Portrait of Professor Paul Willis Professor Paul Willis

p.willis@hud.ac.uk | 01484 472417



Biography

Position: Professor of Corporate Communication, Department of Management
Qualifications: BA(Hons), MA, DBA

 

Paul has been Professor of Corporate Communication at the University of Huddersfield since June 2017. He joined the team from Leeds Business School where he was Director of the Centre for Public Relations Studies. Paul works with professional communicators and other senior executives in Government, NGOs and the private sector. In 2016, he was appointed a member of the Government’s Future Communication Council by the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office.

Paul teaches on the Government Communication Service ‘Inspire’ programme and delivers a range of other innovative co-created executive education programmes at Masters-level. Paul was the joint recipient of the National Communication Association PRIDE Award for outstanding contribution to public relations education and his experiences of co-creation have been used to inform policy papers, journal articles and book chapters.

Paul’s core research interests underpin his teaching and include studies of the leadership challenges confronting communication professionals, as well as explorations of how strategic communication can be used to help organisations address ‘wicked problems’. He has recently completed a major international study for the European Commission investigating how innovative forms of stakeholder engagement can support business sustainability. Other projects include work for the Department Health on strategic communication policy, plus investigations for a range of major companies on emerging trends and their impact on organisational communication. Work for organisations like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have also provided Paul with the opportunity to be a member of multidisciplinary research teams commissioned to investigate issues such as inclusive economic growth.

Paul held a number of leadership and board level positions in the private sector before joining academia in 2008, including deputy managing director of one of the UK’s leading independent corporate communication consultancies. He was part of the team which won the prestigious PR Week ‘Consultancy of the Year’ award, as well as a string of other industry accolades for campaigns, creativity and business management. During his career Paul worked as an advisor for organisations such as BMW, BT, Ernst & Young, RWE, Proctor & Gamble, Walmart, the NHS, UK Sport and The Football Association. He began his career in the UK Parliament before taking on an in-house public affairs role in The City of London. Paul then worked in Westminster as a political consultant.

Paul’s work can be found in leading academic journals and text books in his field. He is also the co-author with Anne Gregory of Strategic Public Relations Leadership which explores the key facets of leadership for communication professionals. Paul is a Visiting Fellow at The University of Waikato in New Zealand, a member of the Editorial Advisory Boards for both the Journal of Communication Management and the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, as well as on the Scientific Committee for the Annual Congress of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association.

Research and Scholarship

  • The strategic role of communication in the private, public and NGO sectors
     
  • How communication can be used by organisations and communities to address ‘wicked problems’
     
  • The leadership challenges confronting communication professionals, including how they cope with complexity
     
  • Innovative forms of stakeholder engagement
     
  • Co-creating curricula for executive education and professional development

Publications and Other Research Outputs

2017

Willis, P (2017) ‘Hidden life in the open plan office: confessions of a public relations practitioner’. In: Experiencing Public Relations: international Voices. Abingdon: Routledge. . ISBN 9781138632448

Willis, P (2017) ‘Looking back to go forward: neuroscience, history and public relations’. In: Barcelona International Critical PR Conference 7, 3rd-4th July 2017, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

Willis, P (2017) ‘Strategic communication and social marketing in healthcare organisations’. In: Exploring Public Relations (4th edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 526-537. ISBN 9781292112183

Willis, P (2017) ‘Public relations and the consumer’. In: Exploring Public Relations (4th edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 362-377. ISBN 9781292112183

Willis, P (2017) ‘Humility, deliberation, hyperactivism and hyperbole: why CSR is best viewed as a wicked problem’. In: Bledcom 24th International Public Relations Research Symposium, 30 June - 1 July 2017, Lake Bled, Slovenia

Devins, D., Gold, J., Boak, G., Garvey, R. and Willis, P. (2017) Maximising the local impact of anchor institutions: A case study of Leeds City Region Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Willis, P., Tench, R. and Devins, D. (2017) ‘Deliberate engagement and wicked problems: from good intentions to practical action’. In: Handbook of Communication Engagement. : Wiley-Blackwell. .

Willis, P (2017) ‘B2C vs B2B communication’. In: International Encyclopedia of Strategic Communication. : Wiley-Blackwell. .

