The PRmoment Podcast is a series of life story style interviews with some of the leading lights of UK PR.
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This week, in the latest of our life stories podcasts, I’m interviewing Mark Lowe, co-founder of Third City. Third City is a consumer PR firm in London with a fee income of over £2 million and a turnover approaching £3 million and 28 employees.Mark co-founded Third City in 2008 with Graz Belli. Previously Mark had worked at Band & Brown for six years.Here is a summary of what Mark and I discussed.[00:01:09] How Mark originally wanted to be an actor. [00:03:01] Mark talks us through his early career as a singer in a band. [00:05:09] Why if you have a dream in life it's important to at least give it a go! Even if you ultimately end up doing something else.[00:06:35] Mark and I discuss the trend of people going plural and having two or more jobs.[00:07:42] Whether PR firms offer sufficient flexibility in working practices. [00:08:32] Why Mark reckons his CV in his 20s was "a bit of a mess". [00:12:33] Why Mark's career accelerated when he joined Band & Brown and met Graz Belli. [00:13:05] Why you don't have to have a conventional career path, the most important thing is that you really believe in, and want to do, what you're doing. [00:13:31] Why "trying and failing" is an important part of life/your career.[00:15:19] Mark talks us through the challenges and advantages he had of starting his PR career pretty late. [00:15:54] How meeting Jill Brown and Graz Belli was a critical change in Mark's career.[00:16:43] Why Mark believes the PR sector has some cultural preconceptions about age which hold the industry back.[00:17:53] Why Mark would like to redefine PR as "brand communications".[00:18:23] Why PR firms are now working in the space that was previously occupied by branding agencies.[00:20:19] Why the barriers between consumer and corporate PR are being broken down.[00:20:36] Why the way VCs are buying public relations is changing the agency market.[00:22:20] Why brands can no longer manage their reputation and brand out of two separate departments.[00:22:38] How Mark went from a senior account director at Band & Brown at 29 to a director at 32.[00:22:59] What did Mark do in those three years to accelerate his career?[00:26:26] Why Mark decided to leave Band & Brown to set up Third City alongside Graz Belli and Gill Brown.[00:27:22] What were the reasons behind Band & Brown losing its momentum quite quickly? [00:29:53] Mark talks about how Third City was founded.[00:30:44] Why Mark believes its important for a PR firm to be able to blend the best of consumer agencies and corporate agencies. [00:33:02] Why Third City is looking for opportunities for regional expansion in the UK and models for international expansion. [00:34:29] Mark talks us through Third City's structure, including its Third Citizen network. [00:37:41] Why Mark believes public affairs professionals are often more interested in the political process than the political context. And they are very rarely interested in brands. [00:38:23] How people who work in brand communications are often not that interested in politics.[00:40:08] Mark asks whether the rush for purpose is explained by the idea that we are now entering a world in which businesses are neither paying taxes nor creating jobs, so they are having to come up with other reasons and justifications for their existence. [00:41:05] Why is it that VC firms tend to prioritise public relations as a method of marketing?[00:45:11] How the uncertainty of Brexit is impacting the UK PR busines
This week on the PRmoment Podcast, in the latest of our life stories series, I’m pleased to welcome co-owner and managing director of Chameleon Tom ButtleChameleon is an independent tech PR firm in London with a fee income of £2.1m and 20 people.The business was originally owned by Helen Holland before Tom Butttle and Tom Berry (what are the chances!) completed an MBO of the business in April 2017.Here’s a summary of what Tom and I discussed:[00:01:08] How Tom was a late starter in PR, having previously worked in HR, but has since had a pretty accelerated career path. [3.8s] [00:03:35] Tom talks about the advantages of moving into PR from a different sector. [0.9s] [00:05:04] Why Tom took a pay cut to move into PR. [0.4s] [00:07:15] Tom tells us how, and I quote, " he fell in love with content and storytelling".[00:09:21] How Tom has benefited from having a mentor in his career.[00:12:56] Tom worked for Flieshman Hillard before moving to Chameleon – he talks us through why this was an important stage of his career. Tom also compares the differences of working in a large agency with a smaller one. [00:16:58] How Tom, when he joined Chameleon, went about updating the content services of the agency.