PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Nigel Anthony, HSBC

We hear from Nigel Anthony (29), speechwriter and editorial manager, HSBC.

"Nigel enables the company to speak with one voice across 64 countries," HSBC says of the man who has become the go-to writer for senior leaders at the global banking group. From his important input at HSBC's "most successful ever" Davos event to landing op-eds in influential publications and playing a leading role in the bank's flagship Navigator campaign, Anthony is a role model to his peers and colleagues alike.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Nigel has made a huge impact in a large, complicated organisation and has quickly become a highly valued colleague."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

I discovered Facebook in freshers’ week. Today, like many friends turning 30 [this year], I barely use it. And while TikTok provides lockdown entertainment, it’s a community curated by teenagers.

The communications landscape is fragmenting faster than ever. And persuasion is harder as a result.

Starting out in politics, it was everyone’s job to deliver broadcast headlines and newspaper front pages. Social media was important, but what really moved the dial were the TV debates.

Audiences now demand more ways to consume the information we want to share. So I’m constantly struck by the need to stay ahead. As a speechwriter, I would (of course) argue speeches remain relevant. But traditional platforms are no longer enough.

Describe your experience of working in PR during the COVID-19 crisis.

This has been a really challenging time for everyone. My experience has been made much easier by the good humour of colleagues.

At HSBC we’ve focused on understanding what clients need from us. While we’re all contending with COVID-19, every business faces unique pressures. So we’ve thought particularly carefully about how and when to speak, to make sure communications are helpful and work across markets at different stages of impact.

How (if at all) will the COVID-19 crisis change the PR industry?

As the world changes, it would be odd for PR to stand still. Existing trends will accelerate.

The leaders we advise are increasingly expected to demonstrate their commitment and contribution to society. Through this crisis we’ve seen compelling examples of businesses giving back and supporting others. Reputations are shaped by these decisions. It’s not enough to just talk about the bottom line anymore – if it ever was. Words must be met with action.

What one thing above all would you change about the PR industry?

Diversity. PR speaks to society at large, but it is unrepresentative. PR professionals are four times more likely to have attended fee-paying private schools.

While 93 per cent attend state school, they make up fewer than one in three PR CEOs. Remarkably, PR companies are run by a higher proportion of independent school-leavers than the FTSE companies many count as clients.

Recruitment must look beyond the Russell Group universities. Advertising jobs in the right places, transparent and contextual recruitment, and scrutiny of retention and promotion are all required.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Beyond coming to terms with being in my mid-30s…

I hope to work internationally. The global comms aspects of my role are among the most fascinating. And both personally and professionally, I feel I’d learn a great deal from experiencing a different culture first-hand.

How do you switch off from work?

I enjoy following current affairs, politics and comedy. They tend to overlap.

And I love sport, but hate running. So picking up a tennis racket again has been a lifesaver during lockdown. I now can’t wait for the return of live sport!

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