From dreams to reality, Diffusion’s Tom Malcolm discusses how he achieves his PR ambitions

Tom Malcolm, head of consumer at PR agency Diffusion, once had dreams of being Britain’s answer to musician Jeff Buckley. He may not have won any Grammy’s, but he’s pretty chuffed with his PR industry awards. Discussing his earliest dreams, he says: ”Aside from my ambitions to be become the British reincarnation of Jeff Buckley, I was genuinely fascinated by politics as a teenager. That interest took me to university where I studied politics at Nottingham, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I didn’t necessarily want to become a politician, but I wanted to work in an industry that was involved in and reacted to, the media and cultural agenda. As such, I’d say the 15-year-old me would be pretty happy with how things have turned out – I’ve managed to win a few industry awards, but the lack of Grammy’s has been disappointing!”

Malcolm’s PR career started early when he was still a student, with work-experience placements ranging from public affairs to consumer and technology PR: “This was really important as it gave me a flavour of what different forms of PR and agency cultures had to offer. Gaining this experience while still studying was crucial in enabling me to get my first break on the Hotwire graduate scheme. Things have come full circle and I launched the Diffusion Graduate Scheme, which equips graduates just out of university with key media relations, social media, planning and productions skills that they need to be successful in PR today. It’s really fulfilling to have the opportunity to give ambitious young people their first break and see them develop.”

The reasons why Malcolm was drawn to a PR career range from his love of the media to his passion for variety: “I’ve always been, and remain, a media junkie, but the communications challenges organisations face extend beyond news generation. The ability of PR in the modern sense to help shape organisations and their business success was a massive draw. Working in a fully integrated environment here, I find myself helping clients with a range of challenges from brand PR campaigns to social media strategy to social customer care. It’s this variety that makes communications such a fascinating industry.”

Discussing why he chose to join Diffusion when it was just starting up, Malcolm says he thought such a dynamic environment would offer more opportunities to shape a business: “I joined Diffusion almost at the very start, where I jumped at the opportunity to join a new agency, which had an exciting vision for how brands could approach PR and communications. I was attracted by the opportunity to develop my career in a fast-growing and smart environment and help shape the company I work for, rather than being just another cog in the wheel. The past seven years have gone by at almost break-neck speed, with the agency growing over 20 per cent year on year. We opened our New York office two years ago, that’s now a 15-strong team shaking up the PR market across the Atlantic.

“Thinking back, I remember my parents thought I was crazy but eight years later, I’m very proud to still be working with Daljit, Ivan and the team on realising that vision for clients, not just in the UK and Europe but in the US as well.”

Sharing some of the wisdom he has gained from his career to date, Malcolm says it is important to engage with your peers and contacts: “The UK PR industry has always been a vibrant place in which to build a career and learn from colleagues and peers through networking. Social media has had the effect of adding rocket fuel to the industry’s fire for debate. Some of the most professionally valuable experiences I’ve had in my career have come about through friends and contacts I’ve met on Twitter. However just as with any event, it’s never enough just to be there, to really benefit, you have to be part of the conversation.”