stage, and you are relying on technology to get your job done and stay in touch. So you know, I've been in tech for a long time. I'm a self obsessed geek about technology. I try and break it so I can help clients. But I also try and understand how can tech work for good? And how can we actually make our lives and our communities better, better? Enabled? PRs evolving? So how have you evolved the agency? You've been here for a while?

Heather Kernahan:

I have Yes, I came through the East work acquisition, as you said, so from 2016. I've been within hotwire. And the way we're evolving the agencies, we're moving to train our folks as consultants. And as consultants you understand business problems companies have so that's a core part of the evolution is being business first. And I want our team to be able to speak to CEOs and say, What are you struggling with and then we can figure out a solution for that. The increase of our use and technology has happened over time. We've always had lots of technology within the business, but we're purposely building our tech stack to make sure people really understand how to use data and analytics and the extension into ABM demand generation service. is the evolution that's ahead for us. For us, we're really going to make sure that we have services available under reputation, relationship and revenue for clients. And I feel like that gives us a great runway to help a lot of technology companies.

Andrew Grill:

So as a CEO of a global PR agency, you're well known you have an opinion to share. Who does your PR?

Heather Kernahan:

Well Hotwire does my PR, Hotwire does. But we have a concept here called "Behaving Famously", which is something that I use back as far as Eastwick days. And behaving

Andrew Grill:

I did the same thing that I didn't know what I famously means that you are purposely going out and you're making connections with people. And it's an expectation of everyone that works at hotwire no matter the role. Even if you're just an intern, you need to behave famously. And so that might mean meeting someone for coffee, posting on social media or being interviewed for a podcast, there's a whole bunch of ways you can do that. But what if you're here, that's what you're gonna do, because consultants get out there and share their point of view, and as business leaders, we want to be sharing our view with the world. was doing. At the time at IBM, I would go to a whole bunch of events, sometimes events that weren't my sort of core area. And it amazed me I was any person that came from IBM and people went, we've never met someone from IBM, why are you here? And I learned so much. And I go back into the office and I'd be in a group of you know, chief executives, I'd have a point of view on it. Where did you get that from? I was out talking to industry. So I think behaving famously is also having a finger on the pulse. But as you know, the more times people mention you that look at you that thought leadership happens. I hate when people call themselves thought leaders because you can't that's bestowed on your influence is bestowed on you. So I think you're right, you have to generate that by being out there. And I hope any young PR person listening to this says they've got permission to go out to events to make themselves known. If you shake someone's hand you say you're from hotwire PR, oh, I didn't I didn't know anyone was coming to this event from Hotwire.

Heather Kernahan:

That's just it, and there's so many women in this industry. And I find women in particular will say, Well, when I reach a certain level, that's when it's okay for me to go out and do that. And that's why it's an expectation for everyone within high wire hotwire. Absolutely not you go right now I want you to be on a zoom attending an event or talking to someone, and it will just build you as a professional. And really, that's what we need to do.

Andrew Grill:

So now we talked about social media. Now social media is mainstream, podcasting is a thing, NF T's and the metaverse are being discussed daily, What content do you think will cut through in the future do you believe?

Heather Kernahan:

I think we've got to experiment with a lot of the new technologies that are out there. And that's one thing I love about being in the tech industry, we know how to try new things. And so we will experiment. But it comes back to what I was talking about earlier, you've got to just watch your target audience. What is that person doing? How are they experimenting with technology. And then if you understand that person deeply, then you can get into the right channels to be in front of them. But I love podcasting. I love the variety of channels available now there's access to experts, like there's never been. And so as professionals, we can develop ourselves continuously. We don't have to wait for a course anymore. Literally, we can learn anything around the world.

Andrew Grill:

So the McKinsey report I mentioned earlier highlights how important thought leadership is. So where do executive thought leadership programmes fit? And how can you coach execs to create great content when they're already so busy?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, it comes back to their goals and their role in the business. That's what we talk to the executives about that we work with. So often it's at the sea level, they're in a transformation for the business. And they want to communicate that transformation, not only outside the company, but equally inside the company and employee communications is so important now. So if we anchor with them on a business goal they're trying to reach it's easier to talk about thought leadership content, behaving famously for themselves out in the industry, because it connects them to the business school. And so that's the connection we're always trying to make is what are you trying to do with the business? This is how communications can help you get there.

Andrew Grill:

So some of the original channels print and broadcast, are they still an important tool in the comms mix today?

