Ben Smith, Founder, PRmoment.com
This week, in the latest of our life stories podcast series, I’m interviewing Giles Fraser.
Giles is co-founder of Brands2Life. He started the agency in 2000 with Sarah Scales and today, the agency has over 140 staff, a fee income of £14m and offices in the UK and US.
Giles started his career at mid-sized agency Infopress on Fleet St when the papers were all still there and he spent four years pitching stories to journalists in the newsrooms and pubs.
He then moved on to work in the communications strategy team at management consultants PA Consulting.
During this time he studied for an MBA in the evenings at Cass Business School.
He then moved in-house to IT services firm Logica where he oversaw all its global communications.
In 1995, he left Logica to take on the role of MD of Hill and Knowlton’s tech team and, over the next five years, grew the revenues of this division ten-fold.
Giles launched Brands2Life in 2000 alongside co-founder Sarah Scales.
He lives in Barnes with his wife, Alex and three daughters.
Here’s a summary of what Giles and I talked about:
- [00:01:24] What advice Giles would offer to people who are thinking about setting up their own firm today.
- [00:01:57] How having a great corporate partner (as opposed to doing it on your own) can make launching a business a lot easier.
- [00:03:31] Why when launching a business you need to decide what sort of business you're going to have - are you going to have basically a lifestyle business or are you going to have a growth business?
- [00:03:52] What are the tensions between a growth business and a lifestyle business?
- [00:05:58] Giles identifies two important periods of his career which influenced the success of Brands2Life.
- [00:07:22] How, when Giles first started in PR, he'd just walk up to a newsdesk and pitch stories.face to face.
- [00:07:42] Why Giles had to demonstrate a hacky sack footbag in front of the newsroom.
- [00:10:20] Why Giles decided to go and do an MBA in the evenings at Cass Business School.
- [00:10:57] How his time at the management consultancy PR Consulting influenced the rest of his career.
- [00:14:05] Why Giles believes PR people stop training and developing too early.
- [00:14:34] Whether reading English at Oxford (as Giles did) was the perfect preparation for a career in PR.
- [00:17:13] Giles tells us what's changed and what has remained the same in PR since 1993.
- [00:18:17] Why the PR world was a much smaller business community in the 1980s and 1990s.
- [00:20:19] Why the the toolset and opportunities available to PR practitioners has widened incredibly.
- [00:21:00] Why the immediacy of social and the need for preparedness has changed the profile of PR.
- [00:21:56] Why agencies need to build their capabilities to take advantage of their ideas, often at speed.
- [00:23:28] What's behind the strategy that has enabled Brands2Life's growth to outperform the market.
- [00:23:50] Why an agency must have a mechanism to get regular formal and informal client feedback their changing requirements.
- [00:24:02] Why the changing nature of modern public relations has given tech PR firms a competitive advantage.
- [00:27:32] The importance of values, ethos and culture in agency life.
- [00:29:27] How Brands2Life try to take the risk out of recruiting senior hires.
- [00:30:47] How Giles managed his career moves prior to starting Brands2Life.
- [00:31:55] Why agency people who've worked in-house have an advantage.
- [00:32:19] Why Giles and Sarah Scales decided to launch Brands2Life.
- [00:35:16] How the complementary skills of Giles and Sarah Scales has been crucial to the growth of Brands2Life and why disagreement is important in a partnership.
- [00:37:02] How Brands2Life developed a international offer through like-minded independent agencies.
- [00:39:38] Why taking a specialist approach has helped Brands2Life launch in San Francisco.
- [00:41:07] How Brands2Life has diversified from its technology core.
- [00:42:55] What are the most important skill sets Giles has brought into Brands2Life over the past few years?
- [00:43:44] Giles gives us two examples of integrated work that shows how the nature of public relations has changed.
- [00:46:20] How Brands2Life incentivizes its teams to cross work and build fluidity.
- [00:47:40] Why Giles and Sarah have never sold Brands2Life.
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