To an outside observer my career to date may look a little strange. I started my working life at an agency that advised governments and large NGOs, then moved to a consultancy primarily focused on FTSE 350 firms, before moving further “down” the communications food chain to focus on technology businesses listed on the junior markets. To those uninitiated into the world of PR and communications, this could be seen as counterintuitive: why would you want to work with smaller businesses, isn’t all the power and influence to be found in FTSE 100 boardrooms?
The reason for each of those moves – and, indeed, my recent move to FieldHouse – is simple: impact. There is an unfortunate and unavoidable reality when working with large listed companies: you can craft the most beautifully-written press releases, you can place the management team in the most influential papers, and you can shout about your newly-found ESG credentials from the rooftops of the Square Mile, but your carefully-crafted narrative will always be overshadowed by the company’s bottom line. However eloquent and nuanced your prose might be, analysts, investors, and time-pressured business journalists are going to zero in on your clients’ revenue, profit margins, and dividend (or lack thereof), and the only way to really turn their heads is to make a staggering PR blunder (think changing your name to Abrdn or singing about your impending windfall on national television).
So herein lies the appeal of working with venture capital firms and disruptive startups. Of course sales still matter, of course investors want to see returns in the long-run, but these are not companies we find in our pension pots. How startups and their backers engage with the media and external stakeholders is much less restrained, much more dynamic, multi-channeled, and 24/7. The national papers are not beholden to devoting column inches to them, media coverage is not a god-given right or a predictable follow-up to their interim and full-year results. Coverage is actively earned with well-timed engagement – and when it is earned, what’s said is crucial for attracting investment, talent, and future customers.
This makes the role of communications professionals not only more important, but indeed more enjoyable for the consultants themselves. PR should not be a predictable and commoditised transaction; for the best results, clients and consultants should genuinely understand and appreciate each other’s offering. The true value of PR is not in securing 100 syndicated articles after firing releases to every journalist they can find, but in placing stories with the right journalists at the right publications at the right time. A few well-written and well-read articles can be the difference between the success and failure of an early-stage business. This is what I mean by impact – the ability of strategic messaging and media engagement to effect genuine change on a company’s bottom line and provide the springboard to success. While I will no doubt miss some of the certainty that comes with working with listed businesses, I couldn’t be more excited to start enabling real impact.