Best in-house team: media relations
There are just five people in Accenture UK’s media relations team but, despite navigating the professional services business through some of the biggest changes in recent history and working remotely, in March 2021, the quintet, and its agencies, achieved a record 160 pieces of coverage.
From the outset, the team prioritised human connections to keep their spirits up and a sense of togetherness during lockdown. From daily virtual coffees to surprise personal postcards, virtual escape rooms and a Friday virtual pint, the rituals kept the team motivated.
It also led a virtual summer event with 50 media colleagues across Europe to generate a sense of community and improve ways of working.
The pandemic certainly changed the way that Accenture’s media relations team worked and the stories that it shared with the media. The team became more proactive and encouraged its business leaders to be more vocal on social issues that concerned colleagues and where Accenture had an important story to tell.
It also inspired spokespeople to prioritise media relations by launching a Top Ten Accenture Spokesperson competition, sending prizes by post to the winners who then shared their surprise on LinkedIn.
Corporate communications lead Andy Rowland also built up their confidence to participate in live interviews at home, by converting their screens into makeshift studios. For example, the triannual IHS Markit/Accenture UK Business Outlook report was broadcast on CNBC and Bloomberg Radio.
Accenture’s proactive approach was vindicated when Petra Shuttlewood, recognising that vaccines were dominating the news agenda, forged new relationships with pharmaceutical journalists, introducing them to life sciences experts, which led to their views appearing in key media outlets, such as the BBC and Evening Standard.
Working with the UK operations lead, Accenture ensured their voice was heard on CNN on the issue of racial diversity in boards. For the first time, its business leaders became commentators on social issues.
A partnership with the Alan Turing Institute led to Accenture’s first virtual media roundtable. Spearheaded by Alex Dempsey, the discussion on whether synthetic data could improve AI and data privacy involved journalists from key publications, such as Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune.
But existing media relationships were not neglected. The team hosted more than 100 virtual media briefings across the year and continued to offer input into a fast-paced news cycle. For example, Alex Dee’s work with Accenture’s retail experts ensured that they were featured in tier one media outlets every month with comments on retail sales figures. In just 12 months, this initiative achieved more than 35 pieces of national and business coverage.
The team was also quick to share stories about Accenture’s roles in ensuring that 1.2 million NHS workers had Microsoft Team and in helping to produce life-saving ventilators.
There were also changes to Accenture UK that needed to be managed and shared by the media relations team, including the biggest rebrand in ten years and the acquisition of four companies in early 2021.
The team now finds that, despite working apart, it has never been closer and that it works with a reinvigorated purpose and has embraced change for the better.