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John Doe: The inside story of the merger with Wire and how the agency has doubled in size in 2 years

Welcome to the PRmoment Podcast.

Today we’re chatting with the senior team at John Doe: Pamela Scobbie, managing partner and CCO, Gin Trewhella, partner & group CEO and Lee Beattie Partner/Joint CEO.

We cover a few different themes. Wire was merged into John Doe almost 2 years ago to the day - so we’re going to talk about why 2 independent agencies decided to merge and what Pam, Lee and Gin learnt in that process.

Also, one of the interesting aspects of John Doe is that 33% of their employees across their Manchester, Glasgow and London offices are people of colour. So we’ll also talk about how the agency had been so successful at building a diverse workforce.

The third thing we’ll talk about is the type of work coming out of the agency. In our pre-show chat, I asked CCO Pam Scobbie which agency she wanted to model John Doe on, and her reply was Uncommon. So we’re going to talk about the type of work coming out of the firm.

John Doe is a 60-person creative PR firm with 3 offices in the UK. Lee and Pam founded Wire in 2009, which then merged with John Doe 2 years ago. Gin has been at John John Doe for 5 years

John Doe’s clients include Under Armour, Guinness, Captain Morgan, Instagram, Iron Brew and The Scottish Government. It has a fee income of £5.2 which has almost doubled since 2020 - so it is an agency on the rise.

Before we start the final entry deadline for the PRmoment Awards is on 27th January - check out for all the info you need, including downloading this year’s updated entry form.

Finally thanks to our PRmoment Podcast sponsors, The PRCA.

Here’s a summary of what Pam, Lee, Gin and I discussed on the show:

3 mins The merger between Wire and John Doe was almost 2 years ago. Why did these two independent agencies merge?

5 mins Wire was the bigger form so why did they decide to keep the John Doe name?

12 mins What was the role of The PRmoment Podcast and Rachel Bell in the Wire/John Doe merger?

14 mins How do they merge 2 agency cultures together?

18 mins Why recruitment for PR talent is just as tough outside the M25 as it is in London.

20 mins 68% of the agency is from a working-class background, 33% of the firm's employees are people of colour, and 50% of the London office are people of colour. All PR firms want to build a diverse team - how come John Doe has been more successful in doing this than most?

“We will always prioritise non-white candidates for the first interview”

“It (finding non-white talent) gets easier as you go on, it becomes a virtuous circle. People want to work for agencies where it (diversity) is part of the agency’s DNA.”

“Diversity is a fundamental decision for agencies, it can’t be an optional extra. We (John Doe) don’t want to pick up a diversity award.”

“We did a campaign for Tinder at Pride. Almost the entire team that we put on that brief identified as queer…which means that work was just that much more authentic to the audience.”

“We’ve got clients (which) as part of their procurement process ask for statistics on diversity and change payment terms to 1-week payment instead of 2 months based on the relative diversity of your agency against the rest of their roster - that’s a really clear and interesting example of big businesses that are taking diversity seriously”

32 mins Are there are a bunch of consumer PR firms in the UK at the moment who are pushing each other hard, resulting in a very competitive, innovative market?

“You can see the ad agencies trying to catch up with the channel-agnostic perspective…most of them will still pitch a TV spot because that’s where the majority of the margin is”

“PR agencies don’t push themselves hard enough to produce something that’s really beautiful”

36 mins The agency has doubled in size in the last couple of years - will John Doe’s growth continue at that growth rate?

“The thing that I want to grow more than anything else is our reputation”

38 mins Why the merger brought renewal to people within the business.

“It felt like we had something to prove again?”

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