Earlier this year Shout! Digital Radio broadcast online; it was a full day of programmes and shows about all things PR. One such programme was ‘Five at Four’ where Shout! Communications co-founder Catherine Bayfield talked with some of the PR world’s biggest names, including Andrew Bloch, co-founder at Frank.
This is a transcript of some of the highlights from his interview. Listen to the interview in full, and other interviews from ‘Five at Four’ here.
Who or what inspired you to become a PR?
Indirectly it was my art teacher at school that inspired me. I never knew what I wanted to do. When I was 14 or 15 he said I’d be good at advertising. To cut a long story short, I didn’t get a job in advertising, because I got a work placement (in PR) whilst I was doing the application for an ad agency and I fell in love with it and been here ever since.
What made up your mind that it was the PR road you wanted to go down?
PR is a hard thing to explain and I still find it hard to explain 25 years later. What I loved about PR was the pace; coming up with ideas and then seeing it in the newspapers a day later. I would be at Kings Cross at midnight waiting for the papers to come out. Today it is an even faster pace, literally within moments it is live and out there.
What does PR mean to you?
In terms of what Frank does is about creating a buzz, talk ability and the buzz does the best marketing for you. PR means so many things to so many different people and maybe that is why it is so hard to define.
You set up Frank after only 5 years in PR; naive or inspired?
A bit of both. I started at Lynne Franks and met Graham Goodkind who went onto be the co-founder of Frank with me. He left a couple years before me. I was enjoying myself heading up Sport and Entertainment and hanging out with the England football team, living the dream. There was no reason to leave. But Graham had an idea, he said let’s set up a PR agency. I distinctly remember saying I’m not ready yet. He replied saying you will never feel like you are ready. I have always had the philosophy in life that what is the worst that can happen? So, I gave it a go and never looked back.
It had a bit of a dual meaning, one part a play on our Heritage and the company we grew up with, Lynn Franks and we wanted to keep that alive. Lynn Franks (the company) went into Ketchum and didn’t exist anymore. It was a great company and we wanted to reference that. The second part was us wanting to be open and honest. We wanted to challenge the norms and giving clients real advice and not just being yes men or women.
When did you think you made it?
I will never feel I have made it. I will always drive myself onto the next thing. There are milestones in the business I remember winning our first client who wasn’t friends or family which was Amstrad, Lord Sugar’s company. He is still a client 18 years on. Selling the agency was an incredible achievement. We sold the agency from a financial perspective but emotionally I still feel it is my agency. So, the buzz of winning clients and retaining amazing talent, winning awards, I still get as much pleasure out of those as I did 10-15 years ago…
What are your biggest challenges?
I think the biggest challenge for any agency is being relevant. There is an oversupply of agencies in the market and for Frank the main challenge is to remain fresh. When there are many new agencies starting up on an annual basis, to remain part of the consideration process and to be seen as fresh and doing great work, it is a challenge. Our answer to that challenge is to keep doing great work.
What has been a low point in running an agency?
It is difficult, our philosophy is you should never get too high on the highs and too low on the lows. To use a cliché, agency life is a journey of ups and downs so you can never get too down on the obstacles that come your way and never get to excited when things are good. Every year I will get a bad beat, which is a pitch we really wanted and felt we should’ve won and didn’t win it. I think you have to remain balanced and remember no matter how great things are, they could all fall apart, equally when things are tough and not going the way you want them too, it is relatively easy to pull yourself out of that.
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