Maja Pawinska Sims 30 Jun 2023 // 11:56AM GMT
In our Headliners series of conversations, we get under the skin of PR and communications leaders around the world who have made PRovoke Media headlines recently, uncovering what they see as the greatest challenges and opportunities for the industry, where they find inspiration (and how they switch off), what they’ve learned about themselves, as well as the creative campaigns they love and the work they are most proud of.
In this week's Q&A, we chat to Brendon Craigie, the founder and CEO of pan-European communications agency Tyto, which recently expanded to Sweden.
What are the greatest challenges and opportunities for the PR and communications industry over the next 12 months?
The greatest challenge is economic. We appear to be entering a period of higher interest rates and lower growth. Many businesses, and therefore clients, are dependent on, or laden with debt. If your debt servicing costs are rising but your sales are flat, you need to cut your costs. This will continue to impact marking and PR budgets. The PR industry must find ways to be more efficient and do more with less. Technology is part of this, but the greatest opportunity lies in reimagining the global PR agency model. We believe traditional international agency models are fragmented, inefficient, and do not help clients to maximise their investment or ensure consistency. It’s why we founded Tyto around our PRWithoutBorders model.
What’s the best PR campaign you’ve seen recently and why?
The best campaigns for me are the ones grounded in an intelligent idea rather than a flashy execution. I thought the campaign led by not-for-profit People Like Us to highlight autocorrect bias when it comes to names was a great example of this. I am also in awe of the creativity I see within my team, particularly the work they do to progress our industry overall. Our associate director, Shamina Peerboccus, has just completed The Xec. leadership programme and co-developed its #ClaimYourName campaign, which is very powerful.
What work from your team are you most proud of over the past year?
One recent example is our pro bono Tyto Foundation collaboration with Reporters Without Borders to launch its annual World Press Freedom Index, which was covered by national media around the world. Supporting Reporters Without Borders is one of the ways we seek to make a difference to our stakeholder community of journalists, by helping to shine a light on the rising threat to press freedom and the journalists who must live in fear and under threat for simply doing their jobs. This year’s findings show an unprecedented 31 countries deemed to be in a “very serious situation”, the lowest ranking in the report, up from 21 just two years ago.
What have you learned about yourself over the past couple of years?
I’ve always been a big reflector and question myself a lot on how I can be a better leader. What I concluded was that as we enter the next phase of Tyto’s growth, it’s important to look at every aspect of our business to ensure that it runs optimally with minimal intervention except for a subtle, strategic guiding hand. This is part of our strategy to ensure we have the foundations to scale. I’ve always been a good delegator, but I don’t think I’ve ever approached a transition like this in such a deliberate way. Founders play an important role in getting agencies into orbit and there’s an element of brute force required to get things off the ground, but founder-fuelled growth isn’t sustainable. Fortunately, over our first six years we’ve established a very deep and broad leadership group capped off by the recent appointment of Nick Taylor [former UK MD of Ballou] as our first managing director.
How do you switch off and maintain wellness?
I like immersive experiences that take you away from everything and allow you to focus on something completely different. One of the things I enjoy most is eating out at up-and-coming restaurants on a journey to getting a Michelin star. The flavours and food art that chefs create is a thing of wonder and totally engrossing. Beyond the pleasure of eating, there’s also inspiration to be drawn from the way chefs tell stories around their food and restaurants. There’s also the creativity of taking regular ingredients and turning them into something remarkable, and there’s the forensic attention to customer service.
What cultural source has provided creative inspiration for you lately?
I listen to a lot of analytical football (soccer) podcasts, and you can find so many parallels with the challenges and opportunities you encounter in running a business with those experienced by the management teams behind football clubs. For example, in constructing a team in football, you might not theoretically have the best team on a player-by-player basis, but you can be the best team if you construct and coach that team to work well together. I also find the Economist’s podcasts a great way to keep abreast of economic and political affairs.
If I wasn’t working in PR/comms I would be…
I’d be an entrepreneur in another field. I like to build teams, I like to spot and seek out opportunities, and to creatively solve problems and position businesses. Running a business is an incredible thing and I feel very grateful for the creative outlet it provides me.