S01E06 – Glenn Manoff

Glenn Manoff has made of a career working to build purposeful brands and believes shared value is intrinsic to creating strong brands that stand apart from the competition. He joins hosts Brendon and Zoe to chat about his role as Senior VP Comms at Trustpilot and why he’s passionate about rebuilding trust in the internet and why openness and transparency matters more than ever.

Glenn, who worked as an aid worker in Paraguay before transitioning into communications via a career in journalism, reveals why we’re hitting a seminal moment when it comes to the importance of establishing core business values that can act as a driver of positive change in society, not only for now but future generations to come.

We collectively ask ‘Is “good” business, good business?’ and the answer may surprise even the most cynical of you out there.


Zoe Clark: Hello. I’m Zoe Clark and thank you for listening to Without Borders. Today, Brendon and I are speaking to Glenn Manoff. Glenn’s the Senior VP Comms Trustpilot, but he’s done all sorts of interesting things in his life.

Brendon Craigie: Hi, and I’m Brendon Craigie. Yes, on this episode chatting to Glenn, we’re going to hear about a rather significant project Glenn’s working on with Trustpilot to rebuild trust in the internet. We’re going to hear about his charity project, Five Rights, which is a digital bill of rights for young people. And finally, we’re going to talk quite a lot about Glenn’s passion for working with businesses to create shared valued between what businesses are looking to do and the impact they have on society.

Brendon Craigie: I’ve got my oldest boy, he’s 11, and he’s really wired, super ambitious, always wants to win, always wants to be doing new things. But he has a habit of breaking anything [crosstalk 00:01:06]. You give him anything, a phone, a laptop, an iPad, he breaks it all. And so he’s just broken, at school, he has to have an iPad and he’s just broken his iPad the second time.

Glenn Manoff: He didn’t learn that from you, right?

Brendon Craigie: No, I am so … I grew up in a big family with five sisters. And for a period of that, my mom was a single mom. So it was scarce. I grew up really looking after my stuff. And when I was older, I had the ability to buy stuff, but then to really look after it. And yeah, just completely opposite.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: Just careless. It’s so funny. You’ve broken it again?

Zoe Clark: How do you do this?

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Anyway. Right. I think we’re going to ask [crosstalk 00:02:00] Glenn a few questions and get going. So thank you for joining us, thanks so much for being part of our podcast series.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, thanks for having me.

Zoe Clark: Let’s start with trust, ’cause I think it seems like it’s a pivotal point in things about you Glenn. So is it fair to say that maybe your current focus is a little bit around rebuilding trust? And how is that all going? How is life with you at Trustpilot?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, well that’s a big question.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: I’m pretty ambitious, but I haven’t quite taken rebuilding trust onto my own broad shoulders alone. But I think there’s a lot of people thinking about this, and they’re thinking about it in lots of ways. There’s some that have been thinking about it for a long time. And I have for some years now. Trust in the internet in particular, and what the internet means and particularly what it means for young people.

Glenn Manoff: But I think something’s happened. I guess gradually, and then it snuck up on us and hit us in a big wave quite recently. So I think in the states, the election of Trump, the use of social media, the way people are being divided, and then I think particularly Cambridge Analytica hit, and all of a sudden the algorithms that control us and the way that we’re served information and the way that we’ve become the product that the social networks are selling rather than getting some sort of free service. That that’s going from something that a lot of people understand to almost everyone now understands.

Glenn Manoff: And so that’s really, I think focused a lot of attention on how do we create trust in society at a time when we are all uber connected? And that’s kind of what drew me to my current job at Trustpilot, where we’re focusing on some of that stuff.

Zoe Clark: Yeah, interesting. I think, as you say, there’s been a certain number of things recently that have sped that process along with rebuilding trust. But it’s probably been going on even longer if you think about the financial services, the crash how ever many years ago, it’s something that a number of organizations are grappling with, right? Rebuilding trust. I’m just wondering what your take is on, everybody seems to want to get in on this trust piece and rebuilding. How can organizations grapple with that? It’s a big thing, right?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah. Where do you start? That’s such a huge question.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: Everything starts with values, what’s really important, what underlines who you are, what you do, how you behave. And then I think knowledge and information, I’m not talking about the way we use PR and channels to communicate with companies, but I just mean understanding that the way that we consume information in today’s world, which is there’s this unbelievable avalanche. You open your mouth and someone put a hose in it and turns it on high, and that’s the amount of information you consume.

