May 4, 2023 - Economy & Business

Communicator Spotlight: Christine Schirmer, senior adviser at Archewell

Photo illustration of Christine Schirmer surrounded by graphic shapes

Photo illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios. Photo credit: Archewell

Christine Schirmer serves as a senior adviser for Archewell, the organization founded by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex that includes their business portfolio and nonprofit work.

๐Ÿ“How she got here: Schirmer started her career at Apple, where she worked under the late Katie Cotton and supported executive communications for Steve Jobs.

  • She then spent time at The Outcast Agency managing tech and media clients before joining Pinterest as global head of communications.
  • At Archewell, she works with the Duke and Duchess on how best to engage with issues ranging from mental health to misinformation.

๐Ÿค” Biggest misconception: PR is "not so much about handling situations," Schirmer told Axios. "It's about mitigating risks and figuring out the trade-offs. I don't think there is ever one right answer or one way to do things."

  • When it comes to supporting public figures, control doesn't always equal success, she says. "It's my job to help that person be the best version of themselves, being a Sherpa and then getting out of the way sometimes."

๐Ÿ— How it's structured: The Archewell organization includes experts from different backgrounds โ€” like politics, nonprofits, entertainment and corporate โ€” which allows for them to gather and comb through all of their unique expertise and perspectives, says Schirmer.

  • For example, "Those with an entertainment background think about the visual much more than I ever did in corporate. ... It's an incredibly powerful, progressive way to think about communications because not only do pictures get picked up more by media, but theyโ€™re better at eliciting an emotional response or connection."

๐Ÿค– Current concern: Generative AI's shortcomings.

  • "Human beings are best at building trust, showing vulnerability and using emotion to connect with audiences and that's what will be missing in AI-generated content."
  • "Knowing whether or not we're talking to a human or a computer is going to be a defining question for us, so we must be intentional about being as human as possible in our communications and storytelling. Embrace imperfection. Embrace slowing down. Embrace connection. [That's] going to be very important for business leaders in the future."

๐Ÿ–ผ Trend spot: The growing demand for visual communications.

  • Schirmer was guest lecturing at USC Annenberg School of Public Relations when one student told her they didn't read.
  • "I was like, what do you mean you don't read? You don't read news and you call yourself a PR professional? And then it clicked. They needed something that was not English-based text, which is exactly how we should be thinking about communicating nowโ€” more visually and in a global manner."

๐Ÿ“บ De-stress routine: Television.

  • "I'm the child of two librarians ... my birth announcement was on a library catalog card. So I'm guessing that my relationship with television and streaming is in rebellion to that."

๐Ÿง  Best advice: Consume quality content.

  • "I believe content on the web is going to be a little bit like food and retail โ€” there's going to be quality content or what's fast and available. Communicators must be in the business of consuming quality content if they want to create it."

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