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Don’t be a control freak in PR, says Wildfire MD Debby Penton

Be adaptable and don’t worry about the things you can’t control says Debby Penton, managing director of tech PR agency Wildfire, in our quick, 10-minute catch-up.

 What did you want to be when you were a teenager?
I really wanted to go to art college and maybe be an interior designer, but my parents told me I wasn’t good enough (tough love). So I ditched my art A level, did maths and stats instead and went on to do a business studies and marketing degree.

Would your teenage self be pleased with the way things have turned out?
At the risk of sounding smug, I’ve got a job I love, I’m happily married with two great kids and lovely friends and colleagues. I don’t think I could have asked for much more than that, but I was quite stroppy back then so who knows wink

How did you get your first break?
I guess the thing that set me on this path was my year out. I deliberately went to a poly (I know, showing my age) for a vocational degree, but then I was gutted to end up having to take a job in Peterborough as a marketing assistant for an HR software company earning an annual salary of £5,000! As it turned out, it was valuable experience, looked good on my CV and kickstarted a life working in tech.

What is the best career decision you have made?
Undoubtedly, joining Wildfire. I was an account director, didn’t want to work at a massive agency and didn’t want to commute. Back then, Wildfire was a tiny business, but a great match for what I wanted and I hit it off immediately with the founder. It was a bit of a punt, but we’ve achieved a lot and I’ve never looked back.

Any career regrets?
No regrets of any kind (except I wish I was a better skier)!

Why Wildfire?
I’m really proud of the people at Wildfire. It’s a great team of talented, hard-working people. We all want to do the best possible job for clients, and contribute to growing and developing the agency and our skills. Everyone is very down to earth, and there is no room for prima donnas.

What are the greatest challenges of your present role?
Like everyone working in PR right now, the challenges are around keeping in step with the changing media environment and technology, and adapting your skills and services appropriately whilst not losing sight of the fundamentals of PR and storytelling. On top of this, I’m focused on growing the agency and keeping the team motivated in a very uncertain economic climate.

What advice can you give to others in the communications industry?
Keep learning, be prepared to adapt and don’t worry too much about the things you can’t control.

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