Glenn Manoff: And it’s hard to really work out, even if you understand that you’re being manipulated, that there’s a bias towards the information that you’ve already consumed, that people are trying to use [inaudible 00:05:01] what they think you want to buy. All these things, it becomes very hard to navigate. And I think where people were before, giving trust over less to institutions and more to these platforms, they’re not challenging the platforms. And I think it’s a seminal moment.

Glenn Manoff: Trustpilot is really about building trust between consumers and businesses. I think there’s a bigger opportunity there, just between people and institutions generally. And again, we’re only scratching the surface. We’re a reviews company, we’re like Yelp, like TripAdvisor, consumers review companies, companies publish consumer reviews. They listen to feedback, they get better, people see that, they get more trust.

Glenn Manoff: But of course, there’s a million ways to manipulate it. And it comes to one of the values, I talked about values, being open. I think the internet being an open and transparent space, information being open and transparent, is one of the things that is so crucial to the way that that I and we and the reason [crosstalk 00:05:59] Trustpilot think about the world. And that brings a lot of challenges. Because if you’re open, then you can be open to abuse and manipulation and in that cat and mouse game of trying to protect the integrity of what you’re doing, but also protect the value of openness and transparency.

Glenn Manoff: And that’s attention that I don’t have the answer to. It’s one of the issues that defines our times.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah. One of the things we were discussing on a different episode was just around, one of our guests was talking about how in the early ages, the initial expansion of Silicon Valley and gates and jobs, that all took place off the back of the Vietnam War. There was sort of, that generation of leaders came from a very political background. And we were then discussing about how maybe the current crop of leaders in the tech sector have emerged from this time of relative peace, and so maybe don’t have that sort of political background.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: And then I guess that then flows onto some of these discussions around doing the right thing and having a clear sense of purpose. I guess that needs to come from the top. And the question I was really interested to get your perspective on, is do the current crop of tech leaders, do they have that sense of direction and compass in terms of where they’re heading? Or are they just going through the motions of trying to do the right thing, ’cause they know it’s the right thing? Or do they actually … at the heart of this discussion around purpose and authenticity, is not doing something because you’re going to get telled off and you’re going to get a slap on the wrist, but actually doing it because you believe in it.

Brendon Craigie: And I guess you’ve worked with a number of different executives and different tech companies. Did you generally get the sense that most leaders actually are wired to do the right thing and have a clear sense of where they’re heading? Or do they tend to just do the right thing because it’s almost expected of them?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, again it’s a big question. I can’t speak for all leaders, just because I’ve only met the ones that I’ve met. I’ve been really fortunate, I think, in my career to have worked with some leaders that are really driven by a clear sense of core values. And being open to build that together with others around them. And I’ve always been driven that way and I’ve always believed that one of the biggest drivers of change in society is business, ’cause that’s where the wealth is created.

Glenn Manoff: In terms of these other tech leaders, there’s different views about the Zuckerbergs and the guys who founded Instagram and Twitter and all these platforms. I think my general take is that they probably never understood the enormous power of what they’ve created. And if you try and put yourself and Mark Zuckerberg’s shoes, he’s a relatively young person, and he’s got a platform that is one of the most powerful media platforms ever created in the history of the world. And he’s a 30 something year old guy who’s only ever worked there. And so he’s dealing with some pretty big stuff.

Glenn Manoff: I’m not a massive fan, I think their values let them down at Facebook in particular, where they were far too open to the ways in which they could monetize that platform, by really opening up the data of their users to others without enough scrutiny. And I think he said that publicly, when he went to Congress. And he’s going through his own existential crisis, but I don’t know if it’s because he or others are a bad person. I think they all, and myself and maybe you guys included, have a kind of belief in technology and information technology and the power of the web to really make things better. And I think they were driven by that belief.

Glenn Manoff: We can all get caught up in our love of money and power, and we like to always grow things that we start.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: But I think no one would have predicted, when Zuck was sitting in his dorm room at Harvard, that relatively shortly, a few years later, that the platform would be that powerful, would be the center of whether or not the electoral process has been corrupted.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: In the US.

Brendon Craigie: It’s incredible.

Glenn Manoff: And on and on it goes.

