Tom Berry is CEO of Chameleon – the Best PR Agency to Work for in the UK and EMEA Technology Consultancy of the Year 2018.
Find out what he does all day – including his views on leadership, email and KPIs.
(And if you’re looking to move up the career ladder, why not check out Econsultancy’s range of training courses)
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I run an independent public relations agency in London, providing the vision for the business while being the ultimate throat to choke when things go wrong.
In practice, my role covers everything from opening up in the morning to ensuring everyone feels loved. Someone once described my role as waving my hands around while everyone else does all the real work.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Figuratively, I sit at the top of the company, but I really report to the whole company. With my business partner and MD – who is the real management power behind the agency – we believe in complete transparency and accountability to our people.
Physically, I sit anywhere I am needed. I spend more time out of the office with clients and prospects than I do at the Chameleon office. The team seems to like it that way, too. Go figure.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
The only skill a CEO really needs is leadership. You don’t really have to be good at anything else. Yes, you must have big ideas and understand the mechanics of running a business, but you really should be spending most of your time looking after your people and clients. Know what everyone is working on, understand their needs and challenges, show empathy, give them the kudos for success, take the blame for their mistakes, and always be clear on what “good” looks like.
I wrote a piece that covers my views on leadership in more detail – just in case you are remotely interested.
Tell us about a typical working day…
In agency life, the highs are very high, the lows are very low, and they all seem to happen on the same day.
We are the filling in a sandwich where we have to marry client expectations with customer and influencer needs and that is never a simple process. Half the time I don’t know what is going to land in my lap at any given moment, but that is the main reason why I have stayed in agency life for so long. It’s fun… sort of.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I love the people. I love the Spartan fraternity of agency life. I love it when clients are doing amazing, new things that will change the world.
I hate email. I really hate it.
As I write, the number of unread emails I have in my inbox just ticked over 190,000.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I have one major professional goal and one major life goal. At work, I want to kick the arse of every global network agency that thinks their size gives them the right to overcharge clients for mediocre work. At home, I want to forget work. I have four kids and an amazing wife, so I take the division between work and home very seriously.
As for KPIs, we have three things we measure as a board: client net promoter score, our people’s net promoter score and profitability. All other good things stem from those. Revenue is vanity and too much target setting drives bad behaviours.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Tools are no substitute for managing by walking about. However, I love social media and news feeds. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, the BBC News app, Google news search and, latterly, Quartz are all on all the time.
How did you end up at Chameleon, and where might you go from here?
I started life as a journalist and was offered a job at a new PR agency in the mid-Noughties. Honestly, I thought I would take the extra money for a few months to fund our first flat, and then I’d move back to journalism. 15 years later, I have been involved in small, medium and large agencies in a variety of management roles – both here and in the US.
I still consider myself to be a journalist at heart, but my old hack friends most definitely see me as a flack.
Which customer experiences do you admire?
Anything that makes me feel like a human being. I have banked with First Direct for 25 years and have always enjoyed ringing them. Customer service done well, even if it is dealing with a complaint, should feel good. I’m also a collector of vinyl and love the calm of being left alone in second-hand record shops to browse for hours.
What are your favourite PR campaigns, or which brands do you most admire for their PR activity?
The brand campaigns I like the most are the ones that have stayed with me since my youth: Cadbury’s finger of fudge, Guinness horses and even the gaudy aftershave adverts of the 80s. I probably still have some Drakkar Noir in a box somewhere in the loft.