10 July 2007

Jump for their love...it's GolinHarris...

Right, chums, here's the latest in our sporadic series of Q&As with the bigwigs of the tech PR world. There's been Dyson of Next Fifteen, Mellor and Walker from Firefly and Syltevik at Hotwire.

As ever our caveat is that the Q&A takes place over email...we send a bunch of questions, the subjects then take a lifetime to ruminate over their answers before sending them back. Then we print them verbatim. We don't have a chance to interrogate...but it's always interesting to see how 'PR' people get with their responses.

GolinHarris is part of Interpublic Group (as is Weber Shandwick and any number of other marketing services companies). For the last few years GH in the UK has been run by a double-act: Jonathan Hughes and Matt Neale. Before the boys took over, rumours were that the UK operation was on its last legs and wasn't far off being wound up. Seems to be in a much healthier position these days (if its company offsites are anything to go by).

Over to the lads...

TWL: I can’t remember how long ago it was that you two took on GH. I’ve heard various stories about why you were handed the reins…from it being a tactic to stop you both leaving to GH being perceived to be going down the pan and you two being given it as a shit or bust move. What’s the truth?

JH/MN: Actually when the job was advertised internally, we asked the CEO if we could take it on together, we’d worked together at Weber Shandwick and liked the idea of being partners but within a global networked company.

TWL: I wouldn’t say that you’re the highest profile agency in the UK . Is that by design or accident?

JH/MN: That’s why this is such an amazing job. GH was quite low profile a couple of years ago and we were given the freedom to do what we wanted. Internationally GH has virtually won every award there is in 2007 culminating in Agency of the Year. It’s our job to do this now in the UK.

TWL: You’ve obviously got big brother Weber Shandwick sitting close by – in the same building no less – what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of that?

JH/MN: For a start we get fancier digs. We also pool all our training which means that with the two agencies combined – we have the best training in the UK . We basically we have the best of both worlds – it feels like a hot shop but within the environment of a global leader. No crappy office in a Camden terrace.

TWL: I guess some people might perceive that you’re an agency that lives off Weber’s leftovers…or business it can’t take on. I guess you’d refute that..?

JH/MN: We pitch against each other all the time so we are friendly rivals – we send them leads if we’re competed out. GH’s competitive win rate is around 85% and in the last year we’ve won brands like Expedia, Kraft, Samsung , BMC Software and Dow. We’ve beaten the biggest global agencies and specialist shops so I don’t think anyone defines us by our larger brother. Apologies for banging the drum!

TWL: Ages ago (in fact when TWL was a mere three days old) we highlighted the rather odd situation whereby Oracle’s global PR is handled by Weber Shandwick, yet Weber does a fair bit of Microsoft work in the UK…and then one of the Oracle press contacts is listed as Mark Sparrow, but he’s one of your boys, isn’t he? It’s all very confusing…can you clarify? I mean, do you help Weber created a few Chinese walls by loaning then some of your resource now and again?

JH/MN: Oracle uses different agencies in different regions, there is no global agency. For its EMEA work it uses CMG. CMG is a group within Interpublic Group (IPG) that specialises in the areas of public relations, public affairs, sports and entertainment marketing etc. The Oracle team is drawn up from a range of people depending on the skillset needed at the time and this is continually changing.

TWL: Which other PR agencies do you admire, and why?

MN: I really respect what Mike Morgan’s done with Red, David Brain’s reign at Edelman and the way Colin Byrne has turned WS London into such a strong domestic brand.

JH: To those I'd add Inferno, they're extremely solid, the creativity of the Frank team has to be admired and the way Giles and Sarah have built up Brands2Life.

TWL: We all watched the YouTube video of your company offsite to Rome (and the previous year’s one to Palma). It generated quite an astonishing number of comments and received a mixed reaction. Now, we like a bit of that old-school PR excess, but then some people think we’re dinosaurs…people seemed to question a number of things, such as (a) is that sort of thing still needed/relevant and (b) why the hell would you stick the video on YouTube? Your thoughts..?

JH/MN: How many agencies fly the entire company abroad each year for training and to let their hair down? Beats renting a room in Soho House. When the company is doing so well it’s nice to have a bit of fun. One of our guys was a dancer in a former life and it was her idea to create the video, she put it on YouTube.

TWL: Where’s next year’s trip to? And can we come..?

JH/MN: Somewhere sunny again, south of France is in the running. You could blog from the beach…

Sounds fantastic...and we've got it in writing.

NB: If you would like to appear in a TWL Q&A, an offer of foreign travel or £500 in used notes usually does the trick.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"How many agencies fly the entire company abroad each year for training and to let their hair down? Beats renting a room in Soho House."

Well Hotwire just got back from a lovely weekend in sunny Madrid...

Anonymous said...

ohhh let's all start a competition to see which agency is the nicest hey?

I went to Regents Park with an agency once and played softball, whilst listening the some top quality tunes and eating sausage rolls... that was fun :)

Anonymous said...

You 'ad room in Soho 'ouse?

We didn't even 'ave table ut Slug & Lettuce.