Brendon Craigie: I think, like you’ve seen, you’ve been in and around the technology sector for a number of years. And it seems to me that winding back 15 years or so, if you worked in tech, you couldn’t do any harm. Everyone gave you the benefit of the doubt, you’re changing the world, you’re making it a better place.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: And probably, unless you were Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, probably no one knew who you were. Whereas today, it seems like the tech leaders are probably under more scrutiny than any of the business leaders ever before. And they’re no longer in the shadows, they’re very much front and center. And as you say, pretty much any sort of social ills today, in some way or other, they become implicated. I think it’s a really interesting time culturally.

Brendon Craigie: We talk about, we’ve got this idea of the tech wars, that there are these sort of tech wars going on where, the technology companies are at the center. A lot of these things, not necessarily the cause of them but they’re just finding themselves very much at the center, a lot of these challenges in society today.

Glenn Manoff: It depends on what kind of tech you’re talking about.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: I certainly think the big six, the big platforms are at the center of something that is fundamentally transforming the world as we know it.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: Apple as well.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: And the big six. But smartphones have been transformational, and before we went on air, we were talking about our kids. This is a number one or number two issue for every single parent I know. Yes, it’s good for our kids, they all have the devices. We’re stressed out about what it really means for our kids. I think as you know, I’ve campaigned on this issue. We set up a charity and a movement to be much more aware, much more switched on and active in understanding what using not only these devices but these networks, these apps, these services, what they mean for our kids, because they weren’t designed for kids. They were designed for us, and we struggle with it.

Glenn Manoff: I get angry at my kids sometimes when they can’t disconnect, but I can’t disconnect sometimes.

Brendon Craigie: No.

Glenn Manoff: And it’s very useful in my life, and I couldn’t work without it, and the speed at which I can work, and the flexibility is enormous.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: We were talking about working in a way where all your colleagues are spread out and you don’t need an office anymore. But the flip side of that is we’re unleashing on our own children, forces that we don’t yet understand, because they’re so new.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: When I started my career, there wasn’t even internet, and I’m not that old.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: So we’re just getting our head around this stuff. And as I said before, this was not created with children in mind.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: Most of these platforms don’t allow children under the age of 13, but they do, we all know that they’re on it. And this is a big topic for our times, and we’re only, I think starting to understand. And tech leaders don’t have all the answers either, they’re just people like us, some of whom got lucky.

Zoe Clark: Yeah. So tell us a little bit more about your charity. Tell us what are you aiming to do, and how are you doing it?

Glenn Manoff: Well, it was called I-Rights, it’s now called Five Rights. It’s not really my charity, it’s something I was involved in. And I think it’s morphed into other things now. But the original idea, it was founded by a woman called Bebin Kitren, now Baroness Kitren, she’s a Baroness in the House of Lords. She’s a filmmaker, has been for many years. An activist for children. And she made a film called In Real Life, which told the stories of a handful of young people who’s lives has been really turned upside down in various ways by their relationship with the internet and technology, whether it was through porn or re-evaluating their self worth or forming relationships. A number of stories.

Glenn Manoff: And from that came, I think in her, an anger that this powerful force, that it’s affecting all of our children, wasn’t really being fully understood or fully regulated. I had come from a different angle. I had been working with young people for a long time at O2, we founded a program called Think Big, which touched 100000 young people in Europe, helping them with ideas, young entrepreneurs, usually social entrepreneurs. Ideas, how to make them scale using technology, teaching them digital skills. But also felt a sense of obligation around young people, also as a parent, that we needed to do more to help them through the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood in a world where technology was so prevalent, and so much is at your fingertips.

Glenn Manoff: And I met Bebin, and she told me about what she was doing, creating this bill of rights for young people. It was the 25th anniversary of the web, and it was the 25th anniversary of the UN convention on the rights of the child. And we’re using the confluence of those two events to build a campaign to demand that the UN convention on the rights of the child, which is the world’s most widely adopted treaty, be translated into a simple set of rights for the digital world, because it had not envisioned the digital world in which people live when it was written 25 years ago. And that was simplified down to five rights, and those rights were written in a way that all young people could understand as well. And the idea was to empower them to demand that their rights be respected.

Brendon Craigie: So I guess we’re talking about some of these big themes, like trust, and having a purpose and making a difference in the world. It sounds like through your career, you’ve always managed to have that impact within the organizations you’ve worked at, in terms of trying to make that difference and having a strong shared value, social purpose. From all of those, from that experience, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned about, how do you, if you’re within in a business, how do you actually get some of that moving? How do you get the organization thinking in that way?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, there’s been a real, I think rapid shift in this issue. So if you’re working in business, let’s say in the 90s. Even the phrase “corporate social responsibility” or sustainability didn’t exist. It didn’t mean that companies didn’t do good things, corporate philanthropy has been around for a long time. Corporate responsibility has been around for a long time, but without these sort of buzz words attached to them.

