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Camilla Bateman MD of Focus PR on why the UK is best for creative while the US is for strategy

Camilla Bateman, new managing director of agency Focus PR, should really be working in medicine following her degree in medical microbiology, so where did it all go wrong (sorry, right) and how did she end up in PR? She tells all and explains why it is important to work both in-house and agency-side, and ideally overseas too, to get ahead in this industry.

What did you want to be when you were a teenager?

A vet. I love animals and am really good at science. I wanted to be a farm vet like James Herriot. I did medical microbiology at Imperial College and specialised in tropical medicine. Yes, should have done medicine.

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?

My teenage self would be very surprised how I have turned out. I went to a girls-only boarding school which was very sheltered. Now I have travelled the world and worked abroad, I am a different person.

How did you get your first break?

My flatmate was working with The Burton Group and I went into her office to do my CV. The marketing director came in and the next thing I was starting there on the Monday, helping to organise the Miss World contest.

What is the best career decision you have made?

Going to work in New York. It taught me so much and they utilise a completely different approach. Everything there is driven by money and strategy. Thinking is numbers-driven and everything works at a much faster pace. You would almost have to prove the sales you are going to reach before doing the creative. It was a steep learning curve, but it toughens you up and gives you insights you couldn’t get by being based UK only.

I would say the UK is stronger creatively and the US is stronger on strategy.

Any career regrets?

No. Everything I have experienced has led to something else and has given me knowledge I have been able to apply.

Why Focus PR?

Two reasons: first, I was a client of Focus and I was really impressed with the people and the overall experience I had. Second, the relationship I have with its chairman Hilary and separately with her husband Peter Crossing with whom I have worked in three agencies.

In short, Focus PR is a known quantity, and has earnt my trust based on relationships going back many years.

What are the greatest challenges of your present role?

There are three.

  1. Really getting to know the clients and their needs
  2. Using my expertise coupled with the agency’s to bring in interesting business
  3. Understanding the team and all their talents so they can be applied most effectively.

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?

Do a stint in New York, and stints in different forms of communication too. Everything crosses over so you need to understand all the disciplines. And work both sides of the fence (in-house and agency).

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