Rich Leigh | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2019

Rich Leigh

Founder & Director

Radioactive PR

“Innovation is answering existing problems with new yet appropriate solutions. This could be building out products, additional services or getting the most out of your team’s talents to do so.”

In 2014, aged 27, Rich Leigh founded Radioactive PR without any investment, after working at 10 Yetis and Frank. Over the past five years, he has demonstrated that you don’t have to be based in the heart of the London agency scene – his agency is based in Gloucester – to be ahead of the curve in PR, particularly in creative digital work and PR for SEO. Always bursting with new ideas, Leigh founded to cover great PR campaigns and stunts, set up bloggabase – an early influencer marketing tool to allow the industry to connect with bloggers – and wrote the best-selling book “Myths of PR”. Never one to take himself too seriously, in 2017 Leigh changed his name to Mr. Public Relations by deed poll for six months. He was also the man behind The CRAPPS in 2010, a tongue-in-cheek awards taking aim at the sometimes-fraught relationship between PR professionals and journalists. He’s also an innovator in the workplace, as the first PR agency in the UK to move to a four-day week model, without cutting salaries, and with a hugely positive impact on staff happiness, productivity – and agency earnings.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
About the same as other marketing disciplines.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Integrated marketing.

How do you define innovation?
I think of innovation as answering existing problems with new yet appropriate solutions. This could be building out products, additional services or getting the most out of your team's talents to do so.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
There have been a good few, but Instagram announcing that they are testing hiding likes is a big one – running counter to perceived wisdom to solve an obvious issue. Also, John Lewis’ campaign around its trucks running on carbon-neutral car manure was fantastic. 

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
Diageo do incredible work in this space in terms of their own measurement, which dictates marketing spend based on results. Agency-wise, I'd like to think we are up there!

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
I've created a few things that have helped me, my agency, clients and hopefully the wider industry (PRexamples and Bloggabase, both in 2012), but our recent group and performance-led business Radioactive Talent is proving to be the most successful and seemingly necessary.

Most underrated trait in a PR person?
It's a toss-up between judgement and curiosity.

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
Our agency went down to four days a week around 18 months ago, while paying for five, so I use Fridays as my day to work on the business, which generally also means I can see creative issues much more clearly without day-to-day issues affecting thinking.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
PR is a business first and foremost, and while creativity is fundamental, if creative ideas don't help a client with their problems, it’s just masturbation we get paid for until clients realise their mistake. Our performance-led business and capabilities came from listening to clients say “our PR budget has shrunk/is shrinking” – well, that budget is being spent somewhere.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
Professionally: building our Radioactive Group offering out, to ensure our services and expertise in-agency match client needs, and freeing my time up to do that. Personally: making more time for friends, family and myself (fitness, writing another book – fiction, this time – and other projects I want to get to.

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend to rent, read or stream tonight?
Fargo (the movie and the TV series). I had been recommended it many times before I did watch it and just really enjoyed the light-hearted handling of serious issues.