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Five Questions to 8020’s non-executive director Jim Donaldson

80:20 Communications - 10th July 2024
Five Questions to 8020’s non-executive director Jim Donaldson

Jim, how does it feel to be joining the team at 8020 Communications?

I am so pleased to have 8020 in my portfolio. I have known Marc for a long time and have watched him grow the agency to the amazing outfit that it is now – with a great team doing some fabulous work for a cross section of great clients. In my view, 8020 are the best aviation and aerospace PR firm in the world bar none and their reputation is clearly really strong.

I hope I can help the agency continue to grow and thrive over the next few years and I am particularly excited about getting involved in some of the new areas that are growing so fast at 8020 – particularly digital marketing, insights and data. For many years, clients have come to 8020 for their brilliant media, event and content skills, but I am looking forward to seeing the agency diversify and move into new areas to meet some of the emerging demands from clients. It is going to be an exciting few years!

Your career has encompassed leadership roles at the world’s largest PR agencies, including Fleishman Hillard, Weber Shandwick and Hill + Knowlton. Can you give an example of when you’ve seen first-hand the impact PR can make?

I think I have probably seen it all! Products flying off the shelves, reputations made or saved, new businesses launched and societal attitudes changed – all due to great PR campaigns. I have fond memories of them all and our influence is only set to increase. One of my favourite pieces of work was a long time ago when I lived in Athens. Working with a pharmaceutical client we helped to dramatically change the attitudes towards mental illness in Greece. It was very moving to see. PR works. All the time.

Technology is changing our world faster than we can imagine. What do you think are the top three trends that all businesses must take notice of?

I think the first is the fragmentation of channels. My kids are in their twenties and barely watch terrestrial TV – but they still get fed news via social media. My 86 year old mother will still get her news fix from the BBC. So, we need to think very carefully about where we are looking to go in terms of channels. That leads into the second area, which is the use of data. That has been a trend for some time, but each year brings new products and new techniques to understand where our audiences are and how we can reach them – and then measure impact. The final one has to be AI. I think it is early days to see exactly what impact AI will have on the PR industry, but it will certainly have a key role in the next few years. We ignore it at our peril.

This year, more than 2 billion people will vote in elections worldwide and the aviation, travel and mobility industries will shift as a result. What do you perceive as the role of PR during periods of change?

I think communications can play the key role in political campaigning – and governments will be voted in not only due to their policies and characters, but also on how they communicate. Get that bit wrong and you will not succeed. It is no surprise that the best regarded politicians of the last 50 years or so are great communicators. You have to give people a reason to believe and that means opening up our industry’s toolkit!

Finally, what’s the one piece of advice you try and live your life by?

If I may, I think it is two things. The first is to be curious. There is so much going on around us you need to stay engaged and interested. That will keep you stimulated and positive. The second is a simple one and I always quote Woody Allen saying “80% of the secret of success is turning up.” I am amazed by how many times people just don’t do what they say they are going to do – whether it is the plumber turning up on time or writing a report for a client by deadline. You will not go wrong if you deliver what you say you are going to deliver when you say you are going to deliver it by!

Ali Gibson