News

Presenting ‘Without Borders’ – a new podcast from the Tyto team

It should be no secret that here at Tyto we’re passionate about the power of brilliant content and believe strongly in the medium of podcasts as a way to engage audiences and deliver strong stories, inspiring information and create emotional connections.

Which is why I’m proud to present a new podcast, Without Borders, produced and created by the Tyto team. Without Borders is a dose of fortnightly inspiration for passionate communicators, courageous creatives and entrepreneurial business brains. Expect candid chats with the wisest old hands, bleeding edge innovators and left field thinkers and doers.

As an agency we’re custom built around our PR Without Borders philosophy, from our location agnostic structure to the way we approach creativity and innovation, both internally and as a perfect partner for our clients. We’re inspired and empowered by people and brands who aren’t afraid to make left-field thinking the norm, especially when it comes to innovating and reinventing modern communications. We’ve created the podcast to encapsulate this philosophy, but far beyond PR.

As we begin to release our first series (you’ll find the first episode here), we hope listeners will note the unexpected mix of guests, from age and experience to discipline, viewpoints and backgrounds. We’ve spoken to everyone from agency trail-blazers and award-winning journalists to brand storytelling visionaries and even the director and cast members of a sell-out Edinburgh Fringe improv show.

My co-host, Zoe Clark (Partner and Head of Tyto’s Fintech practice), and I are excited to present you with an ongoing selection of brilliant and interesting people. The kind of guests who can and will change the way listeners think about communicating ideas, building purposeful and successful businesses, creativity, innovation, and overcoming obstacles to success.

Tyto isn’t inhibited by rules, or how things have always been done: from the very ground-up, through each strand of DNA, we’re about tearing up the rule book; doing things differently, learning and improving. Therefore, it’s been enormously exciting to me to have the privilege to sit down and talk about these ideas with likeminded individuals on Without Borders. I hope you enjoy the episodes as much as we did in creating them.

Tyto, one year on

One year on at Tyto

I did a lot of open water sea swimming over summer. The primary challenge is quite simply getting from A to B in the most efficient way. It’s very easy to zig and zag with currents and waves to knock you off course. My strategy is to focus on a point on the horizon and keep looking up to ensure you stay on track.

Changing tack slightly, this week marked Tyto’s first year anniversary. Just like open water swimming, it’s very easy to get knocked off course when you are developing a new business.  The financial risks you take mean there’s always a temptation to gravitate towards any positive response your business gets. If you’re repeatedly drawn to these positive responses at the expense of a clear direction, you can end up zig-zagging all over the place.

Whereas with open water swimming we look up regularly for our bearings, for Tyto we got our bearings from a clear sense of what our purpose was. At its core with Tyto, we wanted to build a business that delivered perfect partnership for all our stakeholders. Clients, employees, journalists, influencers and suppliers. This was our moral compass. A perfect partner always does the right thing by its partners even when that isn’t the path of least resistance.

Next, we wanted to break down the silos between communicators from different countries and different communications disciplines. To do this, we developed a new operating model called PR Without Borders™. At Tyto, we felt that international PR was inefficient and the approach stale; our response was to build an international team that worked as one across borders with no silos. We also believed the line between PR and marketing was blurred and felt it was important to be able to operate across those blurry lines, and so we created a multi-disciplinary team.

Finally, to deliver upon Tyto’s PR Without Borders model, we knew we needed to have the best people and to truly be able to have the best people we needed to remove the geographical barriers for people to work with us. This led us to set up around a location agnostic model where employees could work from wherever they wanted. This opened up a world of talent to us. We were also committed to making all employees partners in our project, so we committed to giving everyone share options and an innovative quarterly bonus scheme.

We had a clear moral compass to deliver perfect partnership. We had a vision of a different PR operating model, PR Without Borders. And we also had a blueprint that would allow us to attract the best people to our project.

12-months on at Tyto, this is what I have learned:

  • The location agnostic model works and allows you to attract the highest calibre of employee. My most significant insight having operated this way for a year is that when everyone is remote, no one feels remote.
  • Aligning financial success for client success with employee incentives on a quarterly versus annual cycle keeps everyone motivated and aligned to your purpose.
  • Breaking down geographical boundaries and bringing together the perspectives of people from different backgrounds allows you to be much more creative. Seven different views from people who come from different ‘places’ lead to more innovative thinking.
  • Not everyone is right for you and you are not right for everyone. This rule applies to both clients and employees. I estimate that only 1/10 of the prospective employees and clients that cross our path are right for us and us right for them. But the 1/10 which are right are so right, and together you forge the most incredible partnerships. Learning to say no to those not right is possibly the hardest and most difficult lesson to learn in year one.
  • Our integrated approach to PR and marketing is valued by clients and leads to better and higher impact work. It also leads to client engagements that are typically twice as broad as a traditional PR agency engagement.

