Leadership Institute 2013 Keynote: Alex Aiken and ROSIE

This is a live post from today’s IABC EMENA Leadership Institute 2013 in London. We have seven countries represented (thank you all for coming down!) #IABCEMENA is our hashtag. And we’re currently in the middle of our what’s already turning out to be an action-packed, info-filled meet. Here’s a quick lowdown on our keynote:



This year’s Leadership Institute kicked of quick and strong. Alex Aiken, our keynote speaker is the Executive Director for Government Communications in the UK. He dove straight into his story by explaining his role in the UK government.

Alex is responsible for communicating strategy and the operation, development and measurement of communication for the UK government. He operates from the cabinet office (around 130 people, of which 5 are dedicated to communications) and is professionally responsible for around 1,300 communicators in total. His communication budget is 500 million British pounds (half of what it was two years ago). He is also head of ‘profession’ in which he looks closely at, and proactively develops, the core competencies of his communications team.


As Alex noted, the role communicator has changed. As he explained, the main role of a communicator was perceived to be to lunch in a posh suit with influencers to get things done, and ‘SOS’ (send out stuff) mainly in a traditional press release.

However, today’s role is to sit in your pajamas with three screens having conversations with all of your audiences. As he stressed, above all, our industry need content designers – creators of content that will drive conversation, be shaped by our audiences and help drive actual behaviour change.


One of the core lessons about communications Alex shared was that campaigns based purely around ‘Awareness’ are pure puffery. (Amen!) It’s all about driving people through their decision making journey. He suggested the stages as ‘Awareness’, ‘Understanding’ and ‘Action’. 

Summing up his overall approach to creating effective communication campaigns, Alex offered us ‘ROSIE’: a model developed by Professor Sheila Clough Crifasi and subsequently featured in the seventh edition of Fraser Seitel’s textbook, The Practice of Public Relations.

  • Research: understanding your audience is paramount. It all starts with research.
  • Objectives: establishing clear objectives up front, helps you define
  • Strategy: the way you will reach those objectives. So you need a plan:
  • Implementation: executing the communications, to your strategy.
  • Evaluation: measuring your success. 

After a quick-fire Q&A Alex left us with an insight we, as communication leaders, would do well to heed: 

‘In order to keep on creating and delivering more effective communications we need smarter and smarter communicators. To do that we need to keep on a dedicated and continual learning path.’

We couldn’t agree more! If you would like to know how IABC can help, or even what you think we should be focusing on that we aren’t, drop us a line by mailing us from our contact page. If you’d like to hear more from Alex, there’s some great video interviews here from Simply communicate.


We’re now looking forward to our next sessions from RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) They will be helping us hone our presentation performance skills. A synthesis of their incredibly interactive workshop … Think! Breathe! Speak! Somehow, we think it’s going to be fun!

Posted in EMENA Regional news, Leadership development, Strategy and planning.

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  1. Pingback: Courage and the future of communication

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