Fenella Grey, chair at Porter Novelli London, on the PRmoment podcast

This week, in the latest of our life stories podcast, I’m interviewing Fenella Grey, chair at Porter Novelli London, on the PRmoment podcast.

Fenella was a director at Weber Shandwick between 2007 and 2013, then she spent almost six years at Freuds before joining Porter Novelli in 2014.

She was MD of the London office, before becoming London chair in July last year.

Porter Novelli in London has circa 75 full-time and part-time people in its London office.

Here’s a summary of what Fenella and I discuss:

[00:01:01] Whether Freuds is still that the agency that consumer shops in London try to emulate.

[00:03:29] How Fenella learnt at the "front end of making big decisions and this and selling big ideas to the C-suite of organisations" at Freuds.

[00:05:02 ] Why did Fenella leave Freuds and move to Porter Novelli?

[00:06:19] How, when Fenella joined Porter Novelli London, it required a "big shot of adrenaline".

[00:07:04] Fenella describes Porter Novelli as a boutique firm with a global network.

[00:09:15] Why Fenella believes the "whatever size business, whatever stage you are within the business – it's a luxury to hire talent ahead of revenue."

[00:10:03] How Fenella's mentor, Karen Van Bergan, told her running an agency is "as simple as having the right team around you – if the right team around you are doing their jobs then you know the only way is up.”

[00:12:20] Fenella talks about why she believes many global firms have become too generalist and why she believes Porter Novelli can become "the defining global purpose communications consultancy".

[00:16:18] Why the biggest change Fenella made at Porter Novelli was to make the team believe that "that we can win."

[00:16:48] How Fenella reset the culture of Porter Novelli London.

[00:18:17] How has Porter Novelli London business performed over the last few years?

[00:18:46] Why Fenella has moved up to become chair of Porter Novelli London whilst Joe Patterson and Nicole Yost have become joint MDs.

[00:19:34] How the nature of client work that Porter Novelli is involved in has changed.

[00:20:31] In markets such as France, Italy and the Netherlands Peter Novelli has merged with other Omnicom agencies Ketchum and Fleishman Hillard to form Omnicom PR – but in markets like the UK it has retained its independence. What have the cultural difficulties been in the variants of this structure?

[00:22:35] As a woman at the top of a PR firm – does Fenella think she's had to work harder than her male peers to get there?

[00:24:07] Fenella describes what the Omni Women scheme is all about.

[00:25:33] Are these turbulent times an opportunity or a threat to the PR sector?

[00:27:31] Why PR firms are better placed to help businesses with finding and delivering their purpose than management consultancies.

[00:27:57] Why we need to be able to prove a return on purpose for brands.

[00:29:32] Why Fenella believes there is still an opportunity in PR to marry better data with great creative to drive even better impact for business.

[00:30:10] Does every business need a purpose?

[00:30:13] Fenella and I debate whether improving a company's purpose will always lead to more sales.

[00:36:09] Why Fenella believes there is there's no such thing as a work-life balance.

[00:41:06] Fenella and I ask why, despite the increase in the breadth of work being done by PR firms, the PR sector is not making more significant inroads into the budgets of ad agencies.