Glenn Manoff: I think they rose up in the 90s, early 2000s, and infrastructure around that. A set of rules, a belief that every company ought to do it. And I never liked the box-ticking side of that, let’s settle the targets, write the reports. Not that it’s bad, but sometimes the means overtake the ends. And often times, good things are still happening, but something was missed. And I think when I discovered Michael Porter at Harvard, it was just a lighting rod for talking about this concept of shared value, and the concept, there’s a lot written about it but basically he was the top academic and writer about business strategy.

Glenn Manoff: And he had written that strategy was morphing into something new where actually a win win, investing in things that are good for society and good for your business is actually a way of accelerating your business. And that’s kind of a breakthrough way of thinking about things, because it gets away from this being a cost and being something you do ’cause it’s right, and let’s all vote for what charity we’re going to support and do a few 10K runs, which by the way, is great. But it goes to something bigger than that. And how do you actually accelerate your path to winning and growing faster by investing in things that are this win win?

Glenn Manoff: Some of that is because a generation of young people has arisen that really cares about making the world better, because they’re more comfortable and they’re not as worried at scratching at a living, maybe the way their parents were. But for lots of reasons, and that really struck me, because I’ve always been focused on social change. Whether it’s who I am or what I learned, I’m not sure.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, no I think that’s exciting. And as you said earlier, businesses drive so much of the economy, so if that can be oriented in a way that makes a positive contribution in the process of, will naturally pretty much always make a positive contribution. But if it can make more a positive contribution to things, then it’s even better.

Zoe Clark: What can individuals do, if you’re sitting there at your desk or wherever you might be working, and you’re not feeling quite as purposeful as you maybe are right now, I wonder what advice can we think of for individual people who really do what to do more but just don’t feel quite as natural to it as you do?

Glenn Manoff: I guess start small.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: If you’re working at a company that has a program, and most will have something, get involved. I think most companies today, and I’m sure there are many that would prove me wrong, but most would have a culture where there’s a way to share your ideas, and share them on high relatively quickly, up to the CEO, send that email. It can be something very small, or it could be really big change.

Zoe Clark: Mm-hmm (affirmative), ideas.

Glenn Manoff: But I think there’s always, it used to be, we have a corporate idea scheme and send it to this mailbox, and once a month a committee will meet and they’ll review them, and I think it’s much more fluid than that. And if you’re really in a place where you don’t think that’s easy to do, and not every business has the same values, then think about whether you’re working in the right place. Go work somewhere else that [crosstalk 00:20:56] has your values.

Zoe Clark: Absolutely, yeah, definitely.

Brendon Craigie: Thinking about, I guess bridging some of the discussions we’ve had around trust, and then maybe just turning to the world of communications in terms of the practice of communications, how do you think, how have you seen communications change over the years, and how does this, in terms of this discussion around trust, is there an onus on communications professionals to act and behave differently than maybe … is there a recognition of the need to act and behave differently than maybe in the past?

Glenn Manoff: I don’t know if there’s recognition to act differently. I think there’s always been a caricature of PR as spin meisters and people out to manipulate a story, and I guess to some extent that doesn’t make you a bad person, but there’s probably some element to that. The old world was much more broadcast. You come up with a message and then you try to sell that message, and you put the press release out and set up the interviews.

Glenn Manoff: And obviously, it’s a totally distributed, networked world now, and it doesn’t work that way. And the news outlets aren’t always the most important player. There’s influencers of all shapes and sizes. I think there’s probably two sides to it. One is the media landscape is completely transformed, as we know. An individual can start out and end up like KSI or whatever, and have millions of followers and have real power, real marketing powerful, real voice.

Glenn Manoff: At the same time, to finish that, that means that the way Comms used to be done is just not the same anymore. The tactics are different. You need to live in a world where you have much more opportunity, because anybody can kick off a campaign, anybody can share things, there’s endless channels. Everybody can self publish, and you can reach out over these networks to lots of people, in a way that the old systems were clunky. The death of the press release as the main means or the lunch, taking a journalist to lunch, that’s the old world.

