Interview: Put purpose at the heart of business

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SOON after he launched DG Advisory in January, I had the opportunity to interview David Gallagher (pictured), who previously held leadership positions at Omnicom PR Group (OPRG) and Ketchum, writes Orla Clancy. To begin the conversation, Gallagher shared his business approach with me and the impact he intends to make. He said, “The PR industry is big, complex and resistant to change. Together with a growing number of consultancies, we’re forming a community rather than a competitive set. We’ll do better for our clients together than separately.”

Speaking about changes in the industry since he began his career, Gallagher said, “We’re now at the dawn of Web 3.0. We were pre-web when I started as a science and policy writer in Washington, DC., and I literally went to the library for research, andI used public pay phones to send and receive voicemail messages. Everything is different now – how information is created, distributed and consumed, how it’s valued, and how it’s applied to every aspect of business, government, and life in general. PR itself has changed along with the larger shifts associated with the digital / social / mobile revolutions, and will continue to evolve.” 

Two years on since the start of the pandemic, many organisations are focused on growth again. I asked Gallaher what role he believes PR and reputation play in ambitious growth strategies. He said, “After a career of helping organisations grow – whether it was revenue, or members, or donations – I’m more ambivalent about growth for growth’s sake. I’m not sure a system built on taking more out than you put in is sustainable or ethical. 

“However one views growth, or really capitalism, it’s clear that PR plays both direct and indirect roles in driving it. Markets are created, demand generated and high-margin brands are rationalised, all directly by good PR,” he said. “At a societal level, whole systems are framed and reinforced by larger narratives about what’s acceptable and what’s not, and these frames are formed over time by a flow of messages including one that dominates them all: growth is good. It’s not all or nothing, growth or decline. I help companies to grow in the right ways, for the best reasons, and through collaboration with stakeholders in and out of the business.” 

What is Gallagher’s advice to CEOs on how to best integrate PR into overall business strategies? “Put purpose at the heart of the entire business,” he said, “Make sure that purpose addresses an authentic human need, and don’t try to outsource your purpose stories as a campaign – live them every day”.

As the conversation came to a close, Gallagher shared how he believes PR can have a more profound impact on business growth. “As for PR’s role in overall business strategies, I implore CEOs and boards to look at public relations as a core business function – like finance, manufacturing, compliance, etc. – rather than as an adjunct to marketing,” he said.