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PR director of the future: tackling the new climate change reality

Posted by Lorraine Jenkins on 28th June 2016

The recent Paris Agreement means that climate innovation is super high on the global agenda. We spoke to Angela Howarth, European head of communications at Climate-KIC, to find out how the new global energy agenda is likely to impact the role of the PR director.

“The Paris talks highlighted the new reality that climate change will not be tackled effectively by individual countries or even coalitions of like-minded governments. If the disparate countries at the COP21 talks could only agree on one thing, it was that concerted and co-ordinated global action is vital to mitigate the impact of climate change on a scale that is necessary”, says Angela.

Alignment of interests

The need for an alignment of interests to address climate change is not news for Angela. As the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, Climate-KIC has always been about bringing together the private, public and academic sectors to drive the innovation that will be necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

“Climate-KIC is all about building relationships and collaborative partnerships across Europe and our communications strategy is really an extension of this”, explains Angela. “Our messaging needs to resonate not only with CEOs of Europe’s biggest global companies, but also technology innovators, local and national governments as well as the students and entrepreneurs who will be the climate change leaders of the future.”

As European head of communications, Angela is very much aware of the challenge of communicating with multi-country audiences. “Looking at the future skill-set of the PR, the ability to think globally is going to become increasingly important. The remit of the PR or communications director is increasingly an international one, so understanding how to communicate with multi-country audiences is absolutely vital.”

Nuanced messaging for local requirements

For Angela, a clear and consistent messaging framework is fundamental, but at the same time it is vital to give autonomy to in-country communication managers so that the message can be nuanced for local requirements.

“Messaging that was written for one target segment, audience or country will not always resonate across multiple territories. Internally we allow a certain amount of leeway for transcreation as well as translation, so that there is room to adapt the core message to resonate with local audiences, rather than rely on a purely literal translation, to ensure we make best use of the skill and local knowledge of our communication managers”, says Angela.

Owned media channels

Angela also highlights the need for the PR director to balance reputation management via intermediaries with end-user engagement. “There is definitely a growing constituency of citizens, consumers, employees and business leaders who recognise the need for action to tackle climate change. We believe it is vital that we develop our owned media channels to engage these audiences directly, while also maintaining our relationships with the journalists who will play a critical role in getting our message across.”

Finally, Angela stresses how important it is for the PR director to build an effective working relationship with the CEO: “An organisation’s reputation has immense value, and the CEO must be actively involved in the communications strategy while also giving the communications team the degree of autonomy they need to fulfil their function. Building trust is absolutely key in this respect. I cannot stress that enough.

“As the recent Paris talks highlighted, effective communication is going to be vital if we are to meet our global environmental targets. The skills of the communications director will be more critical than ever to the future of the energy sector.”

For more information about Wildfire’s PR Director of the Future campaign, please visit:

Lorraine Jenkins

Lorraine is always available to share her decades of technology PR experience with the team. As well as putting her unparalleled research and market positioning skills to use and regularly bombarding the team with industry news and trends, Lorraine is always ready to roll up her sleeves and produce hard hitting research questions or industry whitepapers to position clients as market leaders.