Econsultancy caught up with him to find out how he came to start his own business, why he loves PR, his favourite tools for getting the job done, and his advice to B2B marketers struggling to cut through the noise.
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1. Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Tyto, a pan-European PR agency focused on the colliding worlds of technology, science and innovation. Our aim is to help clients solve business challenges through the power of communications.
My primary motivation is the realisation of Tyto’s vision to create a new breed of agency experience that delivers on a perfect partnership with our clients, our team, the media and all relevant stakeholders.
Central to this idea is building and leading a team of people who I like to refer to as “communications blackbelts”.
2. Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation?
I’m the leader of Tyto and the majority shareholder in the business. I’ve been in agency leadership roles since an early age, but it has only been since I created Tyto that I have worn both hats. Running your own business is a bit like having a super power, because you not only get to do what you love, but you get to bring your own vision to life.
I’m very lucky in that my role combines all of the things I’m passionate about. I knew from a very early age I wanted to work in PR because I love the process of thinking about how you can influence opinions and change perceptions. I love business and have been doing entrepreneurial things since I was a child in secondary school.
Finally, I love building and leading a team. I’m inspired by the notion of creating an environment where individuals can thrive, just as the team does.
3. What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
When you run your own professional services business, you have to be able to do a few different roles that require a range of skills.
We provide clients with PR and communications services, so you need to have an excellent grasp of these fields and be a strong practitioner yourself. We help our clients solve business challenges through communications, so you need to be a great listener, consultant and strategist. As mentioned, we have a team of what I affectionately call communications blackbelts, so you need to be a strong leader to take this team on the journey with you.
Finally, you need to be able to sell your vision to clients and your team, so you need to be an excellent salesperson.
4. Tell us about a typical working day…
Broadly speaking, my day is 50 percent determined by what I want to accomplish, and 50 percent determined by what’s going on around me.
I try to always start the day by looking across the media to see what’s going on. At Tyto we do a news review as a team first thing every morning. I then try to catch up on any client developments from overnight, which may involve advising clients or colleagues on certain matters. From that point on, I usually have a number of meetings throughout the day with clients, sales prospects, colleagues and potential new recruits.
In the evening I try to balance work and family commitments by alternating between weeks where I spend much of my evening out networking or staying at home. When I’m at home, I really like to cook for the family.
5. What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I love my job because I get to help companies solve critical business challenges through communicating in a strategic way.
Getting my head around a specific challenge and then working out the most appropriate course of action is something I’m especially passionate about. Working through these challenges with the amazing people on our team, and with our clients, enhances the enjoyment even further.
Because of my love for problem solving, there’s very little that I don’t enjoy, which means that bizarrely even new problems can bring me pleasure. There’s certainly a pressure that comes with managing a team and a professional services business, but without that I think I would get bored.
6. What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I think the best goals are the ones that people can remember and don’t need to be written down.
We are on a mission to build a new breed of pan-European agency experience and one horizon we are chasing down is to build an agency of 30 communications blackbelts, with revenues of £3m. The mentality that accompanies this new agency experience allows us to take a fresh look at everything we do to ensure we take the best approach.
We also talk a lot about perfect partnership. This is our moral compass and we use it to guide all our relationships with stakeholders, and to ensure that we’re constantly learning how to become the perfect partner in every respect.
7. What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
One of my favourite tools is TrendKite. It allows us to quickly and efficiently look at how topics and brands are trending and performing in the media. This is the type of activity that previously would have had to be done manually, which of course takes hours. Now it can be done in less than a tenth of the time.
8. How did you end up founding Tyto, and where might you go from here?
Before co-founding Tyto, I’d played a major role in helping another agency develop into one of the top 10 PR consultancies in its sector globally, during which time I was Global CEO for six years.
I had however reached a stage where I was bored and needed a new challenge. Building your own company from scratch is certainly one of the most challenging things you can do, but it’s also one of the most rewarding.
Right now, our goal is to build a 30-person multinational, multidisciplinary consultancy, which operates as a single unit across Europe. Through our location agnostic model, we are trying to build a similar culture to what office-based employees experience. However, we are doing this with a multinational team spread across Europe.
9. Which campaigns have impressed you lately?
HSBC’s ‘We Are Not an Island’ campaign earlier this year was a roaring success. Not only did it resonate with the bank’s famous slogan – “the world’s local bank” – but it also did a fantastic job of cutting through all the media noise around Brexit by being genuinely outspoken and evocative.
Was it to everyone’s liking? Probably not. Was it effective? Undoubtedly. It was covered by just about every UK national news outlet and stoked the fires of the Twittersphere, driving the conversation.
10. Do you have any advice for B2B marketers struggling to cut through?
I think the most important thing is to keep an open mind about what the approach to communications could be to address a particular challenge. It’s easy to become wedded to certain tactics and ways of doing things, but by keeping an open mind and not closing the door on certain methods, you maximise your chances of choosing the right approach.