Glenn Manoff: I think that the second piece though, is communications strategy and values-driven communications strategy. Whether it’s helping a company build its brand or try to formulate a way of tackling a particular marketplace or an issue, of it’s a crisis or a problem, that’s more important than ever. And those skills haven’t changed and those needs haven’t changed. They just require even smarter, I think more nuanced minds. You don’t have to be a millennial, you don’t have to be a digital native.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: But you have to really understand the way people form opinions through media and how media works, and how to deliver a message. And that’s a universal thing that’s more important than ever, and it’s not about the channels, it’s about the strategic thinking.

Zoe Clark: Maybe it’s also about listening a little bit more, than maybe was done years back, you know? Whereas as PR was, maybe to begin with, all about what do we want to say and we’re going to get that out there. Now things have changed and not only media tables have turned, but the power that the end user or the customer has is much more so. So maybe it’s more about listening to them and engaging and having a more honest conversation based on [crosstalk 00:24:26].

Glenn Manoff: It’s certainly about conversation, and not about broadcasting, and not about selling. That’s done and that’s done for good, I think.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, I think it’s … I think you’ve obviously worked a lot in the business on the consumer side of things, so I think there’s a much greater appreciation of the need to listen to your customers. We work with a lot of companies who are in the more business to business side of things, and it always amazes me how few of them actually speak to their customers. They obviously speak to them in the process of selling to them, but they very rarely-

Zoe Clark: Ask questions.

Brendon Craigie: -ask them, how do you think we’re going?

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: What are you thinking about, what are the future challenges you’re grappling with? Pretty much, organizations of all sizes that we work with, probably the common denominator is they’re not great at talking to their customers and listening to them. Which I think has been something that we’ve really thought about in terms of helping our clients to have those kind of conversations. Because if you don’t understand your customer and you don’t know what’s driving them, then how can you develop a comm strategy properly? So it’s something we’ve been certainly thinking about a lot.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, well that’s, it’s interesting ’cause the company I’m at now, I mentioned before, Trustpilot, this is not an advertisement for Trustpilot, but because trust is in our name, you get into these discussions about trust, and what does trust mean in the internet, and all this stuff we’ve been talking about. But actually at the core of what we do, and we are a business to business product-

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, sure, yeah.

Glenn Manoff: -the product is free for businesses and consumers but we sell some additional services to businesses. It’s a really simple thing, which is asking every customer what they think, publishing that response publicly for the world to see. Responding to them publicly for the world to see. And using that as an engine to show that you really care, not just about listening to customers but unleashing your desire to keep improving, and this idea that listening to customer feedback, and acting on it, doing less of what they hate, doing more of what they love, apologizing when you get it wrong and fixing it, is a way to keep improving, is one of the things that really excites me about what we do.

Glenn Manoff: And it’s beyond this issue of trust, but it’s just about, how do you take a simple idea, just an online review, and then create dashboards so that, for example, every time you wake up in the morning as a business leader, you can look on your phone, see your app and know exactly what your customers have been saying. Adding richer schools for sentiment analytics, how are they feeling, what has changed, are they feeling different here versus there? Is it national, is it by age, is it by gender? What’s driving that? Was there an event, how do I respond to that?

Glenn Manoff: And that’s interesting in its own. And the public side of that, doing that in the open internet, is I think crucial, because of that transparency. And it opens up all of the challenges of being open. Which is, if you have an open platform, someone will always come in and try to manipulate it and try to cheat. And as good as you are at being clever to stop that, someone will always get away with that. And how do you maintain trust in a platform like that, where you cannot guarantee that everything is 100 percent authentic, because human nature is to sometimes manipulate to get the result that you think people want. They don’t actually want that. They don’t want to know that every company is perfect. They want to know that they care about improving, and they’re listening.

Glenn Manoff: But we haven’t yet succeeded in convincing every company on Earth to behave that way. But that’s kind of our goal as well, and that has nothing to do with trust online, that’s just about building relationships between businesses and their customers, and helping them improve.

Brendon Craigie: I guess, anecdotally you sort of know that if you’re running a business that actually, by listening to your customers, that’s often the thing that drives innovation. I know that, if you have that time out where you’re having a conversation with one of your clients and it’s not necessarily specifically about something that you’re working on, but just more of a general chat, they are the things that give you the inspiration to innovate.

