We caught up with him to find out how he came to found an agency that specialises in launching innovations, what skills his job involves, and his advice to anyone looking to start a career in PR or innovation.
If you’re interested in appearing in this feature, get in touch.
Hi, Michael. Please describe your job: What do you do?
Michael Raven: I’m the Founder and Managing Director of Blazon, an innovation launch agency based in London. We help organisations launch their innovations into pre-existing and new markets.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
Michael Raven: As the Managing Director, I run things and have my team of agile account directors report to me. We utilise a large number of subcontractors in our ‘freelance network’ of specialists, so a lot of the reporting comes from them. Managing the pool of subcontractors takes an exceptional level of organisation, but allows us to be agile and responsive to deliver work for a wide range of niche clients.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Michael Raven: Traditionally I think an agency Managing Director would need the specific skillset of the agency’s main output, be that PR, marketing, advertising, etc., but with an innovation launch agency, we’re relied on to deliver on every aspect of a client’s campaign launch, and further to that, we need knowledge of the client’s vertical to efficiently deliver results.
I think having a broad range of skills and knowledge is needed for such a role, and furthermore, a broad range of understanding and experience in the latest innovation trends, be that blockchain, artificial intelligence or robotics.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
Michael Raven: I love the constant challenge and excitement that comes with new client campaigns. We could be launching a blockchain innovation one month, and a new type of gadget the next month – it keeps things exciting and rewarding, with constant challenges and learnings along the way.
One thing that isn’t ideal is the lead time for campaigns, and the sometimes subsequent cancellations of launch plans. Innovation is, as you might imagine, a rapidly evolving space, and with it comes inconsistency and uncertainty.
What kind of goals do you have?
Michael Raven: I endeavour to make Blazon the leading innovation launch agency for niche campaigns. We’re prepared and ready for the challenge ahead.
What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
Michael Raven: Usually our KPIs change on a campaign-to-campaign basis. Innovation launches are not always based on traditional KPIs, as some are harder to measure than others. Sometimes we’re tasked with delivering sales, sometimes press coverage and sometimes app downloads and engagement. It all depends on the campaign.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Michael Raven: As a small agile team, we increasingly rely on automation tools and subcontractors to deal with the more monotonous tasks that we face in our day-to-day. We’ve learned to outsource a lot of this using tools such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and other machine learning tools to source the data we need in a speedy and efficient way.
How did you end up founding Blazon, and where might you go from here?
Michael Raven: I founded my first iteration of Blazon in 2014, when I was freelancing in London. I focused on offering PR to the booming London startup scene around Silicon Roundabout, which – it turned out – was highly in demand. After a number of hugely successful campaigns with some wonderful coverage, I needed to expand and hire – resulting in an agency.
Since then, we’ve chopped and changed our offering, branching into crowdfunding and becoming Europe’s leading crowdfunding agency, raising over $20m across more than 45 campaigns. In the summer of 2017 we added our blockchain arm, raising over $140m across 11 campaigns and solidifying ourselves among the global agency leaders in the space.
Now, we’re focusing on launching innovations for larger entities and moonshot startups alike, with our powerful mix of PR, advertising and content and the occasional five-day sprint.
Any advice for people new to a career in PR or innovation?
Michael Raven: I would highly recommend anyone wanting to enter the world of PR or innovation to do so as an independent contractor. They are in very high demand, and most are not knowledgeable about brand new, trending topics.
Educate yourself, network in the new field and offer your knowledge and time to companies, startups and agencies. If you’re good enough, you’ll have no issues getting work.