Communication Breakthrough #8 with Andrew Morrison

We all experience ‘lightbulb’ moments of insight or inspiration that shape how we think and work. Sometimes they are defining moments in our careers. In the IABC EMENA Communication Breakthrough series, our members share their stories in the hope they will inspire your own journey. Welcome to our eighth issue!

Introducing … Andrew Morrison, ABC

An IABC member for ten years, Andrew served as IABC Swiss chapter President 2009-2011 while living and working in Zurich.

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With more than 20 years experience with international companies and brands including American Express, Samsung, Visa International, Enron, Coca-Cola, Givaudan and Syngenta, he is currently an interim corporate communications director, Nutrition & Health, at DSM.

Down below, Andrew shares his story on how — with perseverance, intelligent risk-taking and self-belief — you can make your own mark in the world of Public Relations.

Andrew, you had two breakthrough moments — one at the very start of your career, right?

Yes, in 1992, I quit my first graduate job as marketing officer for a travel company to embark on a back-pack around the world. I returned to London in 1993 to restart my career with a focus on PR. After three months of sending out speculative letters to every PR agency I could think of – I had drawn a blank.

I decided that a change of tactics was needed. So, I paid to attend a PR travel industry evening with the media in London.  I obtained the guest list and made a note of those names and companies which interested me.

At the after-talk networking drinks, I approached a few prospects and left them with a copy of my CV.  As luck would have it, one of these face-to-face contacts asked me back for an interview.  Within a week, I had landed myself a job. My learning there was: be bold!

Can you describe your biggest breakthrough moment?

DecisionsI was approaching the end of a fixed-term contract as Head of Press & PR at The Chartered Management Institute in London and was asked whether I would be interested in doing the same role permanently? I politely declined and spent the next four months effectively unemployed. 

Why? Because I was preparing for my interviews for the role of Head of Group Communications at Coca-Cola Africa. It was a gamble, but my research paid off. Six interviews later I had landed the job.

The next three and a half years marked the most interesting time of my career to date. I developed plans and messages to support Coca-Cola’s investments, job creation and sponsored events in Africa; generated some substantial media spreads and wrote countless speeches for senior management.

Once I remember we were discussing the renewal of Coca-Cola’s Football World Cup sponsorship with FIFA and needed a location to host the signing ceremony. I was speaking to a member of Sepp Blatter’s office who informed me that the signing would have to take place in Marrakech, Morocco as that was “the most convenient option for Mr. Blatter’s busy schedule.”

I realised that this would be a missed opportunity for Coca-Cola, so I advocated — with some passion — the benefits of relocating the signing ceremony to Johannesburg in South Africa, which was Coca-Cola’s biggest market and a direct flight from Coca-Cola HQ in Atlanta; meaning that our global CEO could fly in for the occasion.

So, with the real FIFA World Cup trophy to hand, we staged a welcome event, and then invited press photographers along when the two leaders together visited some of FIFA’s nearby community football schools. Needless to say, the positive media publicity generated was a coup!

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On the flip side I was also dealing with an intense amount of issues management — having to react to a new threat every fortnight. I also found time to distill the Coca-Cola crisis manual down from a weighty 80 pages to 12 by using diagrams rather than text. Oh, and I visited approximately a dozen African countries for work and pleasure. Coca-Cola Africa people know how to throw a great party!

Sounds like a lot of fun and hard work too. Do you have any lessons to share?

Yes, I do:

  • Visualise the best result you could get from your communications work — focusing on the audience as well as the wider possibilities of what you are doing.
  • Demonstrate strategic thinking and use communications to lead — rather than simply support — what the business needs. And above all;
  • Have confidence in your abilities to persuade people to your point of view, because if you do not sound like you believe in your idea, no-one else will buy into it either. After all, it is better to be known for a few big successes, rather than lots of small wins that will not be seen or remembered.

Connect with Andrew
LinkedIn: Andrew Morrison ABC
Twitter: @FarSightCommunicator @AndrewMorrison

Want to share your own story?
Drop us a line on iabcemena@gmail.com
We’d love to hear from you!
— IABC EMENA Board