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Mitch Kaye, celebrating 10 years of The Academy on the PRmoment podcast

This week on the PRmoment Podcast, I’m interviewing Mitch Kaye, co-founder and CEO of PR agency The Academy, as we look back on ten years since he and Dan Glover launched The Academy.

The Academy is an independent PR firm in London with a fee income of approximately £7m. It has 56 employees and was co-founded by Mitch Kaye and Dan Glover in 2014.

Mitch previously founded Mischief, which he sold to Engine within five years of its launch.

The Academy describes itself as a creative and strategic agency. Clients include Amazon, Morrisons, and Burger King.

If you want to join your PR peers, don’t forget to buy your tickets for The PRmoment Awards. The Manchester Awards are on Thursday 11th April and the London Awards areon Thursday 25th April.

Here is a summary of what Mitch and PRmoment founder Ben Smith discussed:

3 mins How is the consumer PR market ATM?

“We’re in a good moment. 2023 was our best ever year and 2024 has started in the same manner…We’re enjoying where we’re at but I do speak to lots of other people who are having a hard time.”

“There’s definitely work out there and there's definitely people winning.“

5 mins It's ten years since Mitch and Dan Glover founded The Academy. When they launched, what was the plan, and how much did they need to adapt that plan?

7 mins Second time around doesn't happen too often with PR founders; most people seem to have only one start-up in them. Why is that, do you think?

“Ambition is the biggest thing for me.”

8 mins What's been easier the second time around? And what has been harder?

The second time around, “the highs are not as high, the lows are even lower, but you're braver, you're more experienced, and you have seen problems before…so you can call on that body of work.”

10 mins Where is the PR market now compared to 10 years ago?

“PR is in a much better place. It is a brilliant time for consumer PR. As a discipline we take ourselves more seriously and we are taken more seriously.”

“Some agencies now, and I would include us in that, have the ear of much more influential people.”

“The job is more difficult now but more rewarding too.”

16 mins The Academy has had some impressive client wins and the work coming out of the business is very good at the moment. How does an agency get itself in form?

“The hardest thing to do in this business is to win. It’s very, very easy to come second in a pitch.”

19 mins The Academy has a high fee income per head compared to its peers. A PR income ballpark of £100K per head is tough to achieve in consumer PR. And you’ve got a fee income per head of £125K. How have you done that?

“We’re not the cheapest agency on the block. We’ve got great people. We’ve never shied away from that, really.”

21 mins Has The Academy been immune from the decreasing number of retainer client relationships towards increased project income?

“We’ve probably got a disproportionate amount of retainers versus our competitors.”

“We hire ahead of our needs and retainers help you do that…the challenge of retainers is energy.”

23 mins Last year, The Academy had an 80% win rate on 15/20 pitches. When you were at Mischief, you did 70 pitches a year. That's quite a change in strategy.

“If you're pitching three times a week, you’re not spending an awful lot of time with your clients.”

“The biggest opportunity you have is with your existing clients. They've already hired you. They already trust you.”

“Doing three pitches a week is never the answer. Whatever the question is.“

28 mins Why the merger with Shine was a critical moment in The Academy’s story.

“The Shine merger gave us scale overnight. We went from 10 people to 35. That enabled us to say to the Morrisons and the Amazons of the world, we’ve now got the scale to handle whatever you throw at us. Within six months of that merger, we’d won both of those clients.”

“It was a unique deal…You wouldn’t do that deal at that speed with someone you didn't know.”

34 mins Mitch talks us through the exit plan for The Academy!

“You can come out of the game too early. I look at my mum and dad and for all the stress they had in their business, it kept them young. It kept their minds sharp.”

37 mins Mitch and Dan Glover have worked together for 18 years. How have they kept that partnership fresh?

“We’re very different people but we have some important things in common.“

“If one person is working hard and the other isn't. I don’t think you get to 18 years.”

“We laugh at the same things. We get annoyed at the same things.”

4 mins Has the strength of Dan and Mitch’s partnership made it more difficult to bring other senior people into The Academy?

“It’s not the Dan and Mitch show. There is nothing good about that…If it's the Dan and Mitch show it's a failure.”

44 mins Mitch talks listeners through his column strategy!

“You keep your retainers but you also retain your people.”

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