2016

Willis, P (2016) ‘From humble inquiry to humble intelligence: Confronting wicked problems and augmenting public relationsPublic Relations Review , 42 (2), pp. 306-313. ISSN 0363-8111

Willis, P. and Gregory, A. (2016) Making the road while walking: co-creation, teaching excellence and university leadership . : Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. ISBN 978-1-906627-90-4

2015

McKie, D. and Willis, P. (2015) ‘Advancing tendencies? PR leadership, general leadership, and leadership pedagogyPublic Relations Review , 41 (5), pp. 628-635. ISSN 0363-8111

Willis, P (2015) ‘Preach wine and serve vinegar: Public relations, relationships and doublethinkPublic Relations Review , 41 (5), pp. 681-688. ISSN 0363-8111

Willis, P (2015) ‘Being social: creating a critical commons with public relations practice’. In: The Routledge Handbook of Critical Public Relations. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp. 405-414. ISBN 9780415727334

Willis, P (2015) ‘Confessions of a public relations practitioner: hidden life in the open plan office’. In: BCN Barcelona PR Meeting #5, 30 June - 1 July 2015, University of Catalonia, Barcelona

Willis, P (2015) ‘Public relations, passive aggression and critical social auditing: reflections on organisational inaction in stakeholder engagementJournal of Public Affairs , 15 (2), pp. 220-226. ISSN 1472-3891

2014

Willis, P (2014) ‘Engaging communities: Ostrom's economic commons, social capital and public relations’. In: Strategic Communications. London: SAGE. pp. 165-178. ISBN 9781446275832

Willis, P (2014) ‘Wicked intelligence as counter intelligence: unlearning, democracy and public relations’. In: BCN Barcelona PR Meeting #4, 26 - 27 June 2014, University of Catalonia, Barcelona

Gregory, A. and Willis, P. (2014) ‘A new model of strategic public relations’. In: #PRredefined. Bristol: Tangent Books. pp. 272-332.

2013

Willis, P (2013) ‘Strategic communication and social marketing in healthcare organisations’. In: Exploring Public Relations (3rd edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 481-492. ISBN 9780273757771

Willis, P (2013) ‘Public relations and the consumer’. In: Exploring Public Relations (3rd edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 329-343. ISBN 9780273757771

Gregory, A. and Willis, P. (2013) Strategic Public Relations Leadership . London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415667951

2012

McKie, D. and Willis, P. (2012) ‘Renegotiating the terms of engagement: Public relations, marketing, and contemporary challengesPublic Relations Review , 38 (5), pp. 846-852. ISSN 0363-8111

Willis, P (2012) ‘Engaging communities: Ostrom's economic commons, social capital and public relationsPublic Relations Review , 38 (1), pp. 116-122. ISSN 0363-8111

2011

Willis, P. and McKie, D. (2011) ‘Outsourcing public relations pedagogy: Lessons from innovation, management futures, and stakeholder participationPublic Relations Review , 37 (5), pp. 466-469. ISSN 0363-8111

2009

Willis, P (2009) ‘Public relations and the consumer’. In: Exploring Public Relations (2nd edition). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. pp. 409-425. ISBN 9780273715948

Tench, R. and Willis, P. (2009) ‘Creativity, deception and ethical malpractice: a critique of the Trumanisation of marketing public relations through guerrilla campaignsEthical Space: International Journal of Communication Ethics , 6 (2), pp. 47-55. ISSN 1742-0105

2006

Willis, P (2006) ‘Public relations and the consumer’. In: Exploring Public Relations. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. .

Esteem

Willis, P. (2017). La La Land or Breaking Bad? Public relations as a strategic catalyst for interdisciplinary research.  Invited speaker, plenary panel, BCN PR Meeting #7: What is strategic? PR and future directions. University of Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Catalonia, July 2017.

2016 (on-going) appointed to the Editorial Board of the Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal.

2016 appointed Chairman by the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office of the Northern Powerhouse Communicators Conference, Leeds, June 2016.

2016 (on-going) appointed a member of the Government’s Future Communication Council by the Cabinet Office and Prime Minister’s Office.

Willis, P. (2016). Wicked collaborations and deliberative liaisons: Advenures in communication research. Invited speaker, Faculty Research Seminar Programme, Faculty of Media and Communication, Bournemouth University, November 2016.

Willis, P. (2016). Do business schools have a future? Invited roundtable speaker at the Leeds Business School and Leeds Law School Research and Enterprise Conference, Leeds Business School, Leeds Beckett University, September 2016.

Willis, P. (2016). Emerging challenges in issues management and leadership. Invited speaker, plenary panel, BCN PR Meeting #6: Developing public relations: entertainment, ethics, innovation, teaching and territories. Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Catalonia, July 2016.

Willis, P. (2016). Leadership and the art of humble intelligence. Keynote speaker, U4 Network Leadership Programme, Leading Universities in a Global Context, University of Gottingen, Germany, March 2016.

