Rob Brown is founding partner of PR agency Rule 5, author of best-selling book Public Relations and the Social Web and will take over as CIPR president next year. Here he describes his career highlights, explains why he founded his own agency and offers advice for those hoping to break into PR.
According to Brown, it was pure luck that first got him into PR: “I was working in radio as a recent graduate. Quite by accident in a restaurant in town, I met the partner of a presenter I was working for. He asked me why I was wasting my time in radio. He also asked if I’d considered working in PR. I told him I had no idea what PR was. He then asked if I was interested in finding out what PR was. I said ‘no thanks‘. When he contacted me again, I discovered that both the money and the hours were better (I was doing overnight shifts at the time). The rest as we say …”
The rest includes Brown spending seven years at agency McCann Erickson Manchester, becoming MD of PR agency Staniforth and writing best-selling Public Relations and the Social Web (2009). Pinpointing particular highlights of his PR life to date is tough, says Brown, although he adds: “There have been a few things that stand out.” One of these things is Subbuteo: “It’s a very long time ago, but The Subbuteo World Cup in Rome was great fun. It was held just before the real World Cup and over a dozen TV news crews came to report on the final. Launching Granada Studios Tours, the visitor attraction that included Coronation Street, was good too. Setting up a PR department at McCann Erickson and growing the revenue to £1m+ in four years was another highlight. Writing my book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ and seeing it in print was another ambition realised.”
However, the number one achievement for Brown is starting his own business: “Launching Rule 5 in November 2012 and establishing it as a respected award winning agency is probably the highlight so far.”
Discussing why he decided to start up the agency, Brown says it was at a time when he and his business partner Julie Wilson were facing a restructure at the TBWA-owned agency where they worked (Staniforth). “I was almost certainly leaving anyway. Jules, who headed the consumer team and I had previously talked about setting up a business. We agreed that this was an opportunity and the right time to set up Rule 5. We discussed it first over the phone when I was on a train back from meetings in London. We discussed the plan in more detail over coffee the following morning and decided to make it happen.”
Looking back over all the decisions he has made, Brown says he may not always have got it right, but he has absolutely no regrets: “If you are happy with where you are then you must have made the right choices along the way.”
To help guide those who are at the beginning of their PR careers, Brown says it is important to focus on what you want to do and be persistent: “If you are starting out then it is all about targeting. You need find the place or places you want to work, establish what they are looking for in a candidate and be polite but persistent when you approach them.”
Brown already has a busy schedule, but this is set to get a whole lot busier when he becomes CIPR president next year. So why did he choose to take on this responsibility? “Firstly, it’s an honour to be considered. I’ve a lot of time for people that have done the job before me and it’s my intention to continue their good work. It’s a three-year commitment. This year as president elect, a year as president and you remain an officer for a further year. I feel that after that I’ll have made my commitment and hopefully given something back to the profession.”
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.