Jon Hughes, CEO of Golin, on the PRmoment podcast

This week on the PRmoment Podcast, in the latest of our life stories series, I’m pleased to welcome CEO of Golin Jon Hughes.

Global PR firm Golin has a fee income of about $240m. Jon has been at Golin for about 14 years, he spent six years in the UK as co-managing director alongside Matt Neale, before moving to Hong Kong to head up its international business.

He became CEO alongside Matt Neale and Gary Rudnick in 2017.

Here are some of the highlights of what Jon and I discussed:

[00:01:15] How Jon went from working in IT sales and ended up as global CEO of a top-ten global PR firm.

[00:04:28] Whether Jon has Jon got more “PR royalty” mates than anyone else?

[00:06:04] Why Jon “didn't really know” Matt Neale before they became joint UK MDs of Golin.

[00:07:59] Why the sector experience of Matt and Jon combined to mean that they together were the right combination to take Golin forward

[00:08:52] Why Golin in London had lost its identity before Matt and Jon took over in 2005.

[00:09:50] How Fred Cook's management style gave Matt and Jon "headspace" which allowed them to do things that ordinarily they wouldn't have done.

[00:11:08] Why London is a hub of innovation not just for Golin, but for PR as an industry.

[00:12:12] How Golin in London has grown from 25 people in 2005 to 200 today - Jon talks us through how an agency business can go on such a prolonged period of growth. 

[00:12:33] Why all agencies go through cycles of success and then have to reinvent.

[00:12:56] Why one of Al Golin's mantras "fix it before it breaks" is on Jon's office wall.

[00:15:35] Why winning the Orange pitch meant Golin was able to hire some great consumer talent in 2006 - Bibi Hilton!

[00:17:47] Why agencies need "that freshness and that hunger at scale - that's when you know you're on the money."

[00:20:58] Why the client "Palm" was a critical part of the story that lead to the renewal of Glolin as a global firm.

[00:22:33] Jon talks us through the G4 model ten years on.

[00:26:44] Why PR firms trying to be all things to all people ends up in a vanilla proposition.

[00:26:53] Why Golin has recently rebranded as a PR agency.

[00:28:30] Why, when PR people run out of conversation, they either talk about PR trade bodies or the definition of PR.

[00:28:51] Why some people have seen Golin rebranding itself as a PR firm as a regressive step.

[00:30:29] Why Jon took the president international job in Hong Kong in 2005 despite him originally thinking that Matt Neale was going to get it.

[00:32:46] Why Jon enjoys building businesses and managing change.

[00:34:35] Jon compares the working styles of India, China, Singapore and Taiwan.

[00:35:22] Jon talks us through Golin’s buying criteria for when it makes an acquisition.

[00:37:17] Why (as the acquirer) you have to expect the unexpected when you do acquisitions.

[00:38:01] Why holding groups don't acquire for revenue, they acquire for the specialism and talent.

[00:38:54] Jon talks us through where Virgo Health is today, following its acquisition of Golin in 2012.

[00:39:45] Following Golin's acquisition of Magic, Jon talks us through what it's like trying to buy a business in China.

[00:41:30] Jon talks about how he sees the PR agency market heading from an acquisition perspective.

[00:43:33] Jon discusses his favourite memories of Al Golin.