[00:19:21] How Tom and Tom Berry restructured, repackaged and modernised the business.[00:20:10] How Chameleon went about reducing the number of clients their teams worked on.[00:20:21] Why Chameleon resigned a number of accounts whilst they were modernising the business. [00:20:43] How Chameleon managed to win some big-name clients that supported their new strategy. [00:21:28] Why, having initially been bought into the business to prepare it for a trade sale, Tom and his colleague Tom Berry decided that they wanted to take the business on themselves.[00:27:38] When you need a broker, when you need an accountant and when you need a lawyer in the process of buying or selling a business.[00:32:14] Tom talks about achieving a balance between personal investments, loans and borrowing on the future income of a business when raising the finance to purchase a business.[00:34:01] Why it works that Tom and his business partner Tom Berry are "not best mates but just good friends." [00:36:41] Why Tom believes that PR people say "yes" to much.[00:37:45] Why overservicing stops PR firms from being able to nurture your team because you can't promote, reward and train people if you're not making any money. [00:38:57] How the bridge from a client-service mindset as a junior member of staff to the consultative/advisory approach of a director can be difficult in public relations firms.
This week on the PRmoment podcast, I’m pleased to welcome Natasha Hill, managing director at Bottle.Bottle has a turnover of £2m and is an independent multi-specialist PR firm in Oxford.The business was previously owned by Will and Claire Cairns. Will Cairns still has a stake in the business but Natasha and creative director Colin Cather now run the business day to day.Bottle has 25 staff and about 60% of its work is in consumer markets and 40% in B2B.Here is a flavour of what Natasha and I discussed:[00:01:21] Why Bottle founder Will Cairns can now be found in the Cotswolds, on a bike with a bunch of American tourists![00:02:02] How Bottle founder Will Cairns has exited the day-to-day running of the business and handed it over the Natasha and creative director Colin Cather. [00:04:49] Natasha talks us through the story of Bottle as a business – how it grew to about £2m in 2014 and then lost some momentum (fee income subsequently fell to circa £1.4m.) The business has now grown back to a fee income of £2m. [00:05:14] How Natasha has retained a high number of retainer clients at Bottle, despite the sector trend for an increased number of project-based agency/client relationships. [00:07:10] Why PR clients increasingly value strategic advice over campaign implementation. [00:10:51] Natasha explains the recruitment challenges for PR firms near, but outside of London, in places like Oxford.[00:13:01] How Natasha has restructured Bottle in-line with her brand marketing background.[00:14:36] Why the fact that neither of the current leadership team of Bottle have come from a pure PR background has helped its client proposition.[00:15:32] How Bottle has re-engineered the way the team works and the structure of the working day to reflect the challenges of modern public relations. [00:17:09] Should all PR teams, both in-house and agency split into reactive teams and proactive teams?[00:19:33] How Natasha and the rest of the management team at Bottle have turned around a business that was in decline and created growth. [00:23:08] Why Natasha made the move from a strategic marketing director role at the UK’s biggest charity Cancer Research UK to a small PR firm.[00:25:00] How Natasha's belief that Cancer Research UK needed to become more of a human charity, rather than purely a research-focused charity – led to the organisation’s rebrand.[00:28:40] How post the rebrand in 2012 Cancer Research UK's income was up by 6%.[00:29:44] As a marketer how does Natasha see PR’s contribution to the marketing funnel – which bits of the funnel are realistic for PR firms to grab and which bits are not?[00:32:29] Why agencies are increasingly having to draw the line on the type of work that they can do – otherwise you end up just trying to cover too much with insufficient expertise.[00:33:47] What does PR actually do for a huge charity like Cancer Research UK?[00:37:52] How does Natasha see the relative advantages of having an in-house team compared to outsourcing to an agency?[00:39:38] Natasha talks us through the process of digital transformation she implemented during her time at Cancer Research UK.
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