Heather Kernahan:

I think they are depending on who the target audience is. So if your target audience is still picking up the paper every morning, when they head out their front door, then absolutely you need to be in that paper. And as well as broadcast, if if your target audience is watching, you better be there.

Andrew Grill:

But I suppose they're quite almost becoming quite niche. When I was running a bunch of startups, my founders would say we want the company in the FT tomorrow. Yeah, that is what your objective, are your target buyers going to be reading that story? Is it just vanity being there versus actually selling more shirt, shoes or widgets?

Heather Kernahan:

There's still a lot of requests for that. I will tell you the FT we hear I want to be on the front page of The New York Times. And we also why What are you trying to achieve with that? Who are you trying to reach? And I think there is still that that vanity of feeling of I don't know I've made it if that's where I'm appearing. But at the end of the day, if you're not doesn't get you investment, that doesn't sell you more product than forget about it. Why even waste the time?

Andrew Grill:

So what do you think journalists are looking for? And how can companies meet the needs of a 24 hour news cycle?

Heather Kernahan:

Media are always going to want to have an interesting story, a narrative that it connects to a bigger trend and some really personal information, personal insight data, a unique angle to get them as a piece that really for them can sell and you know the sell for them. It might be a click. And so many journalists now are having to do that they're having to look at how their content per forms. And if it's performing well, you know, they get better spots on their site or on the front page. And if it doesn't perform, they don't. So that's not going to change, they're still going to want that unique angle.

Andrew Grill:

So I want to talk about a different way of communication I saw back in Australia back in 2015, the ANZ Bank, their in house comms team started running their own branded media briefings, they were saying, with fewer journalists, fewer channels for corporates to get their messages out, they needed to take control the message and create their own channels that actually produce a media hit that was a branded, and they would then give it to journalists verbatim and say, Well, you can do what you want with it, is that something you would advise clients to do so they can better control the narrative?

Heather Kernahan:

Well, we would advise them to do but not about controlling the narrative usually, usually is about the position they want to play in a market. And if it is a leadership position, that can be a really good tool for doing that. We've advised clients to do similar programmes, and they've launched their own. So unify, we helped them launch the future of work many years ago, as their own branded content portal. I mean, when you do it, you've got to really invest in world class content development. And that's often where brands can't make the leap. It's so it is very expensive to put together great quality content and your own portals. So it can be the right path for a brand that can fund it and knows very clearly why they're trying to do it.

Andrew Grill:

Now mentioned in the intro, you just written a book that's due out in a few months. I'm really excited to hear about this. Tell me more about it?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, Unstuckable. Well, it's probably now going to be a little bit later because my publisher with the pandemic has delayed everything. I put together Unstuckable because I was spending time talking to leaders and tech companies, and many of them were writing their books, and I was thinking about what stories need to be told about the technology industry, especially during the pandemic. And I talked to many organisational leaders who are saying, I just feel stuck. I'm so stuck. I don't know how to move forward when everything is unclear. And in technology, nothing is ever really clear. You know, we're creating as we go all the time. And I just started to think about the lessons from technology that can make you Unstuckable which is a word we completely made up. But really to be Unstuckable is to have the resources available to always move ahead no matter what. And so there's the book is about stories from technology leaders and how you can apply them to be unstuck.

Andrew Grill:

So we can use tech to become Unstuckable, but where did humans and mentors and people who can give you great advice and help you unstuck your problem? Where do they fit?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, they definitely fit into the story. A lot of lessons from the leaders in the book are about how they use communities of people around them trusted advisors, mentors to help them keep moving forward, even when nothing is clear.

Andrew Grill:

So in the world of social media and fragmented messaging, how are you going to promote a physical book?

Heather Kernahan:

Well, I've got my target audience in mind, I will say that, and my publisher is going to help me do that. But I'm hoping to reach people that are in usually in the middle of an organisation. They're not necessarily at the top, but they have big ambitions to grow their career, and they're figuring out how to keep moving forward.

Andrew Grill:

What's the one key message you'd like people to take from the book?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, you never have to be stuck. There is always a path forward. And I'm going to show you what they are.

Andrew Grill:

You should trademark Unstuckable.

Heather Kernahan:

I really should. I've done a lot of work in trademark and IP protection over the last 12 months. That's a whole nother story for another podcast. But you should go and grab that now. Okay, I'm gonna get your help with it.

