Amy Naoko Morita has joined Edelman as director of brand after 13 years at J Walter Thompson. Her most recent role at the WPP agency was that of global and corporate marketing director, in which she helped a number of Japanese companies in their international expansion efforts.
Morita, who reports to Edelman Japan president Ross Rowbury, said she and Edelman are still determining the finer details of her new role. Essentially though, it will involve bringing a higher level of consideration for clients’ brands and the branding discipline to Edelman, which has been gradually diversifying its services and working to redefine itself as something more than a typical PR agency. Morita will manage a team within the agency—the former consumer group, which has become the brand group—and will collaborate with other divisions and outside parties where necessary.
Transitions from the world of advertising to PR are still relatively rare, but Edelman has recently made a number of hires from ad agencies including BBDO. Morita said part of the reason for her decision to move was a desire to be “borderless” in her work and to look at branding from more of a PR perspective. She noted that the advertising industry as a whole still suffers from the limitations of one-way communication from brand to consumer.
At the same time, Morita said that prior to joining Edelman, she had seen it more as a “thought-leadership agency” than a PR agency. She said she had found its reports (which include the annual Trust Barometer) helpful in developing strategies while at J. Walter Thompson. Edelman was recently named Japan and Korea PR consultancy of the year in Campaign’s PR Awards Asia 2017.
As Hideya Azuma, the chairman of the Graduate School of Information and Communication in Tokyo, noted in an interview last year, PR in Japan is too often seen as entirely separate from branding and other marketing-related activities. Morita said she believes PR and marketing budgets should come together and that all activities should centre on the brand. “Whatever goes out in the media through PR, when consumers read it, it’s communications that’s dispatched about the brand,” she said. “It doesn’t matter where it comes from. So [PR practitioners] need to be much more brand-centric.”
Startups are an area of particular interest for Morita. While at J. Walter Thompson, she organised startup-focused workshops, a big part of which involved turning staff into brand advocates. “Whoever is going to contribute to a brand is important,” she said.