Jo-ann Robertson, UK CEO and global client solutions at Ketchum, takes The PR Pepper Challenge

Welcome to the PR Pepper Challenge, produced in association with our good friends at Meltwater.

On the show today we've got Jo-ann Robertson, UK CEO and global client solutions at Ketchum.

Jo-ann and I are going to be talking about her personal journey from a working-class girl from Glasgow to UK CEO at one of the world's largest PR firms. We’ll also talk about the recent improvement in financial results of the PR holding groups, her plans for Ketchum UK and her lessons to survive in a PR holding company.

The reason we're calling this series of interviews The PR Pepper Challenge is that interwoven between my chat with Jo-ann I'll be asking her three PR Pepper Challenge questions.

If she gets those questions right, I have to eat one of these peppers and if she gets the questions wrong, she has to eat one of the peppers.

The peppers are of increasing strength—so we'll begin with mild, move on to medium and finish with hot.

Here is a summary of Jo-ann and I discussed:

3 mins Jo-ann talks us through how a working-class girl from a Glasgow council estate ended up as CEO of the UK part of one of the world’s largest PR firms.

3.30 mins Why Jo-ann believes “education is the key to everything.”

8 mins How “finding student politics” at university impacted her career choice.

9 mins Why, on a VHS tape somewhere, there is a 30 minute documentary on STV hosted by Jo-ann on the future of education in Scotland.

14 mins How Colin Byrne and Micheal Prescott were mentors to Jo-ann but in very different ways.

21 mins Why in life, especially our professional lives, we all “need to be the sunshine, not the rain.”

26 mins The first PR Pepper Challenge question: “When was Ketchum founded?” Did Jo-ann get the answer correct?

29 mins There were about 40 people in your Ketchum London office the other day. So are things getting back to normal?

30 mins “We are an industry of ideas and ideas are fuelled in unexpected places, by unexpected people, in unexpected moments and (during lockdown) there’s been none of that; everything is scheduled to within a goddamn inch of its life.”

34 mins “It’s fine for people to work fully remotely but we’re grown-ups—you have to understand there are consequences of that.”

40 mins In Q2 2021 WPP’s PR firms like-for-like results were up 12.9 percent and Omnicom's PR Group were up 15 percent. Is that a post-pandemic bounce or are we seeing the re-awakening of the giants of public relations after a pretty flat few years?

42 mins Why COVID has forced the PR holding groups to invest in their technology.

42.30 mins Is the growth of the PR holding groups merely a reflection of the reality that corporate and healthcare PR has had a decent lockdown?

44 mins The second PR Pepper Challenge: "How many followers does the global Ketchum account have on Twitter?" But did Jo-ann or Ben end up eating the chili pepper?

45 mins Before Jo-ann became CEO in 2015 was Ketchum London leadership dominated by Americans? And did that adversely affect the culture and the growth of the UK business?

50 mins How has Jo-ann grown Ketchum in London?

52 mins Only eight PR firms have successfully signed up for Elizabeth Banuka’s Blueprint scheme—what does that say about the progress of diversity in UK PR?

55 mins What are Jo-ann’s lessons for surviving in a PR holding company?

62 mins The third and final PR Pepper Challenge: "David Gallagher recently announced he was leaving Omnicom. Colin Byrne had a massive impact on Jo-ann’s career. What is the combined number of years that these two industry stalwarts have worked for Omnicom and Weber Shandwick respectively?"