So, where has this all netted out 12-months on?

We’ve developed client relationships that are even stronger and deeper than I could have imagined. We have assembled pound for pound the most talented team of communicators I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. And we’ve hit or exceeded all our financial goals.

Having a clear sense of our purpose gave us the bearings we needed to achieve our goals and allowed us to stay true to our vision. Here’s to the next 12-months of success and momentum.

Fintech Power 10

Tyto Fintech Power 10

Fintech is the largest, most influential sub-sector of technology in the UK. This is according to our Tyto Tech 500 Power List that we launched late last year.

This is perhaps no surprise given the UK’s rich heritage in the worlds of banking and finance, but its dominance shows when compared to the other sectors on our list.

Of the top 500 influencers, 74 are in Fintech. The next largest category is Madtech (marketing and advertising technology) with 42 influencers, followed by AI with 32.

So what characteristics did those influencers share?

The Tyto Tech 500 Power List was created using a proprietary methodology that combined influencers’ media activity, social media reach, conference participation and owned platforms to create a ranking. Influence is more than just LinkedIn followers, and we were genuinely curious to learn who had the most impact both online and off. What the Fintech influencers share, then, is influence in the roundest sense of the word.

Also striking in the list is the low amount of women. Only three of the Fintech top ten are women, and there are only 15 in the top 50. This presents an opportunity, as there are many, many women out there doing great things in Fintech (such as Anne Boden of Starling Bank, the first woman in the Tyto Fintech Power 10). The next step is for more women to start championing the work they do.

Something else that struck us was the lack of journalists on the list. We categorised the entrants as either business leaders, journalists, VCs or members of trade associations. From 74 Fintech influencers, only two were journalists. Given the rapid growth of this sector, it’s not surprising the vast majority of the sector’s most influential people are business leaders, but it certainly raises some interesting questions about what that means for Fintech PR and media relations.

That’s something I’ll be looking into in more detail shortly, but for now – and drum roll please – let us reveal who are the top ten most influential people in Fintech today or, as we’re calling them, the Tyto Fintech Power 10.

Tyto Fintech Power 10

Rank

Fintech influencer

Role

Organisation

1 Anne Boden CEO Starling Bank
2 Goncalo de Vasconcelos CEO SyndicateRoom
3 Imran Gulamhuseinwala Global Head of FinTech EY
4 Eileen Burbidge Partner Passion Capital
5 Andrew Darley Blockchain Leader IBM
6 Taavet Hinrikus CEO Transferwise
7 Gemma Godfrey  CEO Moola
8 Samir Desai CEO Funding Circle
9 Simon Taylor Blockchain Practice Lead 11FS
10 Jeff Lynn Executive Chairman Seedrs

 

Tyto’s financial services and fintech practice offers breadth and depth of sector expertise. The team has worked with small start-ups, industry stalwarts and everything in between. Find out more.

Going Global

Going Global: The UK’s most successful SME exporters share their advice

Our client, Croud recently launched Going Global, a report that provides analysis and best practice advice for SMEs doing business overseas in today’s climate.  

Five key takeaways from the Going Global report include:  

  1. SMEs that use data to make business decisions (‘data experts’) are more confident when it comes to future growth than those companies that don’t. The ‘data expert’ SMEs expect to see a 20% annual increase in growth over the next five years, a rate that is 19% higher than expected by those who do not use data.
  2. 70% of SMEs classed as ‘data experts’ believe that innovations in AI and automation present one of the biggest opportunities to help drive business growth in the next three to five years.
  3. A number of SMEs interviewed chose to build proprietary technology because existing software simply wasn’t up to the job or it was too expensive to invest in from day one. PrivateFly, Croud and FreestyleXtreme are three organisations that have done this and discuss in the report the great success achieved as a result.
  4. 78% of the SMEs we spoke with believe data is important in helping them gain a competitive advantage.  The interviewees in the report echoed this point, but many highlighted the importance of using data with caution. Andrew Newlands, MD and Founder, Monty Bojangles stated: “There is a big danger attached to decision making based on data – that you rely too much on data and lose your instinct. No one innovates based on historical data – the only type of data is out-of-date data… Learn from data, yes, but don’t let it control your decision making. Data doesn’t have a soul.”
  5. Don’t underestimate the importance of local knowledge when launching in new markets – Luke Smith CEO and Co-Founder at Croud said: “Marketing in many different regions is a big challenge for a lot of exporters. Hiring agency support can feel like a big expense for SMEs, but having that local market knowledge, cultural awareness and just up-to-date information on what’s going on can make a huge difference between efficient marketing spend or throwing your money down the drain.” 

