Established in 2001 with the backing of advertising agency M&C Saatchi, Talk PR gained a measure of independence in 2010, after founder and chief executive Jane Boardman and former Ogilvy Public Relations executive Ryan Woor led a management buyout that saw the leadership team acquire 49 percent of the business. The hope is that the new ownership structure will provide Talk with the best of both worlds: it will continue to benefit from being part of the Saatchi family, while being free to develop in its own direction, focusing on fashion and beauty and luxury and lifestyle brands.
Boardman was a member of the board of legendary U.K. consumer public relations shop Lynne Franks, and following its merger with Ketchum headed the international firm’s consumer division before leaving in 2001 to establish her own firm, seeking to provide clients with the international perspective and strategic counsel typically associated with larger agencies, delivered by senior people who were not afraid to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty making sure the implementation lived up to the strategy. Woor, who joined as chief operating officer in 2008, was head of finance for Ogilvy PR and business systems director for the region. They are joined at the leadership level by business development director Tanya Hughes, who also serves as fashion director for the M&C Saatchi Group, and board directors Helena Fisher, another Lynne Franks veteran, and Samantha Coon, one of the founders of fashion and beauty specialist Strawberry PR.
The months since the MBO have seen plenty of activity. Talk has continued to develop its DigiTalk digital capability and launched Talk Productions, which handles events from local product launches to major global productions. The firm has expanded its network of expert consultants and industry opinion leaders (fashion industry insider Mandi Lennard serves as creative consultant) and launched an international network of independent boutique lifestyle consultancies, SERMO, which provides insight into cultural trends around the world. The firm also introduced Talk Future, an initiative that aims to nurture young talent in the fashion and beauty arena.
The recession hit Talk PR relatively early, and the past 12 months have seen a stabilization of fee income at around the £3 million mark. The firm continues to work with longstanding clients including P&G Beauty, Grooming, Professional & Prestige Brands (new assignments over the past 12 months included Frédéric Fekkai, Wella Professionals, D&G Make-up and Aussie brand work); The Sanctuary; Swarovski Crystallized, Bicester Village and the BFC. New business over the past 12 months came from adidas by Stella McCartney; Holly Fulton; Louise Gray; Michael van der Ham; and Elle Magazine (including the Elle Style Awards).
Interesting work ranged from an influencer outreach and sponsorship activation campaign around Vodafone’s new Vodafone VIP customer loyalty programme to ongoing strategic counsel for the British Fashion Council, including several 25th anniversary projects and publication of the group’s Value of Fashion report. Talk PR handled the launch of D&G Fragrance in Milan and is coordinating the international rollout of the P&G Beauty & Grooming Awards. The firm also recruited influential young celebrity design collaborator Daisy Lowe to design a new capsule jewellery collection for Swarovski Crystallized and position brand as younger, cooler and edgier.
On the international front, the SERMO network has founding partners in the U.S., Spain and France and affiliate partners in Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Greece, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Sydney and China.