Andrew Grill:

So I want to move on to podcasting. We're literally recording a podcast today. And last year, I was approached by the London team about collaborating with this podcast. Since then I've interviewed nine hotwire clients. This podcast is number 10. And I have another recording scheduled later this month. I think it's a great win for both sides, I get access to amazing guests from companies such as McAfee, GWI and Citrix. And your clients have a credible independent platform to get their message across. So where do you believe podcasts will fit in the mix in the future?

Heather Kernahan:

I see them playing an increasingly important role in business. And there's only this shift lately, podcasting has been around for a long time. So people who love podcast from the beginning understand the power of it to tell the story to capture an audience. And it was so consumer focus for so long. But I do see more businesses now deploying podcasting, and I think it is the right thing. Because when you look again, back to your audience, they are going to be listening to it. And as people come back to commuting, I mean podcasting, even the numbers are going to go up even more.

Andrew Grill:

So what would be your advice to execs about using podcasts to get their message out and their thought leadership out?

Heather Kernahan:

Don't be intimidated as the first thing I hear a lot of worry from executives, what how does a podcast work? How can I deploy my message? Does anyone even listen to podcasts. And so just try it, have the experience, see what impact you get guaranteed. You'll get feedback from your target audience who are interested in chatting. And then you can keep going further and then maybe even create your own podcast for your business.

Andrew Grill:

So where to business networks such as LinkedIn featured in your own promotion mix, and how can senior execs best use these channels?

Heather Kernahan:

I love LinkedIn, it is my primary channel for posting. That's where I am. I've got LinkedIn open almost all day every day because I use it not only to talk about the great work our clients are doing and what we're achieving, but I also do to connect with others in the industry. And to connect with candidates. I do a lot of recruiting off of LinkedIn. Usually if it's late at night, and I can't sleep I'm on LinkedIn just checking out who's doing what in the world so I can consider it my number one go to for social media.

Andrew Grill:

When I'm talking with my keynotes, I spend a little bit of time on LinkedIn do almost a mini LinkedIn masterclass. The advice I give, I think is so obvious. So for example, if you're prospecting a new client, have a look at what content they write, what are they interested in? Who are they connected to? So when you actually get to talk to them, there is an instant rapport. And sometimes I gave this example the other day, I was talking to a potential client in San Francisco. And about halfway through the the discussion, I mentioned, the third company, he'd worked out that I had a connection with, the whole meeting changed almost on a pivot, because it was like you've done your homework. And there was a connection on you're involved in IoT. Oh, wow. So it just so important, again, back to that digital first impression, what you're seeing of their profile helps you connect in a better way,

Heather Kernahan:

Absolutely. But also requires the person doing it to slow down. So you need it to slow down, spend some time reading their content, but put together all the dots to make sure that you understood what you were talking about. And I think in a digital first world, when we're scrolling and liking whatever, you can forget to go deeper, and we've got to remember is communication that people you have to go deeper.

Andrew Grill:

And the thing about LinkedIn is that it allows you to go deeper, I think many years ago, people saw it as a recruitment tool. There's my CV online. Now. And actually, you know, I actually had someone on a lawyer of the day on a podcast where they said, they were looking for particular candidates. And they wanted someone who was actually quite controversial because they wanted to have a different point of view. And they wanted to see if they really were posting things and having an opinion that was somewhat controversial. So it whether you know it or not, it actually shows a bit of your personality beyond a static CVS though, right? Yes. So the pandemic experience, we have to talk about every business we have to well, because what we've learned from it, every business leader I've interviewed over the last two years has a story to tell, I'm sure you've got lots as well, what was your toughest learning from a pandemic?

Heather Kernahan:

I didn't know the toughest lesson until I came back to seeing people in person after about 18 months. And I took this job, the global CEO role during the pandemic last July. And then it was the fall when I started to see people in person again. And what I realised was, I was a different leader on on zoom through video through phone, then I was in person. And I had improvements to make if I was going to continue to lead remotely. And that was my biggest lesson was a big aha to sit in a room with people I was acting different. I was leading differently. And I paused and thought, Okay, now I need to take that back into the world of hybrid and remote because we that's gonna stay part of our lives.

Andrew Grill:

I think you're a bit like me, you're an extrovert. What I've heard over the last two years is the introverts are actually better at managing people remotely. So I agree with you, I think we have to take a feedback loop of how we coming across, especially if you're in a distributed environment. So that's probably a very healthy learning. Yes, but it means now you're hybrid, you can manage people in person and remotely.

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah. and a high bar for myself to keep getting better in both spaces.