 If you’re interested in finding out more about the report, or the work Tyto can do to help solve business challenges through the power of communications, please get in touch: hello@tytopr.com  

Evangelist Training

Is media training dead? Introducing Evangelist Training.

Has the PR industry changed in the last ten years? It’s a stupid question. Of course it has. But there is one discipline which has not kept pace with the rapidly changing media landscape. Type ‘media training’ into google, and you’ll get incredibly similar results today as you would have a decade ago.

I’m a huge advocate of media training, having coached global CEOs, subject matter specialists, and influencers on their interactions with the media. I love seeing the transformation usually from cynicism or terror to confident spokesperson for a brand or organisation.

But I’m frustrated with how media training is sold and how little it seems to have progressed. There are hundreds of firms offering it, of varying quality, but there often seems little to set them apart. Interview skills are important, yes, but focusing purely on this is a one-dimensional approach to a multi-dimensional issue. All too often media training is positioned in a way that sets out to intimidate the spokesperson – ‘you NEED this or you’ll say something stupid to one of those devious journalists’. For me, this kind of approach fails to meet the mark in two ways.

Firstly, I strongly disagree with the kind of thinking that suggests a brand’s relationship with the media is based on one-upmanship. Trust and mutual benefit always serve both parties better.

And secondly, because media interviews just don’t happen in isolation. Your audience interacts with your brand in myriad ways. Delivering the perfect interview is meaningless if your spokesperson’s social media channels tell a different story; if the agenda for your all-company meeting doesn’t treat your internal audience with the same respect, or if your spokesperson makes an offhand comment after their keynote while their microphone is still turned on! Or simply if you’re making the same statement that your competitor did half an hour earlier.

Media interviews require a very specific and important set of skills, but should always be considered in the wider context of how your message is constructed, delivered and received. This is unique to each individual and to each organisation, and a copy and paste approach give spokespeople a false illusion of preparedness, which can set them up, if not to fail, then not to live up to their potential.

Since forming Tyto almost six months ago, we’ve had a number of clients come to us for spokesperson training, but we felt like ‘media training’ no longer sums up what they need, or what we deliver.

So today we’re launching Tyto’s Evangelist Training – a bespoke package of training modules that go far beyond media training to transform spokespeople into evangelists for their organisation. Evangelist training considers the message, your channels, and your presentation in all the ways that are most relevant to your business challenges. You don’t rely on one type of communication to build the reputation of your brand, so don’t rely on training that only considers one type of communication.

Don’t just train one-dimensional spokespeople, create evangelists. Discover our Evangelist Training today.

Long Live Public Relations

Reclaiming Public Relations
Today we launch Tyto, a European PR agency with a focus on technology, science and innovation. Here we share our thoughts on why we’re PR and proud.
Brendon Craigie, former Hotwire Founder and CEO, and Ellen Raphael, former Director UK of Sense About Science, founders of Tyto.

Public Relations is dead! Long live Public Relations! Ever since we started in the industry the debate over the future of PR has existed but in the last ten years it has intensified. In recent years, many PR agencies have succumbed to pressure to drop ‘PR’ or ‘Communications’ from their names in an effort to show their versatility, while at the same time advertising and digital agencies are rushing to show that they can do PR too. The agency world, in the words of Alan VanderMolen is at risk of creating “a generation of generalists”, who don’t showcase their core strengths.

It’s in this climate that we are launching Tyto. Proud to be PR.
Tyto is a brand-new European PR agency, founded by former Hotwire founder and CEO Brendon Craigie, and former director of Sense About Science, Ellen Raphael. We are a multi-disciplinary, multi-national team that operates as one unit, across geographical borders.
We are a team of nine experienced, senior communications practitioners, who are tired of PR being minimised. We think it’s time to reclaim public relations, and take pride in our expertise, our experience and our value to our clients – and everything that implies.

The work of building a company’s relationships with its audiences, has never been more important. And PR’s role in this has never been more vital.
So why does the PR industry insist on selling itself short or selling itself out?

The communications world has never been more confusing or more crowded. Social media influencers and politically motivated ‘news’ outlets jostle for attention, while traditional editorial voices battle for impact, and brands with a story to tell are faced with a bewildering array of channels and audiences.

