Sponsored By: Prospect

The Winner:  Whitney Foard Small, Group Director, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Thai Union Group

Whitney Small’s passionate belief in the transformative power of communications, her unswerving dedication to excellence, and her commitment to true collaboration have transformed the reputation of Thai Union, the world’s leading seafood company, establishing it as a global brand.

Joining Thai Union in April 2016, the challenge facing her was complex and multifaceted: to build a cohesive global communications strategy that encompassed and engaged the 11 consumer brands across multiple markets; to address fierce criticism of sustainability and operational standards across the entire industry; and, with stretching corporate growth, development and acquisition ambitions, to build the company’s reputation among the investment community, civil society, retailers, consumers and the entire industry. Under the intense scrutiny of international governments, regulators and NGOs, this was not a role for the fainthearted. However, her approach was to develop a programme that is as pragmatic as it is effective.

Appointing best-in-class local agency support to provide media and government relations expertise in the US and across Europe, she created a network of support for Thai Union in key commercial markets.  She built a team of 15 in Bangkok to cover Asia Pacific and act as the global communications hub. Whitney’s enthusiasm and energy quickly established this network as a cohesive team with clear shared objectives.  Central to this was her development of a comprehensive library of messaging and resources available across the world to provide practical and relevant communications material, which has ensured consistent messaging, ended unnecessary duplication and reduced costs. This approach was extended to crisis communications and, for the first time in its history, Thai Union now has a single approach to managing any incident — critical given the international nature of the business and supply chains.

Working closely with the global sustainability leadership teams, Whitney has successfully addressed the criticisms facing the industry as a whole but which, as a result of its scale, were regularly directed at Thai Union exclusively. Her communications project to establish Thai Union’s first-ever sustainability strategy, SeaChange®, as the gold standard in marine stewardship and safe labour is built on direct engagement with international policymakers, NGOs and journalists. The undeniable success of the strategy has resulted in Greenpeace publicly  acknowledging SeaChange® as industry leading and has influenced government policy in Thailand and other markets where Thai Union operates.

Having established consistent messaging and clearly evidenced positions on complex issues, and a new transparency and energy behind Thai Union’s proactive communications, Whitney created a solid base for the announcement of the acquisition of Red Lobster in the US, the company’s first move into consumer services.

With more than 25 years’ experience of representing global brands across Asia Pacific, including Walt Disney Company and Ford Motor Company, and as an eloquent Chinese and Thai linguist, Whitney has built outstanding connections across the region. This, coupled with her relentless commitment to getting every aspect of Thai Union’s communications right, has built a strong platform and significant reputational equity for Thai Union’s future growth and development

In-House Shortlist:

  • Kristen Foster, Director of Government Relations, eBay Australia, Japan and SE Asia
  • Fahad Qadir, Director Public Affairs & Communications, The Coca-Cola Export Corporation Pakistan
  • Whitney Foard Small, Group Director, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs, Thai Union Group