NE Comms conversation #13 “That’s probably why I went grey at about 30”


I really hope you’ve enjoyed all the blogs so far and I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed to a great conversation about our industry in the North East.

Because I would never ask people to do anything I wouldn’t do myself, I’ve had a go at answering some of the questions that I’ve been pestering everyone else with.

I’ve strapped myself down, adopted an aggressive tone, turned on the interrogation lamp (normal weekend stuff really) and tried to add my ten pence worth to the debate.

How have things changed in the last 5 years?
Massively and they’re still changing. ‘Disruptive’ is a horribly overused buzzword but I think we’re living through the biggest era of change since the printing press. Five years ago I got my first head of comms job and the industry has changed so much since then.

What single bit of advice would you give graduates just entering the business?
You will need to be able to stand out and demonstrate what makes you different from the hundreds of others. As well as being very good academically you should still remember that ultimately this is a people business. As they said in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.

What made you get into the PR/comms business?
After working in journalism and copywriting it seemed like a natural progression.

Are disciplines like PR, marketing and advertising becoming the same thing?
I think there’s definitely increasing convergence, particularly in marketing and PR. Some of this is about budget, but also because of some fundamental changes brought about by social/digital.

Are you optimistic about the future?
Yes. Change brings opportunity as well as challenge. As practitioners we’ve never had so many opportunities to demonstrate the value we can add.

What are the key traits people in PR need to succeed?
I can only talk from experience but I would say you need to be calm in a crisis, able to get good from bad, have an excellent bullshit detector and sometimes be willing to ask the questions that people don’t want to hear.

Is the industry becoming more or less fragmented?
I wouldn’t necessarily say the industry is but  the audience certainly is. There are now millions of channels for people to get information and the old rules of the game no longer apply. The choice of information networks for people is now almost infinite.

For you, what’s the real benefit of good PR/comms?
Without sounding too poncy communication is an intrinsic and basic human need. As a society we long to connect and converse with each other. The rise and rise of social media has actually helped us deliver proper public relations in a much more genuine way. If you can do it well you will always be in demand.

What advice would you give the younger you?
Take it easy on yourself, slow down a bit, live in the moment……ohh and give up on Newcastle Utd while you still can.

What worries you about the industry?
Everything. Unfortunately I’m one of lifes great worriers. That’s probably why I went grey at about 30. In PR terms it’s mostly the worry to stay relevant and valuable to organisations.

What ‘s the best thing about living/working in the North East?
It’s home. It basically has everything but the weather.

What do you see as the next big thing?
Anyone who claims to know is lying but given the last few years I would say three things. The future is social, visual and everywhere (by that I mean massively multi-channel)

Who will play you when they get round to making the biopic of your life?
Viggo mortensen or Ken Branagh would bring the required level of seething inner violence and brooding intensity to the role. But once they’d both turned it down I’m guessing they would go with someone from a soap for the TV movie.

What’s your favourite film?
Probably O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Crazy heart

What keeps you up at night?
The same thing that wakes me up very early. Kids. That and the fight to stay relevant.

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