Willis, P. (2015). Experiences of education-practice interactions. Invited speaker, plenary panel, BCN PR Meeting #5: Theory in practice in public relations through to the fully-functioning society, Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Catalonia, July 2015.

2014-2017, Fellow, Centre for Governance, Leadership and Global Responsibility, Faculty of Business and Law, Leeds Beckett University.

Willis, P. (2014). Leadership: Bridging the knowing versus doing gap. Invited speaker, LGcommunications, Future Leaders’ programme, London, UK, November 2014.

2014 appointed Visiting Lecturer, MBA Communication and Leadership, Department of Corporate Communication, Quadriga University, Berlin, Germany, April 2014.

2013 co-authored book (Strategic Public Relations Leadership) launched at The Cabinet Office at an event hosted by the Executive Director of Government Communication.

Willis, P. (2013). Talent development in a complex world. Invited speaker, Weber Shandwick, London, UK, November 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). What’s important? The implications of contemporary challenges in public sector communication for your personal development. Keynote speaker, The UK Public Sector Communication Awards, Manchester, UK, November 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Leadership and the new world of governance: What does it mean for you? Keynote speaker, NHS Black and Ethnic Minority Staff Network Conference, Leading Differently for Better Health Care: In Celebration of Black History Month, Bradford District NHS Care Trust, UK, October 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). How do you stop the boat rocking? The essential strategic interventions of communication leaders. Invited speaker, a masterclass for communication directors, The Communication Directors’ Forum, the cruise ship Aurora, October 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Marketing and internal communication: Snog, marry or avoid? Invited speaker, a masterclass for communication directors, The Communication Directors’ Forum, the cruise ship Aurora, October 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Leadership and communicating change: Research profiling and other organisational challenges. Keynote speaker, U4 Network Leadership Programme, Managing Change and Preparing for the Future, University of Gottingen, Germany, October 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Living the dream: Tomorrow’s people and the future of PR. Keynote speaker, The Public Relations Consultants Association National Conference: The Future of PR. BAFTA, London, UK, September 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Being a values based organisation: Are your leaders ready? Keynote speaker, NHS Health Education Yorkshire and Humber Leadership and Organisational Development Day: “Time to think about talent”, Leeds Business School, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, United Kingdom, July 2013. 

Willis, P. (2013). Preach wine and serve vinegar: Relationships, doublethink and public relations. Invited speaker, plenary panel, BCN PR Meeting #3: International conference on representing PR: Images, identities and innovations, Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Catalonia, July 2013.

Willis, P. (2013). Being a media relations expert: Contextual intelligence, sense making and coping with complexity. Guest Lecture, School of Communication, IE University, Madrid, Spain, March 2013.

2012 jointly awarded the National Communication Association 2012 PRIDE Award for Outstanding Contribution to Public Relations Education.

2012 (on-going) appointed Visiting Fellow, Department of Management Communication, Waikato Management School, The University of Waikato, New Zealand.

2012 (on-going) appointed to Editorial Advisory Board, Journal of Communication Management.

2012 (on-going) appointed to the Scientific Committee for the Annual Congress of the European Public Relations Education and Research Association (EUPRERA).

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). The leadership challenge for public relations. Keynote speakers, Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Leadership Seminar and Graduation Ceremony, Hamilton, New Zealand, December 2012.

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). The leadership challenge for public relations. Keynote speakers, Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Leadership Seminar and Graduation Ceremony, Auckland, New Zealand, December 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). A meteorologist and an economist walk into a bar…but can they tell us anything about public relations leadership? Invited speaker, Communication Dialogue Seminar, Department of Management Communication, University of Waikato, New Zealand, December 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). Developing profitable partnerships with large employers: Lessons from co-creation, stakeholder participation and innovation. Invited speaker, Staff Seminar, School of Communication and Creative Industries and School of Dentistry and Health Sciences, Charles Sturt University, Australia, November 2012. 

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). Personal perspectives and reflections on public relations research and pedagogy. Invited speakers, Staff Seminar, School of Media and Communication, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Australia, November 2012.

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). The leadership challenge for public relations. Invited speakers, Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Leadership Seminar, Dunedin, New Zealand, November 2012.

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). Communication priorities and practices within the not-for-profit sector in times of turbulence. Public lecture sponsored by the Department of Media, Film and Communication and Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Otago, New Zealand, November, 2012.