At the same time, wider societal trends have seen an erosion of trust in the traditional expert. We have seen politicians on both sides of the Atlantic accused of corruption, highly regarded public figures brought down by accusations of professional and sexual misconduct, and, at a time when a free critically engaged media is needed more than ever, standards of journalism have been ripped apart.

We see vloggers who can garner the attention of thousands simply by sharing their everyday lives, mums’ forums cited as a political force, Facebook becoming the platform where people trade news, both real and fake, and information transcends geographical and platform boundaries .
A reputation can be destroyed at the click of the share button.

Against this backdrop companies are crying out for experts to help them mediate this new terrain and to meaningfully connect with their stakeholders.

At Tyto we believe the time is now for PR to set aside its angst, step-up to the challenge and reassert its purpose.

At Tyto, we are ‘PR and Proud’, which shouldn’t feel like a bold statement and yet strangely it is. Ever since we started conversations with people about setting up a new agency, the bit that generated the most discussion was about the name ‘PR’, forget all the other bits we wanted to do, what people fixated on was whether we wanted to be defined ‘solely as a media relations’ type enterprise. And here’s the rub. No we don’t. But we don’t see, and never have, that PR is just about media relations.

For us public relations is about working with a client to ensure that its greatest asset when it comes to having relationships with its stakeholders – its reputation – is safeguarded, developed, honest and worth something, for when it matters most.

What does this mean? We believe in a full fat version of PR, which involves working across anything and everything required to build and manage reputation. We believe that in this complex world, PR agencies need the ability to deliver across geographical borders and across multiple communications channels.

Are we cheating then by saying we are a public relations agency? We don’t think so. Because we believe there is something integral and special in the words ‘public relations’ in the conveyance of relationships, in the recognising of a company’s public profile. We don’t want to just be a communications agency. Or solely digital. We want to be more, much more and for us public relations covers it. We call this PRWithoutBorders™

PR Without Borders

L’ancien fondateur et PDG de Hotwire, Brendon Craigie, lance l’agence européenne Tyto

Située à la confluence de la technologie, de la science et de l’innovation, Tyto souhaite aider les entreprises à relever les défis qu’elles rencontrent, grâce au pouvoir de la communication.

Paris, 4 octobre 2017 – Tyto, une nouvelle agence de relations publiques située à la confluence de la technologie, de la science et de l’innovation, démarre ses activités aujourd’hui. L’agence vise à aider les entreprises à relever les défis qu’elles rencontrent, grâce au pouvoir de la communication. Elle est fondée sur un nouveau modèle appelé PRWithoutBorders™. Le modèle PRWithoutBorders de Tyto offre aux clients plus de créativité, plus d’efficacité et de meilleurs résultats, par-delà les frontières.

Tyto fait ses premiers pas avec une équipe de neuf personnes réparties entre le Royaume-Uni, la France, l’Allemagne et l’Espagne. Tyto a été cofondée par Brendon Craigie, ex-PDG mondial et fondateur de Hotwire, et Ellen Raphael, ancienne directrice de l’association d’enseignement scientifique Sense About Science. L’équipe comprend six anciens employés de l’agence Hotwire et un ancien directeur adjoint de Freuds. Tyto est une société privée, financée par des fonds privés. Tous les employés posséderont des parts de l’entreprise.

Le nouveau modèle d’exploitation d’agence de Tyto, PRWithoutBorders, comprend une équipe pluridisciplinaire et multinationale qui fonctionne d’une seule voix par-delà les frontières, avec un accent mis sur
• La résolution des défis commerciaux ;
• Un modèle de tarification qui repose sur les résultats et non sur le temps passé ;
• Un contenu et des unités d’informations dédiés ;
• Un processus de sprint créatif inspiré des dernières tendances de la Silicon Valley ;
• Des technologiques avancés ainsi que des outils de recherche propriétaires ;
• Et, un éclairage sur les médias les plus influents.

Brendon Craigie, cofondateur et directeur associé, déclare : « Le modèle d’agence internationale traditionnelle est inefficace. Figé d’un point de vue créatif, il est l’antithèse de ce pour quoi il a été créé. La nouvelle génération d’entreprises mondiales, plus petites et plus agiles, nécessite un nouveau type de partenaire pour les aider à relever leurs défis commerciaux. Notre modèle repose sur nos échanges avec plus d’une centaine de PDG, directeurs marketing et responsables communication. Il supprime tout ce qui est inefficace dans l’ancien modèle et met l’accent sur ce qui améliore la qualité et génère des résultats plus créatifs. »