Andrew Grill:

So we touched on the importance around data. And across the board, I'm seeing data becoming more and more important as companies are seeking to hire those with improved data literacy. Yes. So what's the role of data in the PR and comms company of the future?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, it's a core competency. There is no other way around it. And you can say that your data first, but you really have to, you have the tools, you need to invest in the tools, you need to provide training for your team to understand how to use the tools. And then how do you use the data that comes out of the tools is equally important. So there will be whole career tracks that emerge in the communications industry that have never been there before for data literate communicators, and marketing people because we have lots of marketing people in our business, not just communications people. So core competency.

Andrew Grill:

So a great discussion, but what I always do with my guests as I run them through a quick fire round, so we get to know the person behind the podcast. So some quick questions. iPhone or Android?

Heather Kernahan:

Android all the way.

Andrew Grill:

Interesting. Window or aisle?

Heather Kernahan:

Oh, I Oh, yeah. Someone chooses the window?

Andrew Grill:

I love seeing where are we going? Maybe? What's your biggest hope for 2022?

Heather Kernahan:

Oh, that we see each other more in person.

Andrew Grill:

What's the app you use most on your phone?

Heather Kernahan:

WhatsApp? Yeah. Stay connected with family because I live far away.

Andrew Grill:

What's the one thing you won't be doing again, post pandemic?

Heather Kernahan:

Won't be doing again post pandemic, working at home every day.

Andrew Grill:

What are you reading at the moment?

Heather Kernahan:

I love to read so everyone here at hotwire knows I'm talking about books constantly to books I just finished David Goggins book can't hurt me. Excellent. I highly recommend it. And I'm almost done skin in the game by John Jane when we're want.

Andrew Grill:

I'll put links to those in the show notes. Okay. And final question. How do you want to be remembered?

Heather Kernahan:

Oh, you sent this one in advance. And this was that it gave me pause for sure. You know, I think I want to be remembered as someone who helps people build their careers that I love doing that and I want to spend a lot of time on it.

Andrew Grill:

Now as this is The Actionable Futurist® podcast What three things can I listen to be doing today to make better use of communications in their business?

Heather Kernahan:

All right, so for today, and if you're listening, then you've got a pen, take it out. Number one, I want people to know that communications is a business driver. And so you need to bring communications in early to conversations that you're having in the business, don't wait until there's, you know, oh, we think we want to do a press release. Now, bring it into the business decision making process, that it's the only then that they can have an impact. And number two connect it is I want you to connect it to business results. So when you think about the business result you're trying to achieve, you've got to bring communications into that mix today, I guarantee they're gonna have a different take on how to solve that business problem. And that there's always potential to improve your personal style around communications, both externally and internally. And so take a personal development action to understand what your communication style is today and how you can get get much better at it.

Andrew Grill:

Thank you so much for your time. How can people find out more about you and your work and the book?

Heather Kernahan:

Yeah, well, @hotwireglobal on all social media platforms is the way to find hotwire and you'll find a lot about us there. And the book watch those platforms. For more information soon, here, there.

Andrew Grill:

Thank you so much.

Heather Kernahan:

Thank you.

Voiceover:

Thank you for listening to The Actionable Futurist® Podcast, you can find all of our previous shows at actionablefuturist.com. And if you like what you've heard on the show, please consider subscribing via your favourite podcast app, so you never miss an episode. You can find out more about Andrew and how he helps corporates navigate a disruptive digital world with keynote speeches and C-suite workshops delivered in person or virtually at actionablefuturist.com. Until next time, this has been The Actionable Futurist® Podcast.

What drew Heather to the PR industry
How PR has changed during Heather's career
The most effective campaign over the last 12 months
How dynamic can communications be?
The need for data literacy in PR
The role of PR in revenue generation
Selling more "shirts and shoes"
Account based Marketing (ABM)
PR reps as business people
The role of PR in remote selling
The importance of your digital first impression
Diversity and inclusion in modern communications practices
Evolving the agency
Behaving famously
Content that cuts through the noise
Coaching Executives around thought leadership
Are print and broadcast still important in the comms mix?
Meeting the needs of a 24-hour news cycle
Branded content opportunities
Heather's Book - Unstuckable
Promoting the book
The one key message from the book
The importance of Podcasts in the PR mix
Using LinkedIn for promotion & recruitment
Lessons from the pandemic
The role of data in the PR company of the future
Quickfire round
3 Actionable tips for using communication in your business