A director at PR firm APCO, and former communciations director at IBM, Edward Walsh, talks us through his internationally focussed day

Edward Walsh, executive director at PR firm APCO Worldwide in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) – and managing director of the London office since September 2009 – reflects on a busy day in New York.

He started out as a parliamentary assistant to a Conservative MP
before spending a decade with IBM as director of corporate communications in EMEA. He sees his mission as London managing director as being to enhance APCO’s strategic communications offering, complementing its established public affairs reputation.

My Day
5.00am: I’m usually up around 6am when in London to get into the office by 7.30 so I have a couple of hours of quiet time to catch up on email and plan the day. Being five time zones behind, it was early morning when I received a call from one of our financial services clients facing a nasty crisis that needed immediate attention. I had the feeling it was going to be one of those days.

7.00am: Today I'm in New York so I walked the 25 blocks downtown to our Madison Avenue offices on back-to-back conference calls with colleagues interspersed with calls to the client that had been the cause of my early wake-up call. Two hours after the alarm was raised, the stakeholder management strategy had been agreed, core messages drawn up and the individual tasks assigned. My standard day could begin!

8.00am: I arrived at our New York office and joined another set of conference calls with colleagues in London, Paris and Brussels to prepare the communications plan for a major upcoming litigation milestone faced by eBay, one of the accounts that I lead in Europe. eBay is constantly innovating to offer customers unprecedented choice and ease-of-access to affordable goods. As a market ‘disintermediator‘, however, it continually faces opposition in the marketplace. APCO’s job in the region is to help convey eBay’s role as a consumer champion to media, political and other third-party audiences and to dispel the myths seeded by its detractors.

10.00am: With my London and EMEA-related business temporarily out of the way, I could now get cracking with my primary reason for being Stateside. APCO’s strength lies in the breadth of our global network and the depth of our client relationships. Over 70 per cent of our business is through referrals and over 50 per cent of our accounts are managed across multiple offices. A key part of my new MD role, therefore, is to showcase London’s competencies, skills and experiences and get introduced to clients managed out of our other offices, so I spent time with the New York office’s crisis, financial communications and corporate social responsibility practice leaders to identify opportunities and exchange know-how.

12.30pm: I’m only human, so how could I possibly resist a shopping stint in Soho? My wife would have been seriously upset with me if I’d come home empty-handed!

1.30pm: Lunch in the Meatpacking District with two of my former IBM corporate communications colleagues, catching up on company gossip, but more importantly learning about how their external communications function continues to evolve to help ensure that the company remains a global industry mindshare leader. Can always come in handy for some of our current clients!

3pm: Back at the office for some number-crunching. We’re in full 2010 planning mode and figuring out revenue projections is trickier than usual as we have seen some shift from retainers to project work since the beginning of the financial crisis. APCO is engaged in a growing number of restructuring-related communications assignments spanning external and internal audiences. We’ve also won the agency-of-record brief for Western Union in EMEA, a company that is fast-moving into mainstream financial services and dramatically increasing its presence in EU markets, taking advantage of new payment services legislation.

5pm: Quick touch-base with our EMEA CEO, Brad Staples, to obtain his feedback on my draft presentation of the London 2010 plan to our global executive committee starting the following morning. I could see the midnight oil was going to be burned.

6.30pm: Drinks reception followed by dinner at the University Club with some of our top global clients and prospects, hosted by our company CEO Margery Kraus. Great contacts made – exactly what I was hoping for.

11.30pm: Back in my room at last, grappling with PowerPoint graphics to incorporate my boss’s changes for my big day in the limelight.

1.30am: Bedtime.
 


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