Taking a traditional PR agency to a full-service, integrated marketing agency.
It’s been a week. Actually, no, it’s been a year. And what a year. I’m calling it lucky number 13: the year I joined the “longer in PR than journalism” club; the year BIG Partnership secured its best-ever results.
My name’s Alan, and I’m a former journalist. A hack who was very happy tromping around the country digging up news at all hours, in all weathers, with the aim of telling a story. Then, one day, a friend told me a job had opened up at BIG Partnership, and I should stick my name down.
Yes, yes – another poacher turned gamekeeper. You’ve heard it before. To an extent that may be true, but the difference between those who stumble into an agency or in-house comms job and those who have a chance to make it at BIG, is in our values.
You can #trust us. We’re a #team. We’ll be #creative as we work in #partnership with you, to secure #results which benefit you and us. Values we live by.
The PR agency piqued my interest because the people at the top of the business told a story they were committed to, like so many of the contacts I’d made in my former life. I didn’t doubt them for a minute, despite the cynicism of my mid-20s.
Their long-term plan was to build the business, stay aboard the ship and remain at the helm until a new generation could step up and take it over, rather than up and sell to the highest bidder when the trigger point in their early retirement plan came. In 2018, the company is still led by that same team complemented by additions to the board who have risen through the ranks.
They were building a company for the long term, that would support its people, that would give me an opportunity to develop a career. They treat me as a partner. We turn to each other for advice, look ahead at the new people helping us grow and change for the future, and, on a daily basis dedicate ourselves to setting the business up for the long(er) haul.
When a marketing agency evolves
Above all, what we were known for was offering clients an industry-leading approach to generating positive news through excellence in copywriting, and managing public perception issues by telling anyone who asked what the situation was, exactly as it should be.
From the outside it was easy to see why BIG had a strong reputation in that traditional field – comfortably more than half the staff were former journalists and, turned PRs they approached the business of selling stories the same way they had on the other side of the fence: absolutely no BS allowed. That’s where the #trust in our values originates.
I arrived as a time-served poacher and it’s not creative licence to say that I took as big a punt on the company as they did on me. As someone who’d always respectfully given PR its due without feeling drawn to the “dark side”, it was an experiment. I was never sure if I’d fit.
What I’ve found, daily, is that what the BIG experience always does is convince you, with very few reservations, that you’ve made the right choice. Not only that, there must be something you’re doing right because this high-performing, wildly ambitious #team has not only employed you, but kept you on its books. Another value writ large from the day you join.
The proof that we’re all developing and achieving new things comes when you consider your skillset. Within a year of joining I’d added capabilities in exhaustively detailed content and bias analysis; presentation development; and outline campaign planning to my CV.
Development that really builds something
In the years since, during which smartphones, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have been born and (in some cases quite literally) taken over public life, my understanding of and ability to explain the breadth of the marketing mix we are part of has grown exponentially, and in tandem with BIG’s reputation for delivering success across the platforms.
It never ends. At heart, I’m still a hack. I still consume news as a habit but, after 13 years, considering what makes an item newsworthy is only a fraction of what I do. As the agency has developed, so have I.
Creative marketing is an area where I had zero experience just over a decade ago. Today, I’m as confident discussing the genesis of a campaign as I am supporting them in my own specialist area – counselling clients in multiple industries on how to respond to crises; and developing the processes and procedures which outline how they respond under pressure and in peace time.
From a simple brochure listing the benefits of buying a home; to TV and radio advertising spelling those key messages out in 30-second bursts; to the development of complex algorithms which we work with to allow advertisers to target (and retarget, and remarket) their campaigns to viewers based on their web browsing habits, coupled to finely-tuned SEO, we’re a long way from the wee-small-hours finishes I was used to as a newspaper was put to bed.
In most cases, we’re managing campaigns running into many, many years – built on the track record our clients have established, and which we’ve often helped to cement through dozens of those day-to-day news stories we see off to print or into broadcast, social posts or dynamic ads, told in words, pictures, infographics, animation and videography.
We work with media from traditional news journalists to technical feature specialists in oil and gas, and bloggers whose Instagram feed could make or destroy a company’s reputation based on the quality of a single item in a globally-shared post…
Supporting clients as they first consider engaging in the digital marketing landscape is the biggest challenge any traditional PR or developing marketing agency can take on. Before introducing them to digital colleagues in our offices nationwide, those of us from the legacy media side of the business needed to learn, and fast.
Being able to trust that we can take those clients to our industry-leading digital and social team, so that they can lead them through how best to maximise the impact of their investment in something which – given its relative youth compared to print and broadcast advertising – they still don’t necessarily trust, is something we can be immensely proud of.
It’s #trust that gets us there. Trust from the client in our ability to deliver a #creative campaign or solution that delivers #results. Trust in our own #team, and its ability to be creative, and to secure those results through the #partnership ethos we adhere to when working with our clients, and each other.
Fulfilling promise, reaping rewards
I’ve mentioned #partnership a number of times – it’s in the name after all, and you’d be forgiven for wondering just how much the team are really handed a share of the responsibility and cash reward for the company’s success. Sure, everyone grinds out a day – but how BIG’s the pay packet?
BIG’s bonus structure, which over the past week has been lauded and discussed perhaps more than the stonking annual results which are fuelling it, is a brilliant driver for success. Every member of our team has a chance to benefit from the bonus pot which is dependent on us delivering a first class service to clients, with a scale of share based on company, team and personal performance. And that’s on top of a basic pay, paid leave and flexible working structure that’s up there with the biggest in the UK.
There are no gimmicks to it. If the company makes its targets, we all get a share. If the team you’re a member of reaches its own, there’s another slice. And if your own performance stands out – and let’s face it, who wants to be the person known for just doing their job – there’s a cherry on the top.
No hidden numbers. No provisos you didn’t spot in the extra-small print (there really isn’t any of that in our contracts, either). No excuses and no situation in which you’ll find yourself without the support you need to fulfil your promise to your clients, and your own ambitions.
No BS. It’s why we stay.
If you want a share in the next BIG bonus pot, click here to browse current vacancies at BIG.