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The rise of female PR agency CEOs: A discussion with Jo Patterson, UK managing director of 3 Monkeys Zeno

Welcome to the PRmoment Podcast.

Today we’re chatting with 3 Monkeys Zeno UK managing director Jo Patterson about the encouraging trend of female leaders occupying more of the big PR agency roles in the UK.

When Jo and I talked about this in our pre-show chat it got us thinking and here is a non-exhaustive list of top female PR agency leaders in the UK:

We’ve got Jo at 3 Monkeys Zeno, Jo-ann Robertson at Ketchum, Jo Carr at Hope&Glory, Nicola Todd at Ogilvy PR, Pippa Arlow at Smarts, Ruth Kieran at Cirkle, Ruth Allcurch at WE, Sian Morgan at Cow, Sharon Bange at Kindred, Rebecca Grant at BCW, Ali Maynard at Manifest, Cath Taylor at Taylor Herring, Angie Moxham at The Fourth Angel, Kate Stevens at Axicom, Georgina Blizzard and Nicky Regonzonni at The PR Network, Mandy Sharp at Tin Man and Emma Kane at SEC Newgate, Fenella Gray at Porter Novelli and Bibi Hilton at Creative Access.

And to be clear there are loads more I could mention - but you get the point. There seem to be more female leaders in top agency positions than there have been in recent memory - perhaps than there has ever been before. And one of the things Jo and I will talk about on the show today is the potential reasons for that.

For those of you that are not aware 3Monkeys Zeno has a fee income of £9m in the UK and 80 employees. Zeno started out as Edelman’s conflict shop but has grown into

a global agency with a fee income of about $150 m. About 70% of Zeno’s revenues are in the US.

Jo became the UK MD of 3Monkeys Zeno in October 2020. Previously she was UK MD at Porter Novelli and a board director at Red.

Zeno bought 3 Monkeys in 2016. I always think of Zeno as a fairly new agency but for any PR agency history buffs out there, it was founded in 1998.

Before we start do check out our latest free-to-attend webinar “The State of Social 2023: Channel Disruption, Influencer Growth and The Great Data Integration Challenge.

Thanks as ever to the PRmoment Podcast sponsors The PRCA.

Here is a summary of what Jo and I discussed:

3 mins Jo talks about why we’re seeing more women PR agency CEOs.

“We’re (women) still only tracking at about 40% for leadership roles.”

7 mins Jo talks about the benefits of female leadership traits in a progressive working environment.

It’s the people you surround yourself with… charismatic leaders who are prepared to stand up and shape their organisations…and having the freedom to do that.”

10 mins We’ve probably seen a rise of misogyny in society? There seems to be an upward trend of obnoxious macho culture.

13 mins How do we make sure that in PR we don’t lose those gains that we’ve made?

“Greater protection for the challenging life stages that people go through”

“Enshrining policies into governance”

“Openness and confidence go hand in hand”

17 mins Jo talks about the role models that have helped her in her career - Lesley Brend at Red, Fenella Gray at Porter Novelli and Barby Siegel at Zeno.

“I like working with good people regardless of gender”

20 mins How is the Zeno business doing both globally and in the UK?

“About 50% of our work now is global”

21 mins In the UK 3 Monkeys was known for its consumer work, how has that evolved since the acquisition?

23 mins You are the first leader of the business in London who wasn't part of the original 3 Monkeys team. Has that been an advantage or disadvantage for you do you think?

25 mins When an agency like Zeno buys an agency like 3 Monkeys, do you try and retain the uniqueness of the 3 Monkeys culture or is it about integrating that agency into the culture of the wider business?

28 mins How did Jo’s in-house roles influence how you worked in an agency?

“If you can include going in-house as part of your (career) plan I would absolutely recommend it.”

30 mins What are the differences between working in a networked pr firm compared to an independent one?

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