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Always back up your brilliant ideas with a concrete plan says ilk’s Nev Ridley

It’s no good having a brilliant idea if it never gets realised says Nev Ridley, managing director at integrated agency ilk, in our quick catch up. He also discusses how he got into PR after starting in journalism and explains why agency Manifest has evolved into ilk.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

My dad was a policeman and my elder brother ended up following him into the police force too. I wanted to be in the police until I was around 15 I think.

Would your teenage self approve of your career now?

Yes I think he would. If it could be possible for him to look back with the information I have now I think he would see it as the ideal career for him - he just never knew it at the time!

Why did you decide to work in PR?

Well I actually started in journalism working in regional papers in the north and south and some time doing news agency work. So I understood the media, but only from the perspective of the outlet. 

It often used to puzzle me when we received press releases from various organisations and sometimes I couldn't understand their approach. This made me increasingly interested in the stratergy behind these communications which naturally led towards a career in PR. 

How did you get your first break?

I wanted a break from journalism so took a year out to travel. On returning I realised I didn't want to to back into journalism so approached marketing departments and agencies. After a short spell at Xerox I secured my first role as a PR exec with The Propaganda Agency. Its head of PR at the time was actually an ex-journalist too and he gave me my first break I guess. Unlike me though, PR was not for him and he swiftly returned to papers.

What has been your best career decision?

That was deciding to launch Manifest (now ilk). I hadn't actually been at Propaganda that long - maybe a couple of years but it felt right. In a sense I had little to lose as I was still young (28) with no real responsibilities. Fortunately it worked out.

Why ilk?

Well we launched as Manifest and only changed to ilk a couple of months ago. But why the change?

Well the Manifest name had stayed the same for the best part of 17 years, but virtually everything else has changed. It’s not just that the way we work is different, but actually what we do is different. When you consider that Manifest used to offer MySpace as a service (back when Twitter was just a twinkle in Jack Dorsey’s eye), you get a sense of what I mean. We used to offer two areas of expertise, whereas now it’s six, (seven if you separate video and photography). We are a fully integrated agency and we wanted the opportunity to define exactly what this was without the baggage of past perceptions. Sometimes revolution is better than evolution.

What are the biggest challenges of your present role?

As you can imagine my role has changed significantly over the last 17 years. Currently I would say my biggest challenge is people. Not that the people are challenging but they are just so incredibly important to what we do. So, recruiting the right people, once we have them keeping them happy, encouraging them to grow and develop. Seventeen years ago the business could not have existed without me, but now virtually everyone in the business is more important than I am as they are the ones delivering the majority of the work under the ilk name. If I can make good on this challenge we'll be fine.

What advice would you give to other PROs? 

Always back up your creative ideas with a robust delivery plan. As vital as the ideas are you need to be able to deliver on them. 

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