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2012). Re-conceptualising best practice in organisational communication: A new communication model for the UK’s National Health Service. Invited speakers, Staff Seminar, Department of Media, Film and Communication, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, and Centre for Health Systems, University of Otago, New Zealand, November 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). Supporting change processes: Propaganda or engagement? Keynote speaker, Nordic Universities Administrators’ Society Conference on Communication Challenges for Nordic Universities, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, August 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). Looking for the needle of public relations in a disciplinary haystack. Invited speaker, plenary panel, BCN Meeting 2012: International conference on social e-xperiences, Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Catalonia, July 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). Wicked problems in public sector PR. Invited speaker, LGcommunications Academy 2012, Birmingham, United Kingdom, May 2012.

Willis, P. (2012). Time to practise what we preach: Public relations education as co-created stakeholder participation. Invited speaker, International Workshop on Public Relations Teaching, Methodologies and Best Practices, University of Navarro, Pamplona, Spain, March 2012.

2011-2014 appointed Member, Advisory Board, Wolfstar, UK social media consultancy.

2011 appointed Member of the Scientific Committee, 17th International Congress on Communication (CICOM), University of Navarro, Pamplona, Spain.

2011 appointed Expert Advisor on research in the public sector: Spanish and UK comparisons. Universities of Spain, Madrid, Spain.

2011 appointed Judge, Bulgarian Public Relations Institute National Awards, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Willis, P. (2011). Staff engagement, leadership and wicked problems. Keynote speaker, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Leadership Forum, Sheffield, United Kingdom, December 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Coping strategies for the age of austerity. Chair and keynote speaker, Public Services Communication Seminar, Manchester, United Kingdom, November 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Strategic communication in a time of turbulence: Meeting the challenge of change. Masterclass, Annual Conference of the Association for Healthcare Communications and Marketing, Birmingham, United Kingdom, November 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). What is engagement? Keynote speaker, NHS Yorkshire and Humber, Care to Engage Leadership Conference, Bradford, United Kingdom, October 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Engaging with people and groups that matter: A workshop for NHS leaders. NHS Yorkshire and Humber, Care to Engage Leadership Conference, Bradford, United Kingdom, October 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Turbulence, complexity and public relations: How is practice responding to the strategic challenge? Masterclass, NHS Connecting for Health Communication Team, Leeds, United Kingdom, September 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Communicating strategically to increase resident satisfaction. Keynote speaker, LGcommunications’ Reputation Seminar, Leeds, United Kingdom, September 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Turbulence, complexity and strategic public relations interventions: Making the opportunity real. Invited speaker, seminar, Challenges for Public Communication in Times of Crisis, The Centre for Communication Trends, University of San Pablo, Madrid, Spain, June 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). A reflection on the dark side of the moon. Invited speaker, plenary panel, International Communication Association Public Relations Division Pre-Conference, Boston, United States, May 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). The new PR generation: Personal development and new educational models in an uncertain world. Keynote speaker, Fifth Annual Public Relations Festival, Sofia, Bulgaria, May 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Dealing with complexity in public relations: Impure thoughts about turbulence, stakeholder power and the challenges for practice. Invited speaker, Research Seminar, Faculty of Business and Law, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, United Kingdom, May 2011.

Willis, P. (2011). Leadership and strategic communication: Navigating organisations in the post credit crunch world. Invited speaker, Leeds Metropolitan University Annual Public Policy Seminar Programme, Leeds, United Kingdom, April 2011.

2010-2012 appointed Member, International Communication Association Collaborative Research Prize Committee.

Willis, P. (2010).  Issues, challenges and opportunities in marketing-PR: An international perspective. Keynote speaker, The Kreativ Public Relations Conference, Budapest, Hungary, November 2010.

Willis, P. (2010). Smarter communication in tough times. Keynote speaker, Best Practice in Public Sector Communication Conference, Manchester, United Kingdom, March 2010.

Willis, P. (2010). The changing communication landscape. Invited speaker, LGcommunications New Reputation Project Experts’ Reference Group, London, United Kingdom, February 2010.

2009 appointed Member, National Steering Committee, NHS Graduate Training Programme in Communication.

2009 appointed Co-Chair, Public Relations Track, Academy of Marketing Conference, Leeds Metropolitan University, Leeds, United Kingdom.

2009 appointed Expert Advisor, Local Government Communication Commission on Competencies for Senior Communicators, United Kingdom.

2008-2010 appointed NHS, Project Management Board, What Good Looks Like, United Kingdom.

2009 (on-going) appointed Expert Advisor, LGComms, UK national association for local government communicators.

2009 (on-going) appointed Judge, UK Public Sector Communication Awards.

Willis, P. (2009). Leadership and communication: Navigating your organisation in the post credit crunch world. A keynote address and workshop for the Yorkshire Leadership Group, Harrogate, United Kingdom, November 2009.

Willis, P. (2009). Turn on, tune in and drop out: Surviving the credit crunch. Invited speaker, Chartered Institute of Public Relations Northern Conference, Leeds, United Kingdom, October 2009.

