Bannister’s appointment follows a restructure in which Kate Stevens was named AxiCom EMEA president, Nick Head became European managing director and Katie Huang-Shin was appointed president of AxiCom US, following the sudden death of former Europe boss Henry Brake in February.
Bannister will be responsible for growing the UK business, managing key clients and growing AxiCom’s consumer creds.
“Rosie brings some expertise that we don't have,” AxiCom Europe president Kate Stevens told PRWeek.
“What I was looking for was someone who's going to complement what we already offer. We're really well-known in the industry for deep tech and, in particular, for our b2b credentials. We have a very strong, thriving consumer practice, but we don't get enough airtime for it or do a good enough job of marketing ourselves.
“Rosie's background has been more on the consumer tech side… What I would love to see her focus on is how can we build up our consumer credentials and grow that area there, as well as build out more of our digital work.”
For the past three years, Bannister has worked at Huawei, most recently as its Western Europe director of communications. She was previously global director of communications for TomTom’s wearables division, a regional PR manager at Roxio and has held roles at several agencies, including Crunch Communications, Prodigy Communications and MCC International.
She joins a business in relatively good health. AxiCom UK did not place any staff on furlough or make anyone redundant due to the coronavirus pandemic. This is due to at least half of its clients being in tech, which has been in high demand during lockdown.
“Being in tech meant that 50 per cent of our clients were quite shielded and they invested more. Where some of our business had to pare back a bit or reduce budgets, we countered that and remained fairly even,” Stevens said.
'A fresh perspective'
Bannister decided to move back into an agency role because she was at a crossroads in her career where she could either continue focusing on being a “pure PR expert” in-house, or move into an agency leadership role that encompases broader marcomms services and would allow her to have a greater input into how a business is run.
“I saw AxiCom as a business that has done an amazing job… to carve out a unique role for itself, and an opportunity to grow even further,” she said.
“I want to make sure that I retain the AxiCom culture and don't make changes for the sake of making changes, but also identify where we can improve. I think coming in with a lot of in-house experience will, hopefully, give me a fresh take on things.”
After spending most of the past decade in senior in-house roles, Bannister believes one area in which PR agencies can improve is how they provide counsel to clients.
“I think sometimes agencies and clients get turned into a ‘can you do this for me?’ type of relationship from a client to an agency, and agencies can certainly be offering counsel at the moment… not just on the pandemic,” she said.
Another area she believes is important is measurement, particularly as the pressure on PR budgets is likely to intensify.
“Being able to really accurately show the impact of our work is incredibly important. I saw some research that came out about the fact that in-house budgets are being cut; we need to make sure those budgets are spent the most effectively,” she added.
Stevens said PR agencies need to prepare clients for the reality that the impact of COVID-19 could last for some time, and that they should embrace that.
“We need to encourage our clients more to lean into it and accept the fact that the world for the foreseeable is changed, and embrace that change. At AxiCom we've earned our right to talk about this because we are tech specialists and we understand what a tech-enabled world could look like,” she said.
“Our job as comms people is to put the human layer on top of that – how can we add those more physical touchpoints that people crave and that our clients' audiences crave, but in a contactless way.”
Aside from Bannister, AxiCom is also looking for an account director in the UK, and to build its leadership ranks in the Netherlands.
AxiCom is the tech communications specialist agency of the BCW Group and WPP. Founded in 1994, it has 12 offices – in the UK, US, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden – with more than 200 employees.
Bannister takes charge of AxiCom’s largest European operation, with 55 staff.