And we 'ad to walk there. In the snow. Barefoot.

Anonymous said...

You couldn't pay me enough to waste my weekend / any free time with colleagues.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 12.38 - get a life you lot! Can no-one see past this corporate bollox!? 'Away weekends' mean companies don't lose out any employees billable time for doing all the training and bonding bullshit none of us actually want to do anyway. I'd choose a relaxed OPTIONAL, on the hoof evening down the pub with a few genuine work mates anytime.

Anonymous said...

>>You couldn't pay me enough to waste my weekend / any free time with colleagues<<

Well said. These people must have nothing better to do with their lives.

Anonymous said...

Call me a curmudgeon, but I've yet to see ANY teambuilding / bonding trips / outings that have helped to retain any member of staff a nanosecond longer.

In fact, we only do them when we're secretly hoping that someone will leave. Works every time.

Applicants welcome ....

Anonymous said...

Is there any PR agency that doesn't make its staff play bloody softball in a central London park?

Anonymous said...

Cohn & Wolfe went to Dublin for its Christmas party - it was a blast.

I hear the Hotwire Madrid jaunt was very tiring for some of those who went... (you know who you are)

Besides - I can't be unusual in that I actually like a lot of my colleagues and (more often than not) enjoy getting to know the ones I don't. It's not like I spend every weekend/night with them.

Anonymous said...

If you can't see yourself going off for the weekend with the people you work with, maybe you're in the wrong job.
If you have never fancied it, maybe you're in the wrong career... or maybe the problem runs deeper.
Anyway, it's a laugh seeing colleagues in a different place. A bit like undressing a nurse.

Anonymous said...

This is the problem with the PR industry - people need to drop this fluffy crap (once confined to only the consumer shops but, it now seems prevalent across tech too). Let's get real, it is a job!!!! No, it really is a job! We all want to do well and do a great job, but it is possible without all the arse-licking, 'show' and corporate bonding bollocks so many London agencies go in for. Employees do a better job when they have a work/life balance and are happy, so here's a radical suggestion - drop the late working hours culture - no, that extra 45 mins a night makes fuck all difference to the job people do, and get real about the fact that the best employees - balanced, conscientious and interesting people - are the ones with time to have a life outside of work.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the Golin Harris boys made no mention of NEC...

Anonymous said...

They actually went away during the week!

Anonymous said...

Well said 2.40... If you want a 24/7 job go and be a VP president of marketing in a big US software firm amd talk about strategy and leveraging opportunity, cos that would be one of the most interesting jobs in the world wouldn't it... apart from playing softball... which can be fun sometimes if it gets competitive and fights start... thats where there fun begins :)

figgis said...

Butlins - that's the place you want to go for your agency do.

Anonymous said...

Jesus, this was the debate raging in May 07 when they went on their company offsite. Get with it people. Move on.

It was in the week. It looked like fun. It's once a year.

No I don't work for GH.

Anonymous said...

>>"Is there any PR agency that doesn't make its staff play bloody softball in a central London park?"<<

Yes. But our excuse is that we are 180 miles away, so its probably just as well....

Anonymous said...

Slight amendment to my previous post - You* don't pay me enough to waste my weekend / any free time (including during the week)with my colleagues. I work with some great people and have a laugh in the office, but it can stay in the office as far as I am concerned.

* by 'you' I am not suggesting any reader of this blog needs to pay me, I mean my boss, you understand.

Ben Schmark said...

I remember playing softball in the park with A Plus once.

It was fun, until we got to the pub.

As he handed me a beer glass, my team mate's face suddenly darkened, as if he'd just heard some terrible news, and he started a half hour interrogation with the words "So when are you going to start writing about Novell?"

n said...

I think that the company trips are one of the best things about my job. We went to Italy for last year's Christmas party and had a great time, because (shock, horror) I actually get on with my colleagues. Maybe its a big agency thing to hate the people you work with, and I am lucky to work in an independent agency which has been able to hold onto its "family feel".

Anyway - Its not like going away for one weekend a year will significantly impact on your "life outside work", will it?

Prem said...

I want to defend the practice of sending employees abroad to get drunk and bond. Having just got back from the afforementioned Madrid trip (well, six days ago...) I can safely say is was brilliant fun.

And the work bit (if you call an hour long meeting before the fun in the sun starts "work") was on a Friday...

The rest of the weekend was entirely optional, and funded. My colleagues are great and we all had a fabulous (and exhausting!) weekend.

You're just jealous you weren't there ;-p

Anonymous said...

I have left the world of agencies and gone in-house precisely because of the Soviet-style atmosphere in some of them and that includes trips abroad, ‘away days’, and other briefings where you get force-fed your agency’s mission statement (which is mostly bollocks). And what’s with the binge-drinking culture – not very creative is it? It’s quite funny really how desperate agencies are to keep their employees but ‘commitees’ and ‘activities’ (sport, social, newt watching you name it) don’t make the slightest difference to how long an employee stays, responsibility, flexible working and good clients do. Grow up people and stop behaving like students.