Hotwire’s UK MD, Matt Cross, on the benefits of an expanding business, how the agency manages as an international business and why he’s a believer in ‘PR karma’.
Hotwire is going through a lot of changes at the moment, what’s the internal view?
Our recent acquisition of Eastwick in the US was met with genuine excitement across Hotwire in the UK. We have worked with Eastwick for many years and to cement that relationship by bringing it into the Hotwire family is a significant show of intent not just in the US but here too.
It opens up enormous possibilities for us and speaking personally, I have always been a huge fan of Barbara Bates and Heather Kernahan – they are super well connected on the West Coast and thoroughly awesome people too! That can only be a good thing for us here as clients look to expand into EMEA and beyond.
What are the advantages that come with the agency’s growth?
Apart from those obvious business advantages, we have brought 55 new, highly skilled and experienced people into the business with whom we can exchange ideas and learn from. Having such a sudden influx of diversity and talent is a great boost for a business which strives to do things differently. As we win more global accounts, I’m sure this will also present more opportunity to travel for the UK team.
How do you retain that localised specialism?
‘Glocal’ is a term which makes me feel mildly ill to use, but it actually works quite well for the dynamic we have at Hotwire. A global team which understands the nuances of large, complex clients, but with autonomy to operate at the local level to drive real results with real outcomes. When we train our people up, it is first with the local in mind, getting a solid grounding of what domestic PR requires to be truly successful. Only then can you have a wider appreciation of how that works on the international stage.
What are the challenges that come with working internationally?
For me the biggest challenge is being able to effectively demonstrate empathy across different regions. Without showing an understanding of a colleague’s situation and local pressures, creating a seamless working relationship is impossible. Giving everyone ample time to build relationships outside of the day to day is really important here too. Spending time training together, chatting over video calls and at our annual all-hands event is critical to being able to solve the issues which inevitably come up on complex multi-country campaigns with tight deadlines!
So far this year, what professional achievement are you most proud of?
Becoming MD of the UK office is definitely the highlight of my year. In fact it has also become the biggest milestone of my career (yes, even beating the time I met Seve Ballesteros on a press trip!). When I started in PR in 2004 it felt like a huge mountain to climb. All the senior management had these amazing relationships, knew everyone in the industry and had a million anecdotes to tell. Some 12 years later and I have plenty of war stories to tell and hope that I have made friends along the way. The industry is a small place really and doing the right thing by people over the years will serve you better in the long run – I’m definitely a believer in PR karma!
What are your ambitions for Hotwire in the UK?
We have got an incredible team here in the UK, which I’m very proud and lucky to lead. They are highly motivated and have a strong desire to learn more and progress. This gives us the perfect platform to push ourselves into new sectors such as Health Tech, as well as really grow our Consumer business over the next few years. Our B2B and Corporate teams meanwhile continue to push the boundaries of PR, developing truly integrated campaigns for clients spanning not only tech but also into banking, retail and media too.
What, in the wider PR industry, is exciting at the moment?
I spent the last few years with a growing feeling that PR must behave and act more like the advertising industry. Their use of insights and creative seemed like a good benchmark for PR to aspire to. But I’ve come to realise that actually it should be the other way round. Advancements in technology have democratised the data game and PR agencies are in a position to take huge advantage of this. We’re not bound by the legacy processes of old school advertising and can now access audience insight data which would have been out of reach just a few years ago. Combined with our consultancy-led approach, this makes us more attractive to CMOs looking for an alternative to the massive ATL budget requirements of yesteryear. Our Insights business is probably the fastest growing service we provide and I think that will continue as clients realise the advantages which can be gained.