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.