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Jo-ann Robertson, the new CEO of Ketchum London, on her career to date and Broadway ambitions!

We ask Jo-ann Robertson, new CEO of Ketchum London, all about her life and loves and discover her first ambition was to be on Broadway. However, she is now happy to be a star in the communications universe, and explains why attitude is everything if you want to get on in PR.

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
Growing up I loved dancing and wanted to be a Broadway Star. But I’m a realist at heart so when it came to deciding what to study at university I chose a political degree rather than a theatre school. It was probably just as well because as much as I love singing, I have realised over the years it isn’t exactly my forte…

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?
My life is not how my teenage self-expected it to be. I would never have imagined that I would one day be living in London and about to head up one of the largest offices in a communications company like Ketchum. My teenage self would be incredibly proud and pleased though. I have a loving family including my wonderful husband and son, an incredibly fulfilling career, great friends – all the things that I hold to be extremely important and would have hoped to achieve when I was growing up.

How did you get your first break?
There are many moments I could choose – being elected as the student president at Strathclyde University, or my job as a television reporter in my final year of university – however I would say that my big break came from Colin Byrne and Michael Prescott when they gave me the opportunity to join Weber Shandwick. They hired me because of my attitude and saw in me that I would be fiercely loyal, that I was incredibly passionate and that I would work as hard as I possible could. Colin took leaps of faith in me and allowed me to progress up the ranks quickly to the point where at 29 I was made managing director. His belief in me meant I had belief in myself. This is something that I have taken to heart and is something I believe in strongly when it comes to hiring and progression at Ketchum. You may not tick every box, but if you’ve got the right attitude and will roll up your sleeves and learn, you’ll have a successful career and we’ll be by your side supporting you to make it happen.

What is the best career decision you have made?
Moving to Ketchum. I know people who are reading this are probably rolling their eyes, but honestly, moving to Ketchum was a huge moment for me. I had spent my whole career in one company and had an advocate there that was rooting for me and giving me the opportunities to grow. I didn’t know how well I would do in another company. I didn’t know if my success could be repeated with different people, different clients, a different culture. I had to test myself and see how well I could do. Thankfully moving to Ketchum proved to be the right decision. It’s a company that I’ve been able to continue to progress in and that has given me incredible opportunities over the years.

Any career regrets?
I wish that someone had told me earlier the value of putting people first. It’s so easy to get caught up in the business side of business – the prospects you are targeting, the profit margins, the client deliverables – but ultimately, all that won’t work if you haven’t invested time in your people. They are at the centre of everything we do. They need to be engaged, happy and excited to work for you. When that happens, everything else falls into place.

Why Ketchum?
I’ve always felt, and continue to feel, that Ketchum has all the ingredients to be the best agency in the world by every measure. Our culture, our talent and business perspective all means we are on track to be the number one communications agency and I want to play a small part in helping us to get there.

What are the greatest challenges of your present role?
As I said earlier, talent is crucial. So when it comes to my biggest challenge it is ensuring that our people are engaged high performers, and that we are providing the right opportunities for them when it comes to up-skilling and career progression.

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?
Attitude will get you much further and faster than skill alone. We’re an industry where hard work, passion and commitment will get you everywhere. Prove you have that and people will buy into you.

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