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James Herring on the turnaround of Taylor Herring post-COVID and the subsequent sale to MSL

From losing £500K of client fees in 3 weeks in Q2 2020 to selling Taylor Herring to Publicis in April 2021 - we get the inside track on perhaps the most tumultuous couple of years of any agency in recent history

On the show this week we talk to James Herring about the story of the last few years of Taylor Herring.

In Feb 2020 things were looking rosy and James and Cath were no doubt planning their summer vacation! Then in 3 weeks, their agency lost £500,000 in monthly fee income.

Today we talk to James about the turnaround job which resulted in Publicis buying Taylor Herring in April 2021 and how the agency reported a 40% increase in annual revenue in 2022 (£6.72m, up from £4.9m.)

Recent client wins include Nintendo, Natwest, Iceland and McVities. The likes of Samsung, EasyJet and Disney are long-term clients.

On the show, today James and I will also talk about where he sees the future of earned media within integrated communications.

Thanks as ever to the PRmoment Podcast sponsors The PRCA.

2.30 mins This is a story that starts at the beginning of the pandemic. What did the pandemic do to Taylor Herring?

"For 6 weeks we spent quite a lot of time scratching our heads thinking about whether there was going to be a business at the end of all of this"

4 mins During the worst depts of COVID - how many people were on the team, so those not on furlough?

4.30 mins At the start of the pandemic, Taylor Herring lost £500K in monthly fees in 3 weeks. You’d spent nearly 20 years building Taylor Herring and seemed it seemed to be disintegrating before your eyes?

8.30 mins Why did the PR market come back much quicker than we all anticipated?

"We had a resoundingly good summer probably better than the summer of the year before…it was a boom summer in terms of spend"

9.30 mins Did Taylor Herring approach Publicis or did they approach you?

"I was mowing the lawn at 5:30 pm on a Friday afternoon and Chris (McCafferty) called"

11 mins Why were they interested in a business that had so recently lost so many clients and fee income?

12 mins What was the due diligence process like?

"There were 2 bits to it, the informal due diligence process…and the harder end of the legal and financial due diligence - it was a full-time job for 8 weeks."

"Cath runs an extremely tight ship when it comes to the organisational side of things"

"The process took about 18 months in all"

14.30 mins Since the deal was done Taylor Herring’s fee income has increased by 40% - so the earn-out is going well?

"Internally we called it the third runway, it was about putting that infrastructure in ahead of the growth"

"We've grown from 25 to 55 people over that 2-year period"

16.30 mins Is this a rare example of a PR acquisition that has worked?

"We've declined more pitches than we ever have before - because when you add up the money spent on those pitches it adds up to hundreds of thousands (of pounds) in terms of the hours"

"The blending of social and PR and content and brand and events means there is a much bigger playground"

19 mins Do Taylor Herring and MSL share many clients?

20 mins How does it feel for James not owning his own business anymore?

21 mins In our pre-show chat, James said prior to the sale to Publicis he'd "basically run Taylor Herring as a lifestyle business for 19 years” James talks us through what he meant by that.

23 mins What is the opportunity for PR-integrated briefs?

"Integrated is the single biggest opportunity for a consumer PR agency if they want to change their game and step up"

"You need to sound like a creative agency that is going to put an idea on the table which goes broader and wider than just getting editorial coverage"

"Think about how you can explode a big creative idea into loads and loads of channels including into paid"

"Earned first thinking really cuts PR different from the rest of the pack when it comes to creative thinking"

"PR is far better at agility"

"PR is better (positioned) to run integrated strategy than an ad agency - because it is easier for earned to turn into paid than it is for paid to turn into earned."

"Brands want work that is going to make them famous"

27 mins We’ve been talking about integrated marketing for 20 years, are we there yet?

31 mins PR has had a good 5 years - where are we going next?

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