Tell us a bit about yourself and Kantar
I’ve been in the industry for nearly 30 years after arriving in London from New Zealand in 1993. I worked at Pims and PR Newswire and then joined Precise which became Kantar. This month is my 13th year with Precise/Kantar and I still enjoy my job as much as I did on the very first day.
My job has grown within the PR agency sector. My team is there to help agencies get the best out of the service. It’s not the day-to-day client servicing, it’s to let us help you. I’ve built up the team from just me 13 years ago to now five of us. The business really saw the value.
In a nutshell the services we provide are the tools to support key PR and communications functions and make life a little smoother.
How have the demands of PR agencies changed over time?
The most interesting thing with agencies is the adaptation of analysis. 13 years ago, if an agency was asked to report back on a campaign, it would say: ‘We got these pieces in nationals and this much reach’ – and that was aces, that was top work.
But now there are a lot more things that are standard and a lot more to agree to with clients upfront, ‘ok, in your retainer we’ll provide monitoring content and we’ll also provide this analysis for you.’
It’s still not as in-depth as a client directly, but then that’s completely understandable. A lot of agencies are doing it themselves, writing their own analysis reports using exports from our platform.
The charging side has become a lot more transparent as well. It used to be that I could only ever have discussions with finance directors about the cost, I wasn’t even allowed to tell any of the team.
I think the third thing I’ve noticed is there’s a lot more data before things are done. Before, it was so much gut-feeling around how you should present something. People are waking up to the fact that advertising and marketing are using data and PR should do as well.
Are there any positives that you’ve taken from the past year and a half?
I’ve had so many more face-to-face meetings with clients. Previously what would happen is someone would phone, you’d have a conversation and speak for 10 minutes, they’d tell you what they wanted, and you’d do it.
I’ve always been very friendly, and I do share a little bit of my personality. It’s probably a bit to do with my Kiwi side, we’re a little bit more like that. But over the past 18 months, clients’ children, and their pets – my dog is playing with his squeaky toy downstairs – it’s become a lot more personal.
You don’t have to arrange a time to go and see someone at their office and allow an hour for it otherwise its ‘not worth it’. So that’s been one of the key positives for me.
Is there a podcast that would be your key recommendation for working in PR or from the data side?
The podcast that I think everybody should list to is The Elephant in the Room which is Sudha Singh’s podcast. It is key people from the industry and she interviews them about their paths and their backgrounds. It is fascinating because it makes you rethink what you know.
It’s making the industry more diverse because people realise, ‘oh hold on, we don’t all have to look or sound the same.’ I absolutely love her podcast. Full disclosure, she did actually interview me for it as well, but before that I’d been listening to it and there are so many interesting people.
If you could think of one person or organisation that has single-handedly improved the industry, what would it be or who would it be?
I think Lansons is amazing. Tony Langham and Clare Parsons have done a phenomenal job at creating this agency that is very quick to offer jobs to mums returning to work. 25 years ago, it just didn’t happen. They made it easy for people to return to work, they had people buying into the agency.
I think they’ve practiced what they’ve preached and have been incredibly influential. Many people who have set up agencies have looked at what they’ve done and have taken inspiration from them.
For Tony to now hand his role over to someone else and focus on the client side is just more evidence of practicing what he preaches.
If you could give your younger self one piece of financial advice, what would it be?
Financial advice? Save half your salary! You forget in your 20s, you’re not going to be making – or even in your late 40s – you’re not going to be making this much money for the rest of your life.
At some stage, Kantar is going to say to me, ‘I’m so sorry, you need to retire’ and all those wonderful holidays and Mulberry handbags are going to seem like a bad idea!
And invest in property. Always invest in property, because people are always going to need somewhere to live.
Is there a column or website that you read every day?
I read The Times every single day and have done for 30 years. For the column that I read every day, well I read them all. I don’t have a particular favourite, it depends on the day, but The Times from cover to cover every single day without fail.
It’s always been my go-to, it’s my way of thinking, I feel like it’s very even-handed. Rod Liddle is an absolute must, Camilla Cavendish, there’s just so many of them that I get a lot of value out of.
What would you do if you revived a windfall of £10,000?
I think the first thing I would do is put it in an ISA and then I would just wait for it to grow just a little bit and then I would add a little, tiny conservatory onto the back of my house that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. That’s what I’d do.