The joint founders and owners of Talker Tailor Trouble Maker spoke to Shout! Communications co-founder Catherine Bayfield, on Shout! Digital Radio, earlier this year.
Have you always been a rebel and a trouble maker?
Gary Wheeldon: I think that we have always tried to be different and one of the things that PR was afraid of was saying trouble making. Although that is what everyone wanted to say, everyone used words like disruption and we didn’t really like disruption.
Steve: There is a part to this where we have worked in different agencies and then seeing we are different as people. Being a minority, as you are as two gay men setting up a business, being in an industry where you have to stand out, you have to shout louder and to be those people you have to be more rebellious and stand out. That is what we’ve done.
Is this your coming of age and being true to yourself?
Gary: In terms of the trouble making, probably and Steve and I have talked about this a lot. Your time to shine isn’t always in someone’s agency. If there is an opportunity and you feel that fire and drive inside of your belly that should be in the creation of an agency to a point where you have responsibility to other people. There hasn’t been the opportunity to do that in another agency. We have worked together in two other agencies before setting up our own and we had senior levels and responsibilities in that, but you can’t prove that unless it is in your control and your own agency.
Steve: The coming of age is also in our industry. It is hard to walk into a room and see someone getting a million-pound budget for an advert that no-one is watching. More people are actively turning away from ads. So, I think our coming of age is at the time when our industry is at the presplit of brilliant communications.
What inspired you to become a PR?
Gary: As Steve said you shouldn’t fall into this job, it is about having a strategy to a good career and delivering that. For me I got introduced to it by a friend of a friend and recognised something in me that she thought she saw in herself. She was instrumental in getting my first job. She guided me through what that was, and we have gone down very different paths, she went down corporate and I went down consumer.
Steve: Mine is Mick Hucknall, I saw him once in Soho and this was back in the day it was full of celebrities. I was with my friend Chris and I said I want to work in Soho. I didn’t want to get into PR, I wanted to escape from Kent. I was a secretary, my mum said I had to be good at typing, and I became a secretary because I didn’t know another way in.
Steve: We bang on about diversity a lot, the reason is we have faced challenges in our own career. The only benefit we have is being white gay men, we can hide in plain sight. That isn’t true for so many other people, our industry needs to do much more to make sure we are representative of the world at large. At the moment that isn’t the case.
What is the ethos of your agency?
Gary: Diversity is a massive part, you can’t struggle, I came into the industry and was told it is full of women and gay men. There were two incidents in my career, one in the early stages and one before we set up our business where that wasn’t the case; I had been actively discriminated against as a gay man. That is why when me and Steve met we hadn’t worked together before a large agency, but we became instant friends. And the reason for that was there is the connection in the same things we have faced, not just at work but in life as two gay men.
Steve: I don’t want it to sound like Gary and I get together and talk about how we have been oppressed, but when you can talk to someone across the room and say did you see this, and they say yes, that isn’t the case for everybody. You need to be a diverse a business as possible that people can turn up and feel like someone is going to read the book you read or talk about the TV show. Those things are important, you spend so much time at work you need to be able to connect with them people.
Is it true each year you refresh your identity to remind yourself change is good?
Steve: The change of our logo is at its most basic a marketing tool for people to talk about us again which is great. But it is also a moment for me and Gary to talk about not just what the business looks like but also how it performs. It was a year and four months ago we made everyone work from home on a Wednesday. So, there was a negativity about working from home, but it is actually a really good thing. But that moment of reinvention of the logo is when we sit and go what should we do now. Whether that be free sanitary products, working from home or whether it is unlimited holiday it is about what we think the business should be.