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In Hindsight: With Kirsty Leighton, founder & group CEO of Milk & Honey PR

In a new regular format of the PRmoment Podcast with me, Ben Smith, we’ll be catching up with UK public relations leaders - and our guests will share their in-hindsight secrets that they wish they'd known when they started their businesses!

Today, we're chatting with Kirsty Leighton, founder & group CEO of Milk & Honey PR. Milk & Honey is a £5 m fee-income PR firm with offices in London, New York, Singapore and Munich. Milk & Honey launched in 2016.

Before we start, we’ve got some huuuuge news - The PRmoment Awards 2014 are now - OPEN!

There are some exciting changes this year; we’ve tweaked the categories, refined the entry form and with no additional entry fee, we’ve launched a regional champions scheme so we can reach the work right across the UK.

Thanks so much to the PRmoment Podcast sponsors the PRCA.

Finally, thanks to PRmoment’s data and insight partners, Meltwater, for supporting this podcast.

Here is a summary of what Kirsty and Ben talk about:

3 mins Kirsty tells us why she launched Milk & Honey internationally quite early in its story.

“I didn’t want any office to be more than 40 people because, to my mind, culture starts to change after that.”

Here is a timeline of Milk and Honey's international growth:

London 2017

Sydney 2019

New York 2021, led by Paul Cohen

Munich 2022, led by Manuel Huttl

Singapore 2023, led by Meilin Wong

“You need people who understand the local market.”

“America is a huge market for us, so it makes sense to open on the West coast, potentially in Canada as well.”

“All our expansion has been on the back of finding the right people…none of it has been on the back of client demand.”

14 mins Kirsty talks us through her lessons on how to grow your PR business internationally:

  1. Think about what amount of equity makes sense to share with the leader in the respective market, but "you need to give the leader of the business skin in the game."

  2. Test the leader’s alignment with your values.

  3. It needs to be someone who understands the local market and is known in the market

  4. Your offer must stand out.

  5. Launch in countries where there is a PR talent pool.

  6. Launch in countries that have a regional and national impact.

18 mins Kirsty talks about the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Course she completed and how it influenced Milk & Honey’s strategy. The course is Goldman’s CSR program to help accelerate small businesses to become scale-ups and braver.

21 mins Three of Kirsty’s jobs pre-Milk & Honey were Wagener Edstrom (now WE), Hudson Sadler and Edelman . I asked Kirsty whether, if you were to combine a bit of each of those three firms - do you get a business that looks a bit like Milk & Honey?

29 mins Why did Milk & Honey decide to become a B Corp? (Here is a previous PR Moment Podcast that discusses how a PR firm should go about becoming a B Corp accreditation.)

33 mins Has the Havas/ Shell controversy been worse for the Havas brand or the B Corp brand?

36 mins Looking back over the last seven years since Kirsty launched Milk & Honey, does she have any regrets?

39 mins Kirsty talks us through why the Employee Owned Trust structure was right for Milk & Honey. How does the EOT structure work with international entities?

44 mins What lessons does Kirsty have for any budding PR start-up entrepreneurs listening to this podcast?

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