Edelman has named Robert Phillips to the new position of global chair-public engagement and future strategies as the No. 1 PR firm seeks to fend off challenges from ad agencies and digital shops for primacy in the social media space, Richard Edelman told O’Dwyers.

He described the slot as a “big think” position and a move to codify the seismic shifts in PR that are occurring in a communications market that is changing faster than ever.

Edelman expects his firm will continue to thrive in the public engagement arena due to its strengths in “bottom-up” communications, where transparency, visibility and the ability to foster conversations are paramount.

One of the biggest advantages that PR has over advertising, according to Edelman, is that PR messages have more substance.

Phillips added that PR “celebrates complexity,” while “top-down” advertising pushes “reductivity” or shaving themes to eight-word sound-bites.

The executives believe that ad agencies and digital shops look at online communications from a technology stand-point, while Edelman gears its effort to “behavioral change.”

Phillips said his future strategies work will decide how breakthroughs in communications impact Edelman and its clients.

His overall mission is to keep Edelman “ahead of the curve” and flexible enough to adapt to the rapidly changing world of communications.

Phillips joined Edelman in 2004 after the firm that he co-founded, Jackie Cooper Public Relations, was acquired. He became CEO of Edelman/U.K. in 2007 and CEO of EMEA January 2011.

Phillips is co-author of “Citizen Renaissance,” which sees the world shifting from rampant consumerism to citizen-based values.