Brendon Craigie: So while you’re called Trustpilot, you can imagine that there must be some sort of overall equation around the contribution you make to innovation, just by virtue of all of that information and insights and feedback that you’re providing to your business customers.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, absolutely. And what we’re trying to do more of, as we speak there’s a board meeting going on in New York. We’ve got some new people leading our product and tech divisions who have a much bigger vision about how do you take, let’s say you’re a large company of thousands and thousands of reviews. We have companies that have half a million reviews. How do you mine that, not in a way where you’re taking customers data and selling it to anyone else, but mine it for their own benefit, to look at trends, to look at insights, to look at patterns so that you’re not just plowing through every review to find those good ideas that help innovate, but systematizing that in a way that makes it much more powerful.

Zoe Clark: Yeah. Tell us a little bit about some of the key pillars that have formed part of your career over time. I know you’ve held some really interesting roles with people like Camelot and all sorts of companies. Looking back on your career, are there particular defining moments or milestones that you think have really spurred you on?

Glenn Manoff: Wow. Where to start? I didn’t start my career in Comms, I started my career as an aid worker. And I think for me, that was part of what I was looking for in my life, and I’m not entirely sure where this came from. But I just really wanted to make a difference. I think that’s something that’s actually common to most millennials today, and was probably common to a lot of people, but not as dominant then. I kind of had this sense that the developing world needed me to go and help.

Glenn Manoff: And some of that I learned at university. I did a course on development economics and found that some of these left-wing theories about the Western world exploiting the developing world really appealed to me. And when I went, I moved to Paraguay and worked there in aid work, and realized like a lot of young people do in your early 20s, that the world is maybe a little more complicated than that, and more nuanced.

Glenn Manoff: There’s one story I always remember, which was, we were doing aid work. I was there to help write applications for funding. I spoke Spanish and English, I built some connections with the development community, the funders in the US. And we had a grant to do some giving to local families who were in hard times. This is in Paraguay, in South America. And every week, we would put together a package for them that included rice and some food and milk, but it always had a broom. And I said, why does it need to have a broom every week? These people are collecting brooms and going into the broom business. And the answer was, because that’s what we were told goes into the pack that we deliver. And they weren’t able to reverse that decision, either because of the bureaucracy involved, or because they didn’t feel empowered to make the decision.

Glenn Manoff: Meanwhile, I saw people coming from USA-ID and some of the big development agencies, staying in expensive hotels and having meetings with the great and the good, and the two not connecting. And so I became a little more cynical, and moved out of that world. I eventually went to journalism and spent years in journalism. Loved it, again that was sort of a calling, but I think at some point in journalism, I was writing about business, writing about the internet, writing about the way that telecommunications was being de-regulated, creating this unbelievable opportunity, and you start to get the itch to not write about it so much and maybe do it.

Glenn Manoff: My entry into Comms was a bit strange, because I was writing about a company called Esprit Telecom. They were some really crazy characters who were trying to bust into the Telecommunications market, which had been deregulated. Suddenly BT and all the others in Europe are not going to be a monopoly, and there’s open for competition. And these guys at Esprit were building their own network to compete business to business. But they decided the way to get noticed was to be the most obnoxious company that they could possibly be.

Zoe Clark: Interesting PR strategy, yeah?

Glenn Manoff: And go out and use communications and PR to just call out these dinosaurs of the old world and pick fights and call names and be really out there, because there was no money for marketing PR. And they started to build a brand. I was writing a lot about these people and they asked me to join and be the Comms director. And I said, no thank you, my advice to you is find a Comms director who knows how to do that.

Glenn Manoff: And then they called me a few months later, and they said, we spoke with a lot of people, we really think you’re the kind of guy that understands what we do. We have a good connection to you, I had spoken to these guys a lot of times, Michael Potter was the founder. He and I are still friends, we’re speaking next week. And that for me was my first move from journalism straight into running the whole show, for a publicly traded company. So being the investor relations director, Comms director, marketing director, public policy director-

Brendon Craigie: Probably very exciting but scary as well.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, it was unhealthy because I didn’t eat and sleep very well and was quite stressed and pressured for a few years.

Zoe Clark: Welcome to PR.

Glenn Manoff: I loved it, but yeah baptism by fire.

Zoe Clark: Yeah, gosh.

Glenn Manoff: And that’s where I started.

