Social Media IS My Working Life: David Gallagher, CEO of Ketchum Europe

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I just had to use that quote from David Gallagher, the CEO of Ketchum Europe, as the headline of my latest Social CEO of the Week post. What David actually said was, “Social media pretty much IS my working life,” so I hope he’ll forgive a bit of artistic licence for a more dramatic headline. I think the meaning and sentiment hasn’t changed.

As Senior Partner and CEO of Ketchum Europe, David oversees Ketchum’s nine European agencies and their specialist services. Ketchum is arguably the largest and most geographically diverse PR agency in the world, with over 100 offices and affiliates in more than 70 countries.

David has a very active presence on social media and very kindly agreed to be interviewed for this series, offering up some great insights into the new world of connected leadership.

As the CEO of Ketchum Europe, what role does social media play in your working life?

Social media pretty much IS my working life. It’s how I monitor the news and public mood for clients, how I stay in touch with journalists and producers, and how I keep close to our teams around Europe.

“Social media pretty much IS my working life.”

Does your background in PR impact in any way on how you behave as a ‘social CEO’?

I think being comfortable with expressing myself publicly makes it easier to fully embrace social media, and interacting with so many different people through social media reinforces its value in terms of what I learn and who I meet, so it ends up being a virtuous circle.

How does your social media activity complement Ketchum’s ongoing branding and communications?

There’s a lot of overlap. I can amplify ideas and information from Ketchum through my personal network, and vice versa. It also shows I believe in what we’re saying and how we engage as a business, and that the business believes in me.

“Interacting with so many different people through social media reinforces its value in terms of what I learn and who I meet.”

Some people would say corresponding with people on Twitter is not a CEO’s job. What would you say to them?

I had a boss once who didn’t think it was seemly for him to answer email. He dictated responses to his assistant. Similar thing here – if you choose not to engage, you’re cutting yourself off from valuable contacts and information. Twitter magnifies my capacity to connect.

“As a CEO, if you choose not to engage, you’re cutting yourself off from valuable contacts and information. Twitter magnifies my capacity to connect.”

You publish regularly on LinkedIn. How valuable do you see LinkedIn Pulse as a PR platform?

In some ways LinkedIn and the Pulse ‘post’ feature is a lazy man/woman’s blog. I use it to muse out loud about ideas or observations that can’t be reduced to a tweet or summed up in a link. I also like the fact that my network there is a solid business-to-business community – most connections are interested in the same kinds of work matters that interest me. I also look at it primarily as a vehicle to attract talent – to give them a view into how we/I think, more than as a sales tool.

“I look at LinkedIn primarily as a vehicle to attract talent – to give them a view into how we/I think, more than as a sales tool.”

I see you are also on Instagram and cross-post to Twitter, with a mixture of work and personal images. How does Instagram fit into your overall social professional persona?

I know some people advocate a ‘church and state’ separation of personal and professional content on social media, and I fully respect that. I just don’t think that way. Who I am at work and who I am elsewhere are one and the same, and I don’t have the time or discipline to police perceptions one way or the other. I’d like to think that glimpses into one part of my life or another helps me connect a little better with people, but maybe that’s self-aggrandizement? (The Social C-suite disagrees!)

With Millennials set to become 50% of the workforce by 2020, are you signing up to Snapchat any time soon?

Your question is a good one – and I am actually experimenting with Snapchat. A big reason for me getting on Instagram first – and now SnapChat – is because we’ve got a lot of younger professionals here and I can either expect them to come to me through established channels like email, or I can go where the conversation is. The latter works better!

“I can either expect younger employees to come to me through established channels like email, or I can go where the conversation is. The latter works better!”

In a recent article on Julian Stodd’s NET Model of social leadership, you end with a quote “a new day has come and new style of leadership is required to meet it.” How are you putting the NET model into practice in your organisation? Is this the new model of organizational structure? 

We could spend a whole day on that question alone. First, Julian’s NET model is a glimpse into the future for organizations in all industries, and I’d encourage leaders to give it a look. I think my quote was meant to preface a few ideas, but the most important may be older leadership models based on seniority or hierarchy (or experience, if I’m being generous) are giving way to skills and capacities to make specific things happen – and there can be a big gap between the old ways of leading and the new.

“There can be a big gap between the old ways of leading and the new.”

With Twitter having recently turned 10, social media has come of age. The days of one-way communication are gone. How has this affected the PR industry? What’s the outlook for the 10 years?

At its best, PR has always been a two-way and real-time way of finding opportunity among an organization and its stakeholders. So the PR business has benefited enormously from the connectivity, personalization and immediacy of social media and I think it offers organizations real benefit and value.

“Leadership today is about connectivity. Social media enhances this. Wade in or dive, but don’t think you can keep your feet dry and thrive.”

Looking ahead 10 years is a fool’s errand, but I think we can count on a few continuing trends, with some, such as analytics, automation, neurological interface, globalization and IoT connectivity, going into hyperdrive.

Which goes back to your first question: leadership today is about connectivity. Social media enhances this. Wade in or dive, but don’t think you can keep your feet dry and thrive.