@RichLeighPR (now known as “Mr. PR”)
Length of PR career (so far): 9 years
Your most memorable campaign: One of my most memorable campaigns was a recent ‘Cooking with Semen’ campaign. It won’t be to everybody’s taste, but certainly got the press and public talking (and, more to the point linking, visiting and registering with the client!). We also recently helped the National Gallery with this campaign and, after an awful lot of effort to make it happen, it was incredibly satisfying to see it come off.
Most poignant professional moment: I’d just moved into the first ever office for my agency and, after a weekend of furniture building and cleaning, I came in on the Monday to find a sign left behind by my wife Emma that simply said ‘Welcome to Rich Leigh & Company’. It was on what looks to be a lunch menu left behind and previously used by God knows who—but it hit home that this was a huge new chapter for us.
Number of 2 a.m. calls from a client this month: I’ve had a good few post-midnight calls with clients since starting the agency, but thankfully, none for a long while. We set good communication tactics in place, from WhatsApp on the Web groups to regular client catch-ups, so anything that needs to be discussed should come out in those, but I’m conscious that crises and panics can strike at any time. My Christmas last year was more or less derailed by a client issue, as was my New Year’s Day the year before that!
Biggest complaint about social media: It’s something we’ve all been talking about recently post-Brexit and post-US election, but it’s the echo chamber-like nature of it and the issues inherent in groups of people only seeing things they agree with.
There have traditionally been two sides to every story, but in aiming to provide as sticky a user experience as possible, the big social networks obscure the side you might not like.
Most misunderstood thing about PR: I’ve literally just handed the manuscript in for a book called ‘Myths of PR’ (out next April), so as far as I’m concerned… there are an awful lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings!
If I was picking one, it’s the old adage that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’. I’ve had to handle more than my fair share of personal and corporate disasters and, if left unchecked, I have no doubt the resulting publicity would have been incredibly, and in some cases, career or business-endlingly bad.
I happened upon an entry-level job ad for a small PR agency, applied and somehow managed to get the job. If I’m honest, it was the other way around—it was when I was in place that I realised it combined everything I enjoyed and thought I was good at.
Number of meetings you were in last week: Three new business meetings, our Monday morning weekly grid meeting, and two angles meetings, so… six.
Your nightmare client in 3 words: Reality TV star. (To add context, I’ve worked with a few—and I mean people with no discernible skills other than their desperation to be famous—and each was more painful than the last to deal with).
Rate your math skills from 1-10: I’d say… a solid 7. Finance certainly isn’t my favourite thing to deal with, but I wasn’t terrible at maths at school, just scraping an A, and remember enough to have avoided HMRC’s wrath thus far.
Best advice to a PR student: Read everything you can get your hands on—books, blogs, the news, information about the work the agencies you like have done—everything.
Come in with as many additional skills and areas of knowledge as you can. You’re looking to enter PR at a time where the more multi-skilled you are, the more chance you have to stand out. Whether that’s being a dab hand when it comes to Photoshop, video editing, coding or speaking another language, PR could do with people with more than just an interest in the news and an unproven creative mindset.
Finally, try not to take yourself too seriously—my ethos is to be professional…ish. Come into PR with humor and I really do think you’ll be happier and more successful; ours is enough of an introspective and self-conscious industry as it is.
Favorite way to de-stress: It’s a really corny one, but it’s exercising. The more busy and stressed you get, the easier it is to forget to look after your physical health. Add some decent hip hop or a good podcast into the mix and I’m happy.
The moment you realized PR is more fun than you thought it would be: The moment I realised that I could directly affect the public profile of a person or brand, which was fairly early on, I realised I’d found a career I would enjoy.
Brand that does the best PR/communications: I think LEGO has the best PR operation of any big brand I’ve seen. The business turnaround and subsequent public love-in with them has been tickled along by some truly great PR. A real case study in how to do it.
Brand most in need of better PR: Twitter is having a really hard time of it, but I truly believe that it’s not the (very smart) people with their hands on the wheel of PR to blame. It’s the culture at the top that’s pushed the whole business into a corner I’m hoping they can fight out of.
Last book you read: This Was a Man, by Jeffrey Archer
Cocktail of choice: Old Fashioned (or any other whiskey-based cocktail!)
Your first “real” job: I was desperate to work as soon as I could. I found a job as a waiter/kitchen hand in a local pub when I’d just turned 14.
Childhood “dream job”: I dreamt of being a rugby player. My life quite literally revolved around rugby until I had my daughter at 18. Up until that point, there was an outside shot, but it sadly wasn’t meant to be!
Three people you’d love to invite to dinner: Easy. Derren Brown, Ricky Gervais and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Brown’s intelligence is endlessly fascinating, as is Gervais’ creative drive (and laugh), and Arnie—well, he’s lived three lives in one.
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