It is an uplifting experience talking to Steffan Williams, managing director of agency Newgate Communications, as he has a positive attitude to life that is infectious. It is obvious, hearing about his career, that he has always been blessed with plenty of energy, so it is not that surprising that his earliest ambition was a sporting one (before he decided he would rather be a rock star). Williams says: “If such a thing as professional rugby had existed when I was a teenager I would have wanted to become a professional rugby player. As it didn’t exist, I think I was probably horribly predictable and wanted to be in a rock band. I was at the first ever Smiths concert and followed them avidly – as well as lots of other bands like New Order, Prefab Sprout and Alice in Chains (really showing my age now).”
After graduating from Oxford, and completing stock-exchange exams, Williams realised that investment banking really wasn’t for him, but his interest in rugby helped to point him in the right career direction: “I went into PR because a member of the committee at London Welsh Rugby Club, who was a partner in a PR firm, offered me a job in the bar after a home match! I wish I could claim prescience on my part, but actually it was a total shot in the dark. I was very lucky because I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my career to date during which time the perceived value of reputation in all its forms has soared. My timing was, inadvertently, perfect.”
It is always tempting to ask people who are relentlessly upbeat, such as Williams, if there is anything that they have failed at or that they regret. Williams bats away this negative line of enquiry by saying; “Regrets? I have a few (sorry!). I try not to regret decisions but I do try and learn from them.”
Williams is naturally happier discussing his career highlight: “This was definitely the time I spent at what was then called Capital MSL and is now part of CNC (in turn now owned by Publicis Groupe). I founded the business with a couple of other guys back in 2001 and then exited in 2013. That was a very enjoyable and rewarding journey.”
Discussing his move to Newgate Communications, Williams says that he was attracted by the chance to participate in a business that’s growing, one that he says is configured for the 21st century: “Offering clients a tailored, integrated approach to communications across multiple channels and stakeholder groups.”
Williams says the agency hopes to do things differently: “We’re a challenger. We’re aiming to redefine what communications looks like so we’re up against an established way of doing things.”
Williams is also keen to attract the right talent, which is why his last words of advice to our PR readers are: “If you’re good and you have ambition, join us!”
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