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C-Suite Marketing: “A Responsibility to Lead”

Rob Leavitt talks with Leslie Taylor, Global Director at Gensler, about how to engage with executives through thought leadership, and more.

Rob Leavitt

by Rob Leavitt

March 9, 2021

thought leadership

In episode 15 of the C-Suite Marketing Podcast, I talk with Leslie Taylor, Global Director of Marketing at architecture and design firm Gensler, about how to engage with executives through thought leadership, the responsibility that large corporations have to lead the market on social issues, the importance of agility, and more.

Here is a brief, edited excerpt from our conversation:

RL: Leslie, Gensler has an extremely diverse client base. Can you talk about the importance of executive-level relationships and what you’re seeing right now?

LT: We’re at a really interesting intersection right now with our clients. We’re talking with leaders of the real estate part of the business but also CHROs, CMOs, CEOs, CTOs and others. And the inflection point we’re talking about is one of the gifts of COVID and the pandemic in 2020. The conversation around real estate has been heavily impacted by the pandemic, and where companies are in their real estate decisions varies from company to company. So it’s opened up the conversation in much broader ways and it’s very consultative.

Instead of going straight to a design solution, they’re all going through a redefinition of what the built environment means to them. Think about a developer trying to think about the next generation of a mall, or a convention center operator who is currently serving as a vaccine outpost and not hosting meetings, or what is the future of an airport going to look like.

RL: The work Gensler does is long term and long lasting, but the world is changing by the day. How do you reflect that in your thought leadership?

LT: We’ve been having an interesting discussion internally on this. We do a very robust workplace survey that we publish on a regular basis. Over the past year, we sped up publishing and we’re putting it out more frequently. It’s giving that pulse check on where we are in the workplace.

We need to be agile and relevant because our clients and their roles have been evolving. We are being asked to facilitate conversations around flexibility in ways that are far more evident than they were in the past. For example, if the plan right now is to build a mall, we need to think about how to make that space flexible to change and evolve with the needs of the market and the client.

We’ve had to get very specific and practical with the thought leadership that we are sharing. In a moment where nobody knows what the right answer is, how can we offer advice that’s grounded in research but also highly actionable for clients who need support right now.

In the beginning [of the pandemic], it was about everybody going home and how do you help that. Now it’s about how to get everyone safely back, and well-being considering all we’ve been through. But that strategy also has to be informed by equity, inclusion, and a consideration for climate change because all of those imperatives got louder over the past year.

RL: Gensler is not shy about speaking out on social issues. How does that work? How do you think about it at Gensler?

LT: As the largest design firm, we have a responsibility to the industry to lead. In that leadership, we can scale impact.

Let’s understand that scale matters, and if we want to make a change in our profession around ensuring that we are diversifying our designers and that we are focused on recruiting and creating a pipeline for designers of color, a firm like Gensler, as the largest design firm, can make a significant impact in our industry because of our scale.

It’s something we’re passionate about it. When we talk about designing for the world, we talk about design at its best. Designers are inherently problem solvers. And those who are solving problems together are at their best when they have diversity around the table. That’s where innovation happens, that’s where we thrive with the best solutions because we’ve got diversity of thought and diversity of background.

We are now being far more intentional around what that diversity means, the definition of it, what we’re aiming to be, because we’ve got a lot of room for improvement across the industry. That’s extremely exciting because it not only means that we’re going to be doing what we should be doing, but it also means that the outcomes are going to be that much more incredible.

Listen to the full episode of the C-Suite Marketing Podcast to hear more of Leslie’s insights on:

  • The importance of practical, applicable thought leadership when communicating with executives
  • The need to find a strong brand voice
  • How best to connect with Leslie and other CMOs around issues of social purpose

And check out other episodes of C-Suite Marketing with marketing leaders and experts from O2, Citrix, T-Systems, Adobe, HSBC, and more.

*Note: Leslie and Jonathan Copulsky, Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of Spiegel Research Center, Northwestern University, weigh in on corporate purpose during this brief podcast from the Content for Post-Covid Conversation: Thought Leadership Among Constant Disruption session at ITSMA’s Marketing Vision 2020 conference.

Related Resources

thought leadership

C-Suite Marketing: “A Responsibility to Lead”

Rob Leavitt talks with Leslie Taylor, Global Director at Gensler, about how to engage with executives through thought leadership, and more.