Brendon Craigie poursuivit : « Les progrès technologiques permettent aujourd’hui de construire une équipe internationale qui travaille véritablement à l’unisson, plutôt que de manière compartimentée. Ce changement de paradigme dans le processus créatif rompt avec la pensée étriquée issue d’un hub d’agences internationales qui appliquent localement une stratégie élaborée par une agence centrale. Ainsi, nous pouvons réaliser des tâches de manière plus rapide et efficace, car notre hiérarchie et notre structure d’agence sont beaucoup moins complexes. »

Gladys Diandoki, consultante senior ajoute : « Le modèle globalisé qui veut que tous les contenus viennent d’un hub centralisé est mort. Il fallait inventer un modèle qui prenne en compte les spécificités locales, culturelles et évidemment la réalité des médias locaux. Il était temps de créer un nouveau modèle, en phase avec les attentes des clients. »

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À propos de Tyto
Tyto est une nouvelle agence de relations publiques européenne située à la confluence de la technologie, de la science et de l’innovation. La mission de Tyto est d’aider les entreprises à relever leurs défis commerciaux grâce au pouvoir de la communication. Les équipes de Tyto au Royaume-Uni, en France, en Allemagne et en Espagne collaborent d’une seule voix. Nous avons développé un système d’exploitation exclusif appelé PRWithoutBorders™, conçu pour offrir aux clients plus de créativité, plus d’efficacité et de meilleurs résultats.

Delivering PRWithoutBorders™

A conversation with Brendon Craigie and Ellen Raphael, founders of Tyto.

What is Tyto?

Ellen: Tyto is a new European PR agency, focused on the colliding worlds of technology, science and innovation. We are different in that we operate across both geographical borders, but also services borders, within the discipline of PR itself.

Brendon: There’s a lack of innovation in the PR agency model. We thought there was a real opportunity for us to create something better. We wanted to build a business that had less hierarchy, fewer layers, and a team of people entirely focused on clients and what they needed.

Simply put, we are one team, working across different countries and across different disciplines, cutting out those silos and divisions. We’ve increased creativity and productivity, and cost efficiency for clients. We call our new operating model PRWithoutBorders™

Where does the name come from?

Brendon: Tyto is a genus of birds consisting of several owls including barn owls. We wanted our name to mean something. What we draw from the name Tyto is that we want to help our clients take a strategic birds-eye view of challenges. We want to provide them with incredible vision to spot insights and opportunities, as well as potential issues. Like an owl, we aren’t just looking ahead but can turn our attention to everything going on around us. Owls are also fast, agile, and pretty high up the food chain, which is where we expect our clients to be.

How did Tyto come about?

Ellen: Tyto is the result of many years of conversations between the two of us, talking about the communications industry, our experience, what worked and what didn’t work. Agencies usually have lots of divisions. You’d be on a call and say, “Ok, now we’re going to phone in the French team”, or some other team. It was always a bit clunky. Even on really well run international accounts, it just felt there were a lot of barriers, both internally and for clients trying to activate across more than one market.

Brendon: We decided to bite the bullet and set up our own agency – the best possible agency we could imagine, and then try and find like-minded people, employees and clients, who wanted to share that vision and work with us to push it beyond our imaginations.

What kind of clients does Tyto work with?

Brendon: I’ve always been a strong believer in progress, and in the idea that innovation, new technology and scientific understanding can make the world a better place. It’s really businesses driving innovation today. Those are the types of businesses that we want to work with, helping them to build internationally.

Ellen: We want to be a partner more than an agency. Sitting at the table with our clients, working through those business challenges with them, and finding great communications solutions to their problems.

Where is Tyto operational?

Brendon: We are fully operational in the UK, France, Germany and Spain, with close working links with the US. I’m very excited about Europe. Yes, it’s gone through some difficult years recently, but Europe is still one of the most dynamic and innovative parts of the global economy. And a lot of the new global generation of businesses are coming from the US or Asia, wanting to expand into Europe and needing PR support, but they’re limited by the traditional agency model as to how they do this.

At the moment, they have two choices – hire a global agency with offices in different markets, which is really expensive and subject to these restrictive siloed operating models, or identify different agencies in each market, which is time consuming and prone to the same issues! With Tyto, we are completely redefining that approach.

What kind of people work for Tyto?

Ellen: Everyone is smart, experienced and senior, but the characteristic we share is that we’re all really entrepreneurial, and all committed to making a better future for the industry.

Brendon: A lot of us have been on similar journeys – we’ve experienced the old agency world, and many of the team have worked client side as well. We all believe we can do something better. It’s been a self-selecting process – the people attracted to our proposition are a certain type of person – they are naturally curious, collaborative and they share our vision.

How does a ‘cross-border’ team work in practice?

