DATE

16/02/17

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ANALYSIS

IN MEMORIAM – PATRICK VIGORS

by  CHARLIE METHVEN

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IN MEMORIAM – PATRICK VIGORS

by  CHARLIE METHVEN

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DATE

16/02/17

FILED UNDER

ANALYSIS

Last week I attended the funeral of Patrick Vigors, Dragon Group’s Finance Director. Patrick had been with our business since its inception nearly six years ago, and had sat – quite literally, as well as metaphorically – at my right hand throughout those years. He sent out our first invoice, chased our first late-payer (month 1!) and paid our first payroll (month 2). He negotiated compromises, dealt with recalcitrant banks – often in inimitably Fawlty-esque style – and had extremely straightforward views as to the contributions of those we employed as the years went by. Perhaps not surprisingly for a former cavalry officer, Patrick’s world view, when it came to people, was stark and binary. He divided it into those who were “good news” and those who were “bad news”. Despite (or perhaps because of) not being much of a people person, he was very rarely wrong. I would have saved myself a lot of trouble and money if I had asked Patrick to act as a final filter before hiring any new member of staff. 

Many people at the funeral told me how much Patrick’s work at Dragon meant to him, as a final success story at the end of a long and winding career. It is a sobering thought that I spent more of Patrick’s last years on earth with him than anyone else – his widow; his children; his close friends. Both of which facts should, I think, make all of us consider our working lives very carefully. Unless we are fortunate enough to inherit enough not to need to work, our careers will form a larger part of the lives that we live than our mind is, perhaps, comfortable with accepting. For our own sake, we need to be clear that the work we are doing is meaningful to us. And that the colleagues we spend 10 hours a day with are people we find meaning in, can learn from, teach, laugh with and achieve together.

 

I learned a lot from Patrick – before starting Dragon I was a novice in organising the financial matters of a company, having worked in larger organisations before. I laughed a lot with Patrick, as he pointed out exasperatedly the iniquities and illogical working practises of modern business life. Along with all his much younger colleagues, I laughed at Patrick as he plucked extraordinary metaphors and 1950s-style language out of thin air to illustrate his points on the telephone whilst waving his arms around like a scarecrow on speed. At our annual Christmas party, of the ten ‘quotes of the year’ at least five would always be from Patrick.

We achieved a bit together too, growing a business from three people around a kitchen table to the twenty people I see in front of me, as I write this now, in a Mayfair office. As new members of staff join, they will not know of the man who, nearing 70, would stalk in every day with his ruck-sack and set straight down to work – never a day off for sickness, never a moan about his life, always determined to do the best he could do. But I and a few others will quietly raise a glass to Patrick Vigors whenever we get together, for being a force for good in all our lives.

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DATE

06/08/15

FILED UNDER

FUTURE

FUTURE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

by  CHARLIE METHVEN

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FUTURE OF PUBLIC RELATIONS

by  CHARLIE METHVEN

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DATE

06/08/15

FILED UNDER

FUTURE

Public Relations has a PR problem. Some 30 years into our trade’s existence as an industry, many business leaders have formed a view of PR that would optimistically be described as cynical.

In the advisory food chain, public relations advisers generally rank below lawyers, accountants and management consultants, with maybe only estate agents and IFAs scoring lower credibility ratings.

Part of the reason for this is, ironically, perception. PR is not a profession; it is thought to be dealing with less objective matters than the legal and accountancy industries; and it still generally attracts a lower class of university graduate than its professional peers.

All these things matter a bit, but I believe that the major problem is a structural one, which can only be addressed by those of us running consultancies. Fundamentally, PR has not actually generally done – or even tried to do – what it might be expected to do.

Consider the term “Public Relations”. See how broad it is. How all-encompassing. That does not suggest a narrow, flakey function dealing with non-core issues. It suggests dealing with all the externalities that a business might face, presumably in a coherent, strategic fashion.

So why have PRs allowed themselves to be backed into a corner where “media relations” is seen as about the summit of what they might be allowed to get their mitts on?

Whereas management consultants deal largely with the minutiae of a company’s systems and processes, with lawyers and accountants focusing on issues specific to their training, Public Relations is gazing at a broad universe. It comprises commercial ambitions, major risk mitigation, engagement with clients, partners, investors and politicians through any number of channels – in short, outside of the inner workings of a business, the whole shebang.

It is a fascinating challenge to consider all these contexts, and make sense of them together. A huge opportunity if a business leader takes a PR adviser seriously enough for him/her to impact a business positively, rather than just tidy up around the edges (as the legal eagles and bean counters will always be limited to doing).

That was the opportunity I was shooting for when I set up Dragon in 2011. It is an opportunity that has become even greater with the further progression of the digital age and consequential gradual retreat of paid-for advertising, to be replaced by proprietary digital content and social media channel usage. These new channels should rightly be part of the PR’s toolbox, not the province of traditional ad agency types. How, realistically, can one separate the writing of a comment piece for the chief exec from putting together a YouTube clip expressing the same message?

Ultimately, all these channels – traditional newsprint, blogs, social media, events – need to be considered as one, by one function. Otherwise, a business leader will constantly be having to worry that the right and left hands are being governed by different brains, diluting or contradicting the message in the process.

A true PR supremo needs to look across all these channels, whilst keeping a steady hand on the strategic tiller. Being a “digital PR” is no better than being a “newspaper PR” because channels are just that; channels.  They are not the point themselves. Yet it is true that, with such a broad range of different tactical competencies – and such a major chunk of corporate territory – to become what the clients need them to be PR consultancies need to aim higher than they are used to doing. We also need to recruit more intelligent graduates and experienced colleagues from a broader range of backgrounds.

This isn’t easy. Until PR captures the territory it should do, with consequent higher fees, consultancies will struggle to pay sufficiently well to hire the very best. This is going to be a gradual process. None the less, amongst Dragon’s ranks we already count a former major law firm Partner, a former Hedge Fund Partner, a former in-house investor relations manager, two former national newspaper journalists, a former Chief Marketing Officer, a former F1 team head of sponsorship, as well as five ‘career PRs’. The team meetings become richer and more productive with the addition of every different skillset and different primary career.

I hope and believe that, in the process of building a team that can seriously address our client’s full needs, we are also finally starting the long-overdue task of solving PR’s PR problem.

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