Ed Walsh | Influence 100
Charting the future of public relations
Ed-Walsh

Ed Walsh

SVP - Global Integrated Communications & Events
Phillips
The Netherlands


Edward Walsh was appointed to lead the global integrated communications function for Philips International in August 2014, replacing longtime CCO Andre Manning as the company sought to update its positioning and focus on solutions rather than products. 

His first priority was the establishment of a fully integrated global communications function following the separation of the company's historical lighting business and its refocus on the health technology market.

He had previously spent eight years with global public affairs firm APCO Worldwide, most recently serving as managing director of the firm’s European region and leading some of APCO’s largest multi-office client accounts. The move marked a return to the client side of the business for Walsh, who earlier in his career spent more than a decade in corporate communications with IBM, although over the course of his corporate and public affairs career he has accrued experience counseling on internal and external communications issues in the consumer goods, energy, information technology and healthcare sectors.  

Can you share a moment in your career that you recognized PR's direct impact on business performance?
It would be easy to quote examples where PR directly contributed to driving sales, for instance, in the context of new product introductions. I could also mention examples where effective use of communications in the broader sense helped influence policy outcomes that had a direct positive business impact for organizations that I have worked for.  However, I think that what my team and I have been doing over the last two years to shift perceptions of Philips from its legacy as an electronics and lighting giant to a recognized leader in health technology is by far the greatest example of how communications (rather than merely PR) can contribute to positive business outcomes.

What are the industry's biggest challenges and opportunities? 
More than ever, with the loss of control over information resulting in large part from the advent of the digital age, we need to fully grasp what our organizations' most important reputations drivers are (as opposed to what they have historically been or what we assume they might be), stay on top of the constantly evolving ecosystem of influencers and understand the most effective mix of channels to reach / influence / mobilize them to help protect and enhance our organizations' reputation.

How do you handle the unexpected?
By avoiding knee-jerk reactions, keeping outwardly calm and collected [whilst furiously thinking through what immediate steps need to be taken and the optimal membership of the project team that will work to address the situation.

How do you relax?
Hosting dinner parties is usually a good way for me to switch off, as is taking my seven year old son cycling and listening to my sixteen year old daughter waxing lyrical about her very complicated social life!

Book/movie/TV show/podcast that teaches a valuable lesson about PR?
Communication being integral to all human interactions, PR lessons can be learned from all sorts of sources, news feeds chief amongst them.

If I wasn't working in marketing/communications, I would be...
a diplomat, which was my second calling, my first one was to become an artist.  The good news is that creative and diplomatic skills are great assets to be successful in our profession.