Brendon: Having spent a lot of time in the US, I saw how much more common it is there to have a de-centralised team than in Europe. The surprise for me in setting up this business was going out there and speaking to people, testing this approach both with clients and potential employees. It almost felt like we were pushing on an open door. The response was so positive to what we were trying to do.

Ellen: There are so many amazing technologies that help people stay connected. It really doesn’t feel that much different for me from when I worked in an office. You still have to email, call, message – what does it matter if the person you need to speak to is on the next floor, or another country?

Brendon: What’s really exciting when you’re setting up a new business is that you can put in place far more innovative ways of working that are harder to implement in an established business. For example, we don’t use email at all – we do all of our internal communications through Slack. We use Zoom for video calls. We’ve set ourselves up with very cool, smart technology.

Why does Tyto say it’s Proud to be PR?

Ellen: When we were talking about setting up Tyto, we felt really strongly that the industry needed to take back its ownership of PR. At the time, advertising agencies and management consultancies were moving into PR, but the PR agencies were running scared! Everyone was dropping ‘PR’ or ‘Communications’ from their names and we strongly believe that this devalues what we do.

There’s so much noise out there, and so much unfiltered content – there’s never been a greater need for experts to help companies navigate this landscape.

Brendon: The PR industry historically has a problem demonstrating value. And yes, it is important, but there’s something more fundamental than the usual discussion about measurement going on. Which is that if you think about the people in agencies that have the most experience, are the most skilled, often they do the least client work. In the traditional PR agency model, the career trajectory for someone is not to become an incredible practitioner, but to become a manager, and then a boss. In other professions there isn’t this same obsession with becoming “a suit”.

One of the differences about our model is that it allows us to hire people who love what they do, love working in communications, and want to continue to develop and evolve their skills as practitioners. And we’re very proud of that, of our experience and of the work we do. And we’re just getting started.

Hotwire

« What’s going on at Hotwire? » and the secret to building an entrepreneurial agency culture

« What’s going on at Hotwire? » This question has been put to me after three members of the agency’s senior management have left to embark on their own entrepreneurial journey to start two new agencies Centropy and SourceCode Communications.

When people see events happen like this in quick succession, they naturally think the worst. But rather than seeing this as a sign of weakness, observers should look take a look at Hotwire and ask how one company has managed to be the entrepreneurial breeding ground for so many new ventures over the years. After all Centropy and SourceCode are just the latest in a dozen new ventures to have been launched by ex-Hotwire employees. The fact Hotwire has continued to grow, innovate, win awards and compete says a lot about what is great about the company’s entrepreneurial culture rather than suggesting anything is wrong with it.

Over my 16 years at the company I witnessed a dozen new agencies be born off the back of Hotwire careers including Battenhall, Diffusion, Babel, Dynamo, Oseon, Fabriq and CubanEight. In a lot of cases, these agencies have made real waves in the industry picking up multiple awards for their work. If someone told you this and you didn’t know who the agency was involved in spawning these other agencies, you might wonder if there was anything left of it? In reality, while my former company certainly lost talent to these new entrants it never prevented the company from growing, winning awards and continuing its own entrepreneurial journey.

The real question to ask is not what is going on at Hotwire, but what is the secret to generating an entrepreneurial culture, which gives birth to so many entrepreneurs whilst still driving your business forward? I would pinpoint four strategies for developing an entrepreneurial culture.

  1. Transparency. How are you meant to be entrepreneurial and contribute if you don’t know what the state of the business is? Confident and expansive businesses are completely transparent because they are not afraid of honesty and they welcome new ideas. You can always tell businesses that are in trouble and don’t know what they are doing because they operate under a veil of secrecy and have the hatches properly battened down. It doesn’t have to be this way. A problem shared can be a problem halved and I often felt my most entrepreneurial when you are collaborating to deal with a challenge. Why? Because I have always operated on the philosophy that if you lay out the situation with your team they are then empowered and informed to help you make a difference. Entrepreneurial businesses always aim to nurture a culture of transparency.
  2. Seek out new engines of growth. When I look back at how my former company grew it usually comes down to spotting and backing new engines of growth. Perhaps you have an employee who wants to launch a new specialism, whether it be an industry vertical or a new service? Maybe you have an employee who wants to start a new brand altogether. Over the years my former company launched new industry practices, new services offerings, new offices and new brands. I see they are still at it launching pop-up offices, launching a new practice for non-profits and launching a new brand this week. Entrepreneurial agencies cultivate an environment where employees think this is possible. The more of these ideas you back, the more that will be forthcoming.
  3. Give people roots and wings. It has been popular in start-up circles to talk about giving people permission to fail, and that you learn via failure. To cultivate an environment where failure is ok you have to make people feel safe in the first place. They have to feel that you 100% have their back. Make people feel invincible and that is when they will deliver their most entrepreneurial contributions. Make people feel paranoid and vulnerable and you will get employees who will always play it safe.
  4. Align rewards with team and individual success. I don’t believe in the Fairy God Mother. I don’t believe in the power of an individual alone to transform a business. I have always believed that the right entrepreneurial culture is one that allows individuals to flourish but in a team-based environment. Some businesses believe that you should allocate rewards very selectively to a handful of rock stars. I always believed and still do that true entrepreneurial success comes from the combination of the individual and the team in pursuit of a common goal, and therefore rewards are shared out across the agency.