Zoe Clark: Maybe we can come back to the middle ground in a minute, but then I’m just thinking, am I right that actually at the same time as you joined Trustpilot, you actually had quite an interesting decision to make, because you were also offered a role in quite a different sector, weren’t you? You were offered a role related to leading a charity and you had to decide between the two?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah, I don’t remember telling you that. That is true. As we talked about the work I’ve done, I-Rights, I’ve co-founded another charity about young people and drugs. That’s always been, for me, a long way back, working with young people. As a teacher, after I was an aid worker, before I was journalist. And that’s always been important to me. And yes, an opportunity came along at the same time as another opportunity came along.

Glenn Manoff: One was sort of in my sweet spot, which is helping build a brand and grow Trustpilot as a business. It was exciting ’cause it was a startup digital company, much more entrepreneurial, and then running a big, established children’s charity. Now I won’t say which it is, but it’s a name everybody knows.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: Something completely different. Something really important. And lots of factors go into it. It’s what’s best for your family.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: As it would be, the charity pays a lot less money. And then you have to look yourself in the mirror and go, with a family, how important is this? And is it as unimportant as I thought it was when I was talking about it conceptually?

Zoe Clark: Of course. And that’s where values come back in.

Glenn Manoff: That’s where values come back in and real life comes back in.

Zoe Clark: Sure.

Glenn Manoff: And you have to really think hard about, what is my every day going to be like? I’m going to get up in the morning, and what am I going to do? I think there was one big reason, I won’t put one reason, but the charity was not nearest to my home. I would be away a lot, and I ultimately felt that above and beyond all other things, I didn’t want to be away several nights a week at a time when my children were growing up. And also that I could come back and do that later in my life.

Zoe Clark: Exactly.

Glenn Manoff: I think I still have another 50 to 60 years to live, and so I got another few chapters to go. And so I would like to do that later, and that’s something I would encourage people in communications and brand and marketing to do, which is, don’t think if you get out of that work and do something completely different, that there’s no route back in, ’cause it’s certainly not true.

Brendon Craigie: It’s great that you’ve had all of these different, you’ve led these slightly different lives in this one life in terms of the different things you’ve done. Do you think, in terms of the different steps you’ve taken over the years, have you generally had a sense that now is the time for something different? Or has that thing just appeared, and then that’s triggered the thought of trying something different? Or have you felt like now is the time?

Glenn Manoff: I get itchy feet.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: I get bored when things are starting to even out. If you’re not on that steep learning curve or you’re not in a role where there’s a steep change program going on.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: So I spent 12 or 13 years at O2, and O2 morphed from O2 to being part of Telephonica. My role changed a few times from Comms to sustainability and social business. But I think what I found anyway, is once you start to have those thoughts, like what should I do next, you put the wheels in motion and then you can’t stop them. And my career has probably been more shorter episodes and O2 being the exception, because I think we did so many, as a company, exceptional things. Starting with a blank sheet to build a brand from scratch, and turning the business around commercially. Building that brand through communications and marketing, working on an amazing team, working with some great leaders, doing the O2, doing the social business role, doing it across Europe for Telephonica when they bought us.

Glenn Manoff: There was so much there, and then I think at a certain point, I just thought, okay, what’s next? And then there’s no turning back.

Brendon Craigie: I think boredom is a great inspiration in terms of when you have that sense of finding yourself frustrated or bored, then that’s the time to do something else.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah. I didn’t tell us this before, but it’s my birthday today.

Brendon Craigie: Oh.

Zoe Clark: Oh.

Glenn Manoff: And I’m now, as of today, exactly one year younger than both of my parents when they passed away.

Brendon Craigie: Wow.

Glenn Manoff: So they both passed away very young of different illnesses, and I guess that’s always given me a sense of, take advantage of today and live your life.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: And if you have a desire to scratch some itch, do it. And I don’t mean packing up and moving to India and trekking.

Zoe Clark: It might be.

Glenn Manoff: It might be, as well. But in your career, if you’re 80 percent fulfilled, figure out where you’re going to be 100 percent fulfilled and keep going.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: Fortunately, it didn’t happen in my case in terms of parents, but I had a couple of uncles that died, one late 30 in a freak accident, a freak wave, and then another one with a very rare blood disorder. So I think that made you appreciate how short life is.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah.

Brendon Craigie: And then on the flip side, I saw my step father retire very early, 55. And again, I sort of felt like he was never quite the same after he did that because he lost that sense of purpose. And so yeah, similarly, both of those two things have just made me really appreciate life and just want to grab it with both hands and do as much as possible. You only have one life.

Glenn Manoff: Yeah. And it doesn’t have to be work that is the thing that drives you.

