New Era, New PR – a Clubhouse discussion about PR Agency Start-ups

Last week I finally joined Clubhouse and I must admit, I did enjoy it. The first discussion I went to was PRovoke Media’s New Era, New PR. For those of you who follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I have a new job working for Stephen Waddington. I know, check me out. The first project I’m working on is about the PR agency start-ups from the past year or so, meaning this Clubhouse chat was a must.

For someone fairly new to the PR & Comms world, it was a fascinating insight into the motivation behind agency start-ups, as well as why people want to work in this industry. The discussion provided such raw and honest answers which was lovely to hear in such an open space.

The event was hosted by Maja Pawinska Sims and Arun Sudhaman from PRovoke Media and featured guests such as Darryl Sparey (Hard Numbers), Graham Goodkind (Frank PR), Anna Geffert (Hera Communication Strategies), Jessica Hope (Wimbart) and many more.

I have lots of notes from this chat, however, I will touch on the key things that were mentioned throughout the hour-long discussion. There were a lot of similar opinions on agency start-ups, with motivation for start-up being the most common topic.

“Moments of disruption tend to spawn activity in start-ups” Graham Goodkind

A common theme amongst people that started agencies since the beginning of pandemic was the realisation that they weren’t happy doing what they were doing or the thought of ‘what do I want to do next?’. One common motivation was family.

Everyone had their own motivation for starting an agency but as Graham said, “Moments of disruption tend to spawn activity in start-ups,” it’s as if people needed those months in lockdown to step back and think about where they were in their lives and what they wanted to do next. Did it give people the push they needed?

For Felix Henderson and his partner Nic Young at Look After Group, their motivation was to help those affected by the pandemic, from industry professionals to charities and not-for-profit organisations. The agency started out as a voluntary initiative that worked with furloughed or redundant creative and comms people across the country.

“Diversification through specialisation”- Drew Benvie

Mentioned a few times throughout the discussion and brought up firstly by Graham is that more agencies now have a niche/specialisation. Having a niche is an advantage as you can focus and perfect your work. This has changed from previous agency start-ups that chose not to specialise.

For an agency with a niche to scale, they need to diversify themselves within the industry. If you can use your niche as an advantage for working with a variety of businesses, then you have the potential to scale. Through the research Stephen and I have done on PR agencies we’ve found focuses on ESG which although is a specialisation, has the ability to work with a variety of companies.

“Having a shop front is good”- Angie Moxham

Because of the pandemic we have all seen a huge shift online. We have adapted to doing everything from home. However, this shift online isn’t a new idea to us. People have been working remotely for years, but now we’re all doing it. As Arun said, “The pandemic accelerated a trend that was already coming.” I’m sure we’ll see many people sticking to remote working long after the pandemic is behind us.

On the other hand, when working with clients it is often a good idea to have that office where you can meet and pitch your work. Angie Moxham said, “Having a shop front is good,” indicating that an office is still beneficial. A lot of people also miss the vibe and the energy of an office. Opinions are split on this but I think we’ll definitely see more hybrid work set-ups from now on.

A lot of other topics were covered including finding talent and the Hollywood business model. Stephen tweeted a few key comments as well:

It was a great first Clubhouse event to go to and definitely useful for my research at Wadds Inc. Thank you to Maja and Arun for hosting and to all the guests for their opinions!

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