The great things about all four of these entrepreneurial strategies is that they don’t really cost anything to implement. In fact, get it right and you will not only be more successful you will also have a much easier life because there will be more people thinking about how to make you even more successful.

Hotwire might have lost three members of its senior team, but you can be very confident that there are a new generation of entrepreneurs working their way through the agency and helping to propel it forward. More competition in the market is good for everyone and ensures that the bar is continually being lifted, benefiting clients and employees in equal measure. In fact I would even go as far as to say that number of start-ups in the PR industry is a key measure for how innovative it is. So congratulations to the latest entrepreneurs to spawn out of Hotwire and here’s to hoping there are many more in the future. I’ll be adding to the long line of entrepreneurs to spin-off from Hotwire very soon.

Future of PR

Why the future of PR is borderless

When British Prime Minister Theresa May said “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you’re a citizen of nowhere” the explicit message was that you are either with us or against us. You are British or homeless. What does this mean for international PR and communications agencies that have risen to support globalisation?

The rejection of the ideal of world citizenship has come at a time when politicians are trying to reconnect with large sections of the population who have unquestionably seen their standard of living drop since the global financial crisis and have lost faith in world leaders to create a better society. This rejection saw Brexit, the rise of Front National in France, and the election of Donald Trump. But as simple and populist as it is to say we can retreat into our national psyches, it lacks intellectual and business support, it jars with intrinsic human curiosity, and it goes against how we experience the world today.

Far from being the beginning of the end for the idea of the international PR agency, I believe it will be the springboard for a new type of international PR agency. Before going into what this new type PR agency could look like, let’s remind ourselves how international business and culture are today.

We now live in an era of global television production, distribution and viewing. Season 7 of Game of Thrones was simultaneously broadcast in 173 countries around the world. As media commentator Amanda Lotz, Fellow at the Peabody Media Center and Professor of Media Studies, University of Michigan notes: “It’s now possible for a series to release new episodes for viewers around the world, and the result is a global watercooler — a shared media culture that transcends national boundaries.” Today some of the biggest cultural influences on us as consumers are global.

We are travelling the world more than ever. Take my home nation of the UK for example. According to the UK’s Office for National Statistics, there were 70.8 million visits overseas by UK residents in 2016, which was 8% more than in 2015. This compares to 58 million visits abroad by residents in 2001. Consumers are seeing more of the world, experiencing more of the world and as the expression goes, travel broadens the mind. This doesn’t mean that we all think as global citizens, or we will all start eating the same cuisine, but it does mean we have a broader perspective and cultural appreciation.

This also means trends travel more quickly between countries and regions. Anyone with children will be familiar with the fidget spinner trend. The fidget spinner phenomenon has spawned over 11.5m videos on YouTube and 26.7m searches on Google. If you’re not familiar with them, the idea behind the fidget spinner is simple: a metal or plastic design rotates around a bearing in the middle to achieve a satisfying spin that can go on for minutes on end. According to NPD, a data company that tracks the toy market, the spinner took just three weeks to cross the Atlantic and go global. For toy manufacturers, this is a major issue because they normally plan their supply chain 18 months in advance. As the Economist notes “Developing and manufacturing a toy can take even longer than inventory planning—up to three years. But now there is pressure to spot new fads and bring products to market far more quickly.” The speed at which a new product can launch and become an international phenomenon is incredible and we need to be sure that as communicators we are agile and connected enough to stay ahead of the curve.

We live in a global news era. Just think about the stories that have dominated our headlines over the past year. From Secretary Clinton’s emails, the war in Syria, the Migrant Crisis, Brexit, Presidential elections in the US, France and the Netherlands, terrorism events, North Korean’s nuclear missile test, Hurricane Irma or Uber’s ethical travails. They might not have happened in our backyard, but they have dominated our headlines around the world, and they have informed discussions around the world too. Whether this is because news travels more freely, events have bigger consequences, or we are just more interested in global events, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is we live and operate in a more globally current world, and as communicators, it is beholden on us to think both locally and globally.

