Five questions with… Mark Stephenson, Head of Brand Communications and Digital, Philips North America

Mark Stephensen

A leader in corporate communications, Mark focuses on integrating the communications department together with operations and other functional areas that help to drive organizational performance and achieve business results. Mark holds broad international experience recognized for creating innovative outreach programs targeting both external and internal stakeholders that successfully results in a positive impact to corporate reputation and the bottom line. Mark has worked with Fortune 100 and Global 100 companies in key industries including healthcare, chemicals, technology, steel, and financial services.

Mark served as a panelist for the Publicity Club’s recent Masters’ Institute event covering The Future of PR. Designed for seasoned corporate communications professionals, the discussion focused on how corporate communications and the industry landscape are driving innovation and change.

Following the panel, Mark took a few moments to provide some insight into the communications industry.

What are the biggest challenges that communications professionals face today?

Among the clutter of professional and amateur journalists, finding the relevant channels to create a consistent voice for your organization — and then being consistent in developing content for those channels.  In many ways, this challenge isn’t new — however, the noise is louder than ever before due to the sheer number of contributors and communications professionals need to stay focused and disciplined more than ever before.

The industry is evolving faster than ever. What do you think have been the most significant changes over the last 2-3 years?

Social Media continues to rapidly evolve and new “it” channels quickly change in terms of relevance with target audiences.  It requires constant evaluation — what may be a critical channel for your organization today may not be the one you need tomorrow.  However, how you develop and differentiate your voice (e.g. Persona, visual representation, etc.) in these channels can make the difference between success and irrelevance.

What has been the impact of increased data – big and small – and how are you using it in ways you never had?

Data is great — but it’s useless unless you can derive insights from it.  Being able to analyze the data is critical, and turning it into a compelling strategy and actionable tactics will be more important than obtaining the data itself.  Ultimately, turning this into predictive analytics will help you create big value as a professional in your organization.

What is the next wave of change that you expect to have the greatest impact?

With attention spans getting ever shorter and the need to find unique ways to gain attention for your story ever more critical, being able to communicate through the visual realm will become increasingly important.  Content has to be a headline — not 140 characters.  The successful marriage of these two forms will win.

What do PR agencies need to do to adapt and thrive in this new marketplace?

Agencies need to become a partner in providing solutions for their clients — not just be able to provide a set of skills at the discipline level. They need to share their deep insights, they need to be able to think through the various stages of a project and provide their point of view on how success can be achieved — and then be able execute with high impact.