The leader must have…

24 Apr


I am always striving to improve my leadership skills and recently read this description of a leader by Field Marshal Montgomery that resonated with me:

“The leader must have infectious optimism, and the determination to persevere in the face of difficulties. He must also radiate confidence, even when he himself is not too certain of the outcome.

“The final test of a leader is the feeling you have when you leave his presence after a conference. Have you a feeling of uplift and confidence?”

10 points that form the foundation of @BerkeleyPR culture

23 Apr
Paul Stallard

Berkeley PR culture

The representation of what a PR agency stands for, how it behaves and how it views the world is incredibly important. I am a firm believer that agencies with strong and positive cultures are more vibrant, dynamic and confident and ultimately attract top talent, great clients and competitor envy.

At Berkeley PR there are a few aspects that I have encouraged as part of building a culture within the agency that makes people want to work for us and with us. I have put my thinking cap on listed the 10 points that I believe are the foundation of Berkeley PR’s culture – something I am very proud of.


1. We work hard and play hard. It is always important to celebrate our successes

2. We despise rude people. Rude people are bullies and we hate bullies

3. We look after our friends. When our team are struggling outside of the office it is our responsibility to support them

4. We help our team to make the most of their talents. Everyone can try anything and we love it when someone discovers they have a superpower in something

5. Honesty is to be respected above anything. If we make a mistake we put our hands up and deal with it

6. We love people who are proud of our standards and push others to strive for the same

7. If you are good enough you will be promoted. How long you have been at the agency has no impact on when you will be promoted.

8. We treasure experience and look to learn from campaigns our colleagues have managed in the past

9. We are open and don’t hide anything from anyone. Financials, goals and targets are all communicated to everyone regularly

10. We like laughter. It is encouraged. It makes coming to work feel like you are seeing your friends rather than your colleagues every day.

Have you ever run a 360 review?

22 Apr

360 review

Last year my mentor Noel Pentose ran a 360 review of my performance as a leader. This was designed to help me develop in my role as MD. I chose five different members of my team from different parts of the business – our CEO, my deputy, head of content, our finance director, an account director and an account manager.

I chose these roles as I have dealings with them all in different capacities within the business and I value their opinion and input. Each member was provided a simple one-page grid that only asked five questions:

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Keep doing
  • Do less
  • And one piece of advice…

These responses were then sent to Noel who collated and summarised the responses and fed the aggregation back to me without attribution as to who any of the comments came from.

It gave me an honest assessment of my management and leadership. After consuming the feedback I found it to be one of the mostenlightening and inspirational reviews I have ever had. The findings helped to reinforce my view of the world as well as throwing up more than a few curve balls. Being able to better understand the needs and views of your colleagues is essential to better understanding your business and helped to shape my planning process for the next 12 months.

A year later I ran a similar process for the leaders of my PR teams. I respect anyone who is strong enough to go through this process as it can be difficult reading as well as reassuring. No one wants to read negative stuff about them but it is how you respond to these comments that count.

I know my team found it as motivational as I did and I believe that the process has helped all of us to become better leaders. If you have any queries please drop me a line. Alternatively, if you need help running a 360 review for the first time, Noel is your man.

Are you the teaching hospital of the communications world?

18 Apr


Teaching quote

The cold harsh reality of working in the communications business is that people leave. You always wish that they didn’t but they do. The bright lights, a pay rise, a promotion are all things I have heard in the past six months and I’m sure I will hear again in the next.

That said, I am very proud that 95% of people who leave Berkeley PR do so for a dream job, a promotion or for location reasons. Very rarely do they leave because they didn’t feel fulfilled.

I often speak to my team about this. I don’t expect them to stay with us forever (although a staff retention rate of just under 80% suggests we are doing something right) but if they do move, the foundation we will have given them will set their careers up for life. I watch with pride as some of our trainees soar across the communications industry and get a real buzz out seeing their successes when I think back to how they started their careers.

I have been reading a book of David Ogilvy’s unpublished notes, memos and letters. In one memo to his team he refers to the training his agency gives their people. I love it and have replaced Ogilvy & Mather and advertising with Berkeley PR and communications into the same memo. It is something to truely aspire towards…..

Great hospitals do two things: They look after patients, and they teach young doctors.

Berkeley PR does two things: We look after clients, and we teach young communication people.

Berkeley PR is the teaching hospital of the communication world. And, as such, to be respected above all other agencies.

Cheap shoes = bad at PR

17 Apr

Bad shoes

The headline above is bollocks but when I was a trainee PR exec I was told that it was essential that I always wore good shoes.

One of the senior team at my first agency always said: When I meet someone for the first time I always look at their shoes. Scuffed or scruffy shoes show me you don’t care, that you don’t have pride in your appearance and that if you are representing me you are likely to be sloppy.