We live in an era when businesses can and are increasingly international in their growth strategies and operating models. Notwithstanding current controversies, consider the fact that Uber was founded in March 2009 and in less than a decade it now operates in 633 cities worldwide and generated $8.7bn in bookings in the last quarter. Or look at Automattic, the company behind the WordPress platform which powers 27% of all the websites in the world. Automattic was founded in August 2005 but now has a distributed workforce of 605 employees spread over 58 countries speaking 80 different languages. Stephen Kelly, CEO, Sage, noted in an interview with PWC “What is very different now from 30 years ago is businesses can go global much quicker. The global digital village allows companies to go global, scale up and do what wasn’t possible 30 years ago.” Today businesses can and do have desires to conquer the world or at least large sections of it and we, as communicators, need to be there to support them. We need to be able to do this in an agile and efficient way that doesn’t load up fledgling businesses with multinational fee structures.

As you can see the world is not retreating into its national psyches and the speed at which we are coming together culturally and commercially shows no sign of slowing down. So what does this mean for the international agency model?

The first thing I would say about the international PR agency model as we know it, is that it is scarcely international. Most global PR agencies have an HQ or centre of gravity which leads a collection of satellite offices. It’s common in large PR agencies for those working in satellite offices to talk of initiatives coming from London or New York, or wherever the power lies. These PR agencies look international on a map but they operate as a collection of different entities under one brand, usually with separate P&Ls and local management.

The way these PR agencies are set up then flows into how they operate. International client campaigns are usually run and coordinated out of one of the places which holds the power. Ideas for client campaigns are developed in these hubs and shared with other countries for localisation. Step inside one of these international hubs and you won’t find much by way of national diversity, let alone international diversity. How can we possibly expect agencies to try and tackle global challenges or take advantage of opportunities from such a narrow viewpoint?

The way these PR agencies are set up and run is in direct contrast with the way that modern global businesses are being built. Consider again Automattic, the business behind WordPress. Their employees work together from the location of their choice (office or home) and collaborate on how to make WordPress even better for the world. They deliver products to a global audience, developed from a global mindset, uninhibited by country silos.

This type of multinational borderless enterprise, powered by the latest technology, is what the future looks like. The communications industry must move with the times if it wants to keep up. The way we think about client and communication challenges needs to be based on a much more collaborative and integrated international model that brings a diversity of perspectives to bear as a matter of course. It shouldn’t require a super human effort; it should just be. The integrated international perspective will improve the quality of our ideas, and it will also mean that we are much more agile and efficient at executing client campaigns.

None of this should detract from the need for local knowledge and relationships; it’s just that in today’s world where so much of what we think and do has a global dimension, we need to combine our local and worldwide capabilities into one much tighter unit. This closer international team will be much better placed to think and act locally and globally, taking the rich differences in perspectives to develop even more compelling and innovative ideas and approaches to client challenges.

What might this tighter unit look like?

  • It will have less hierarchy and fewer layers. If you are building a deliberately international business do you really need specific country management? I’d argue not. Traditionally PR agencies have built a team of teams where the client gets a team for each country they are engaging with, led by a lead team who coordinates these teams. In the future, PR agencies will build one team for the client made up of the different disciplines and nationalities they require. This team will work as one unit.
  • Services specialisms will be horizontal across the entire business. If you have a content capability or an insights capability, then that should work as one horizontal unit across your target countries, not as a series of local in-country silos.
  • Client programmes will have clear central management. Too often client campaigns have duplicated local and global management which makes them much less efficient and less integrated.
  • They will be smaller and privately owned. Having run a decent sized global business, I know first-hand that when you reach a certain size and operate under a public ownership structure, you lose your manoeuvrability. The new breed of international PR agency will be smaller, more agile, and less inhibited.
  • They will invest disproportionately in technology and be higher skilled. The PR industry is a slow adopter of technology. Traditionally we’d much rather have a low paid employee do research than contract an expensive software solution. In keeping with the idea of smaller international PR agencies, I expect these to have much higher individual productivity based on greater skills and experience, and increased use of technology.

This model of working isn’t going to be right for every type of client. If you can afford to throw the kitchen sink at your client programme and operate the PR agency equivalent of a gas guzzler, then fine. But for today’s modern fast growing international enterprises, of which hundreds are launching every day, a much more agile and nimble model is required. This is what I will be working towards on my next PR venture. We call our new operating model PRWithoutBorders™.