Ben Smith, Founder, PRmoment.com
This week on the PRmoment podcast, in the latest of our life stories series, I'm pleased to welcome Sarah Scholefield, CEO, UK and Ireland, Grayling.
Sarah has worked at Grayling for five years, having previously held senior roles in Singapore with Fleishman Hillard, Ruder Finn and Edelman
Grayling has nine offices in the UK, 70 globally and 130 employees. Sarah can’t comment on these numbers because of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, but Grayling was reported to have a fee income of circa $55m globally in 2018.
Here’s a flavour of what Sarah and I discussed:
[00:01:22] How Sarah has restructured and changed Grayling UK since she became UK MD in 2015.
[00:02:29] Why you have to take a long-term view when you're trying to turn a business around.
[00:02:43] How Sarah had to get rid of the parts of the business that weren’t working as they should be.
[00:02:58] Why when changing a business you've got to be quite brave and you've got to take some risks.
[00:03:12] How Sarah and Paul Taaffe joining the business at the same time, having not know each other beforehand, created an appetite for change at Grayling.
[00:03:44] Why Sarah believes PR agencies have to evolve constantly.
[00:04:17] Why, in an agency, if you get the people right everything else falls into place.
[00:04:50] How a massive talent audit was critical to the turning around of Grayling.
[00:07:24] How Sarah simplified Grayling's structure.
[00:08:06] How Sarah attempted to restructure Grayling while keeping the client offer as good in a competitive market.
[00:10:11] What does Grayling look like today compared to three years ago?
[00:10:40] Why Sarah believes work needs to give “people an opportunity to realiz=se their own potential.”
[00:13:44] Why Sarah believes PR is a service industry, so PR firms need to produce a product or service that clients want and we should not try to overcomplicate things by defining the way they are structured.
[00:15:00] Why you need a combination of people who know the business and new talent when you’re trying to turn a firm around.
[00:15:37] How Sarah persuaded some high-profile senior people to leave established firms to join the turnaround at Grayling.
[00:18:07] How has Sarah attempted to bring more quality and consistency to Grayling’s work?
[00:21:12] Why Sarah made the move to Singapore for a period of her career.
[00:22:14] Why the Asia PR market has, in some territories, leapfrogged European and US PR techniques.
[00:24:13] Why there is often a different mindset for PR and marketing professionals working in Asia with much higher GDP and market growth rates.
[00:27:54] How Sarah made the step from client lead to Grayling UK MD.
[00:29:08] How Sarah's career story has taken her from a receptionist at a PR firm to the MD of Grayling.
[00:32:19] Why it was her time at Freud's that made Sarah as a PR person.
If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.
Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.