“Your team is the secret to making it all happen”, says Clarity PR’s UK MD, Sara Collinge. During an exclusive interview with Gorkana News she takes 60 seconds to reveal why she thinks Clarity is one of the fastest growing UK PR agencies, the measurement battle the PR industry is still facing, and which brand she’d most like to work with.
You were promoted to UK MD of Clarity PR in April , after joining the agency less than a year before that as head of client services. Tell us about some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced.
Building a highly effective, well-motivated and inspired team in a very fast-growing agency like Clarity has been a big challenge. I’ve often thought that there’s a little bit of magic associated with the best agency teams. That may be true, but encouraging talented people needs just as much hard work and focus as winning new business and driving the bottom line.
Clarity PR has been getting as many people as possible involved in hiring, ensuring everyone has a say in their work environment and clients we pitch for, as well as trialing several new incentives and diverse training options. Like Al Pacino says in Any Given Sunday, it’s all a game of inches and the margin of error is small. Your team is the secret to making it all happen.
You describe Clarity PR as on the UK’s fastest growing PR agencies. What makes it stand out in the PR industry?
We’re a small team, but we have the ability to deliver internationally thanks to three offices and a series of partnerships. That’s a difficult thing for most agencies to achieve, especially in just over four years. Clients get the personal service, hustle and flexibility that you’d associate with smaller agencies, with genuine international capability and the campaign management expected from global agencies.
Describe the current state of the PR industry.
Historically it was considered our job to influence journalists. Now it’s so much more varied than that. The new world is full of opportunity as PR competes for bigger budgets and delivers on integrated briefs targeting ordinary people and influencers across different kinds of media, from Twitter, to Instagram and YouTube.
The industry as a whole is still battling with measurement/metrics, albeit now with some degree of unity around some newer integrated frameworks. Related to measurement is also a nagging need to look at adapting our business model to the new economic reality. The business environment changes so rapidly now, that many clients need greater flexibility and fluidity than is offered by a monthly retainer. As an industry, we will need to be more agile and adapt in order to service clients and ensure we can capitalise on opportunities.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
I love to hear people’s stories. That’s one of the best parts of being in our business. It’s a privilege to meet and work with so many interesting people.
How did you start your career in PR?
My first PR job (if you don’t count doing promotions at festivals) was at a small B2B tech outfit in Buckinghamshire. By my third month, not only had I drafted press releases, but was planning a press trip to Germany for one of our largest clients (ZF). They manufactured parts for boats, trains and cars amongst other things. A press trip with 15 automotive trade journalists was a baptism of fire, but that’s where I learnt that creating connections with clients and external stakeholders are fundamental.
Which brand have you most liked working with during your career?
Virgin Media. They were willing to do things differently and they understood that PR isn’t about having ultimate control of your brand reputation. It’s about gaining respect and mindshare from customers by talking to them and engaging in relevant conversations.
During the five years I spent working with their team I also discovered that if you’ve got an idea you should say it out loud – no matter how mad it might seem. It might just be what a client is after and even if it isn’t, you’ll almost certainly learn from it.
Finally, what’s the dream brand to work with?
If you look at how many brands that have exploded into existence during recent years – Airbnb, Deliveroo, Snapchat – I’m tempted to say that they’ve probably not even launched yet. But, right now, I’d have to say Samsung Mobile. It is experiencing interesting communications challenges in the wake of ill-fated Galaxy Note 7 handset launch.