Might sound harsh but seeing as most first impressions are lasting impressions worth noting. Why start off on the wrong foot (no pun intended).

A simple thank you can get you free PR

16 Apr

Free PR

Over servicing happens in every PR agency. Everyone has a favourite client and everyone has one that they wouldn’t shed a tear over if they lost.

What always amazes me is how often a client forgets to say a simple two words when you secure them a great piece of coverage or opportunity. Thank you. It costs nothing but is also addictive.

PR people crave hearing this. Give it to them once and they will want to hear it again and again. You will fast become their favourite account and the one that they constantly go the extra mile for.

Forget to say it and you will likely get the bare minimum. What’s the point of working extra hours or pushing yourself if the client simply doesn’t appreciate it?

When helping others can actually be a bad idea

15 Apr

At Berkeley PR I like to refer to the team as a well oiled machine. Everyone is clear about their role and what they need to do to achieve success. This means when someone is on holiday, is ill or leaves we know exactly how to replace that individual and can manage the situation.

It also ensures that people are doing the appropriate job. In fact nothing makes me angrier than a senior member of the team doing a role that someone in their team should be doing.

It is a waste of experience, ruins overservicing stats and makes people look less productive/more productive than they actually are. Now, don’t get me wrong, leading by example from time to time is very admirable…..just don’t bother all of the time. It makes people question why you were promoted and reduces the level of respect you get from the rest of the team as the lines of distinction between your role and theirs start to blur.

My advice is to always be clear about who should be doing the role and offer them help to do it rather than do it yourself. Or you might simply be shooting yourself in the foot.

How to get that first dream job in PR

14 Apr

Be nice

I am always interviewing people for roles at Berkeley PR. I quite enjoy it as I like meeting new people. As a process I find it interesting to see how different people approach the meeting.

It has introduced me to some very interesting people who although we didn’t have the appropriate role available for them I was genuinely glad to have met them.

Like many others I have my questions that I like to ask and a list of key skills that I believe any candidate should possess. According to some research I read(in :59 seconds by Professor Richard Wiseman) Chad Higgins from the University of Washington and Timothy Judge from the University of Florida believe I am deluding myself with this approach.

Their research of more than a hundred students trying to get their first job found that it was neither work experience nor qualifications that helped them get the job. It was down to whether the candidate appeared to be a pleasant person!

The candidates who had managed to integrate themselves were more likely to be offered a position. A few had spent time chatting about topics that were not relevant to the job, but that interested the candidate and interviewer. The barrage of positivity had paid dividends and convinced the interviewers that such a pleasant and socially skilled applicant would fit well in the workplace, and so should be offered a job.

I think this is important advice. Most people coming for their first job will be ready to discuss their qualifications and experience but far too many people forget that you also have to be likable. At the end of the day, you spend more time with colleagues than loved ones so you want to get along with them!

How to increase your creativity by 45%

11 Apr

My dear wife bought me a potted bamboo plant for my desk after she heard me complaining about how untidy my office was a few weeks ago. I have grown quite fond of it – mainly because I haven’t killed it yet.  Is this simply a sign of my age or is there another reason? Well a quick look on Google and I found the following research findings.

According to a study designed by the Identity Realisation research group at the University of Exeter, office plants can assist in boosting staff well-being by up to 47%. Cool eh. In fact the research showed that allowing staff to make design decisions in a workspace enhanced with office plants can increase well-being by 47%, increase creativity by 45% and increase productivity by 38%.

It might be bollocks, but in a world where percentages can make a massive difference surely a few £15 plants is worth the investment.

Illegal to respond to emails after 6pm – sound good?

10 Apr


Relax – it is after 6pm!

Further to the whitepaper on the new rules of international PR I blogged about earlier this week one of my friends pinged me this interesting article that appeared in The Guardian yesterday.

Apparently new laws in France protect workers from responding to emails after 6pm. It is now illegal for workers in the digital and consultancy sectors to respond to emails after 6pm. In fact, staff will be ordered to switch off their professional phones, and companies must ensure that their employees come under no pressure to look at work-related emails or documents on their tablets or computers.

Can you imagine that?

Also according to the article, trials are taking place in Sweden to reduce work hours to just 30 hours a week (six hours per day). When I read this out just now in the office my colleague asked if she could go home then as she had already done that many hours this week.

How would this impact the PR industry? At Berkeley PR we always try hard to get the life and work balance right but the very nature of our business means that you are going to have to work late from time to time and I find it personally inconceivable that I couldn’t keep an eye on my emails after 6pm. A crisis doesn’t only happen between office hours and that is when a communications consultancy can truly add value.

What do you think of these rules? Are they practical in the PR industry in the UK or have France and Sweden got it right?


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