Brendon Craigie: No, totally. Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: It can be family or some hobby you’re passionate about. We’re sitting here in studio, which no one can see, but it’s a music studio that we borrowed. And that’s something I’ve regretted, I would like to do more and find time to do that when I prioritize it as well.

Brendon Craigie: Yeah, having a full life I think definitely is-

Zoe Clark: Well, we are intrigued to know what we’re going to see from you next and what are the next few chapters. It’ll be interesting to see.

Glenn Manoff: Well yeah, I don’t know as I sit here.

Zoe Clark: Still working it out, absolutely.

Glenn Manoff: Well don’t be surprised if you see me in a band when I’m 70 or 80, ’cause I’m inspired looking [crosstalk 00:40:53]. I really think, I went into Trustpilot for a lot of reasons, we discussed that. In part, it’s a bit of an uncomfortable place, because it’s very digital, it’s very young. It’s looking at business in a new way. I had done a lot of work with entrepreneurs but hadn’t really been a totally entrepreneurial environment and now I am. And we’re trying to build something, and I think what we’re trying to build is so ambitious that I don’t feel like I’m going to run [crosstalk 00:41:26] out of road for some years.

Glenn Manoff: And I’m sure we’ll succeed and I’m certainly determined to help make it succeed. We’ve got a great team, but I think if you ask me in three years, I think I’ll still be there plugging away at that.

Zoe Clark: Yeah, exciting. Well thank you, and before we let you go, there’s one more question we would just like to put to you, which we’re putting to all of our guests, which is our brilliant segment named by our brilliant researcher, Desert Island Desks. You’ll never guess where we got that one. But it’s also the fact that at Tyto, we believe in working with real agility and not being constrained by boundaries of a physical office. And I think you know how we work in that way, and that hence why we’re the Without Borders podcast.

Zoe Clark: But we’re just wondering, if you could work in any location or in any process or setup, what would it be? Where’s your Desert Island Desk?

Glenn Manoff: Wow. It’s funny, I’ve been listening to Desert Island disk archives a lot lately, I’ve just discovered it on podcasts.

Zoe Clark: Who’s the lady that hosts it, she’s got a lovely voice?

Glenn Manoff: Yeah.

Zoe Clark: Maybe I should listen to a few more [crosstalk 00:42:26] before we carry on with our podcast.

Glenn Manoff: Christie …

Brendon Craigie: Young?

Glenn Manoff: Christie Young, yeah.

Zoe Clark: Yeah.

Glenn Manoff: I actually kind of like the way I’m set up now. So we are in seven cities, I think, or eight. From Melbourne to New York, Denver, London, Copenhagen. Our head office is Copenhagen. I go there one night and two days every week. Luckily I like Copenhagen. I won’t mention cities I don’t, but I love being there to a point. Being away from home is always tricky, but I’m home six nights, away that one night a week.

Glenn Manoff: I can work at home when I feel it suits me to work at home. Sometimes I like to sit in a coffee shop and work. Sometimes I like to … this morning, I went to the gym and I’ll work a bit later into the evening. I like to have that freedom to not be bound by a desk. I think your philosophy at Tyto, which is having desks doesn’t make you a company, or having an expensive, cool office space doesn’t make you a company. We can all be connected, but I do think that the face to face communications that make us human will never go away. And the reason I go to Copenhagen every week, even though I could easily get on a video call, it’s one click away, it just isn’t the same.

Glenn Manoff: And so you got to be ready to travel and move if you’re going to work in this totally dispersed way where the focal point isn’t the office. You just have to go and physically be together sometimes. And I like that. And my team know if they don’t want to come in but they want to work at home, they can. And when they need to travel, they don’t need to ask permission. They do it sensibly. And I think that’s the right way to be. Don’t think face to face is dead, but don’t think that the office is the center point of your life either.

Zoe Clark: Totally. Well thank you so much. Happy birthday.

Glenn Manoff: Thank you.

Brendon Craigie: Yes, happy birthday.

Zoe Clark: Thank you for joining us.

Glenn Manoff: That was fun, thank you.

Brendon Craigie: Thank you.

Zoe Clark: Thanks for listening to Without Borders. If you liked what you’ve heard, why not subscribe? And if you want to find out more about Tyto and what we’re up to, you can find us at tytopr.com. That’s T-Y-T-O-P-R.com.

Tyto brings you Without Borders, a regular dose of 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.