Willis, P. (2009). What does good look like? Meeting the challenge of change. Masterclass, Communicate ’09: NHS communication conference, Manchester, United Kingdom, September 2009.

Willis, P. (2009). Adapt or die: Do public relations practitioners have the skills to survive? Motor Industry Public Affairs Association PR Master Class, London, United Kingdom, June 2009.

Willis, P. (2009). The strategic communication leader: The competencies of top communicators in the public sector. Invited speaker, Best Practice in Public Sector Communications Conference, Manchester, United Kingdom, February 2009.

Gregory, A., & Willis, P. (2008). What does it take to be a strategist? Masterclass at Communicate 08: NHS communication conference, London, United Kingdom, November 2008.

Willis, P. (2008). Budgeting and the credit crunch. Invited speaker, Chartered Institute of Public Relations, Northern Conference, Manchester, United Kingdom, September 2008.

Research Degree Supervision

  • The strategic role of communication in the private, public and NGO sectors
     
  • How communication can be used by organisations and communities to address ‘wicked problems’
     
  • The leadership challenges confronting communication professionals, including how they cope with complexity
     
  • Innovative forms of stakeholder engagement
     
  • Co-creating curricula for executive education and professional development

Enterprise Activities

External projects

  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation, member of a multi-disciplinary research team which explored how to maximise the local impact of anchor institutions in the Leeds City Region.
     
  • Westminster City Council (on-going), commissioned to design and deliver a residential executive education programme for senior communication and policy professionals.
     
  • LGcommunications (on-going), commissioned to design and deliver a residential executive education programme for the senior local government communicators’ Future Leaders initiative.
     
  • The UK Cabinet Office (on-going), commissioned to co-deliver and co-create the GCS Inspire Masters programme for senior government communicators.
     
  • Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, commissioned by the board to design and deliver a values-based audit for the organisation.
     
  • Weber Shandwick, consultancy project on the development of their European talent management programme.
     
  • European Union Erasmus Programme, SME Leaders and Sustainability: Deliberative Engagement Project, lead partner and project manager of a multi-national research project (nine partners in seven countries).
     
  • Yorkshire Water, commissioned to develop a co-created executive education programme for the company’s communication department.
     
  • Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, commissioned to contribute to their Stimulus Paper series on the issue of co-creating course content with practitioners and curriculum innovation.
     
  • South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, stakeholder audit for the Trust’s board.
     
  • Department of Health, development and delivery of a co-created Postgraduate Diploma in Strategic Communication for the NHS Communication Graduate Training Programme.
     
  • Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority, development and delivery of a co-created Master of Arts in Strategic Communication for senior NHS communicators.
     
  • East Midlands Strategic Health Authority, development and delivery of a co-created Master of Arts in Strategic Communication for senior NHS communicators.
     
  • The UK Cabinet Office, delivery of a strategy, planning and management course at the National School for Government for civil service communicators.
     
  • Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority, research project, benchmarking success in communication.
     
  • Department of Health, research project, What Good Looks Like in Strategic Communication. This led to a DoH policy document which was issued to all NHS Chief Executive Officers describing what their communication functions should do.
     
  • Department of Health, co-design and co-delivery of The Communicating Organisation Roadshow, a touring development initiative for senior NHS communicators which visited every Strategic Health Authority region in England.
     
  • Cabinet Office, consultancy project on the procurement of learning and development products for professional communicators in Government.
     
  • Westminster City Council Communication Team, Executive Education Retreat.
     
  • LGcommunications, Future Leaders’ Strategic Communication Master Class.
     
  • Calderdale Metropolitan District Council, development and delivery of a Consultancy Master Class for the communication team.
     
  • Mentor to communication manager, Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust.

 

Internal projects

  • Leeds Metropolitan University Research Development Cluster Award, member of a multi-disciplinary research team exploring the communication issues associated with obesity in young people.
     
  • Higher Education Innovation Fund, repurposing Masters level education for the private and public sectors.
     
  • Business advisor/mentor to three companies as part of the University’s European Regional Development Fund Business Growth Calderdale Project.

Administrative Responsibilities

Director of a new Huddersfield Business School research centre (currently in development).

Teaching and Professional Activities

Tutor and Module Leader, MSc Strategic Communication Leadership, a course delivered for the UK Cabinet Office as part of the Government Communication Service Inspire Programme. Specific responsibility for the ‘Strategic Leader’, ‘Engaging Leader’, ‘Leading Leader’ and ‘Masterclasses in Strategic Communication Leadership’ modules.