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31 Jan - 03 Feb 2023

RISE CultureInspiring Change in the AV Community

Beky Cann

Beky Cann is Director of PR & Communications EMEA at Peerless-AV.

At first glance the AV industry is made up of STEM professionals, such as integrators and engineers. Behind the scenes there is a wide range of marketing, financial, customer service skills also steering the industry. As a marketeer, what appealed to you to join the industry?

Although I’d like to say I chose AV, I didn’t. I guess it was more the other way around. My first introduction to the AV industry was when I worked for Neesham PR. Back when I started, the agency specialised in the electronics sector and I was brought on board to help grow and manage a client base in new B2B tech markets; AV being one of them. What drew me in was the familiarity and feeling of a community – everyone knows everyone. The experience and contacts I gained from working with hardware and software clients from across all aspects of the industry, over the 10 years I was there, set me up as a respected PR and marketing professional in an exciting and rapidly growing industry, and is the reason I’m in-house with Peerless-AV now.

AV has taken a big hit during the pandemic, with many key sectors such as retail and hospitality unable to open. Have you had to adapt your PR and communications strategy for different markets?

Like many businesses during the pandemic, we have had to re-evaluate our communication strategies across all the territories we serve, but more in terms of the way in which we communicate; becoming more creative with our sales and marketing tools and PR messages via all digital channels. Despite AV taking a hit in the UK, our EMEA business has seen its biggest growth yet during the past 12 months. Installations may have been impeded but demand for our products – for projects in retail, quick-service restaurants, corporate, transportation, hospitality and more – has not, as organisations get ready for the world to return to business as usual, as shops open up, workers return to offices and travel restrictions are lifted.

During the crisis we have seen some incredible ‘viral’ campaigns of impactful digital signage displays. Do you think there is an opportunity to use social media to attract the next generation of AV professionals?

Social media is only increasing in importance for B2B communications. The pandemic has forced more individuals and businesses online since it presents a quick and easy means to distribute content and engage with their target audience, while face-to-face interaction remains restricted. On LinkedIn, for example, there are currently over 700 million professionals in 200 countries and regions worldwide, all looking for new jobs or searching for inspiration, as well as sharing information and making new connections. So it makes sense that this platform should be used to attract the new generation of AV professionals. Despite Facebook being the largest social networking site in the world today, LinkedIn is known as ‘the professional social networking site’. The key is to make an impact and capture their attention during the small window of time that they are engaged with the platform on a daily basis.

You are a member of both the AVIXA Women’s Council and Women in AV Group. Tell us a bit about why you joined these groups and what you hope they can achieve?

I joined Women in AV (WAVE) when the inspirational Abigail Brown was running things for the UK group. Abi was always so positive, encouraging inclusivity and self-promotion of women in the AV business environment. Back when there was only a small group of us in WAVE, we would go to events and corporate offices to hold meetings where members and guest presenters, male and female, would be encouraged to speak with energy about their career progression and experiences. In such a male-dominated industry, this was, and is still, a really important means for women to get together, to network and provide support in the form of mentoring, training, learning and development.

Now, as a member of the AVIXA Women’s Council UK committee, I would like us to encourage more women into not just senior roles within the industry, but also more on the technical and engineering side, which is still very male-dominated. Attending tradeshows is when the ratio of men to women is still very unbalanced and it would be great to see this change in the coming years as more support is offered to women seeking to pursue a career and climb the ladder in the AV industry.

From your professional and personal achievements, there is a lot to be inspired by. You head up communications for an industry-leading designer and manufacturer of AV solutions and in your spare time you’re a triathlete and runner, who also raises money for charity. Which strong women have inspired you during your career?

I’ve had many strong female role models and mentors throughout my professional life. I’ve already mentioned one in Abi Brown, whom I often think about when I need positivity in my life (#BeLikeAbi). Another was Peerless-AV’s VP of Sales & Marketing for EMEA, Melinda Von Horvath, who always said she was one of my biggest fans. She “had my back” encouraging me to be strong, to think big, to have a voice, to travel, to be ambitious… the list goes on.

In my personal life, I have a mentor in one of my closest friends and running buddies Helen Hall, a biomechanics analyst, author, runner and coach. Everyone needs a mentor and yet they might not even realise they have one at the time, but it’s likely there will be many at different stages of their life and career.