September 16, 2018

Havas PR CEO James Wright on What It Takes to Run a PR Agency of the Year

by William Turner in News

Havas PR North America’s brand new CEO, James Wright, comes to us from Sydney, where he’s spent more than seven years running the Havas-owned Red Agency. When the agency recently won Mumbrella’s PR Agency of the Year for the second consecutive year, the publication celebrated by picking James’ brain in a revealing interview. Here are some of the best nuggets from that exchange with our CEO.

First order of business: hire and retain the right people. 

“You can’t do it on your own… it’s about finding the right people, with the right skill set, with most importantly, the right attitude that can really deliver on the strategy you develop. You can have the best strategy in the world, but if you don’t have the right people around you to deliver it, it’s going to be pointless.”

Find the lessons in every failure. 

“I made mistakes; the key is you learn from it and want to create an agency where things happen that people don’t get upset about. It is almost like you learn how not to do things, and if you’ve got the smarts and the common sense you learn how to do it.”

Criticism doesn’t have to be a bad word. 

“There’s a real strength in telling people and talking to people about areas of weakness and delivering it as criticism rather than feedback, because if you’ve got the right attitude you will take criticism in the right way and you will turn that into a strength.”

You’ve got to want to have the appetite to come in every day and be a better version of the agency you were the day before, and it’s a constant cycle of improvement.

Think outside the PR recruitment box. 

Citing “an acutely huge talent shortage” in public relations, James said, “This is what makes keeping staff really important… It’s about hiring people from non-traditional PR backgrounds who are perhaps coming at things from a completely different point of view; it’s a challenge.”

Tie new business pitches to fun, fame or fortune. 

Wright says deciding on what business the agency pitches for comes down to “fun, fame or fortune,” and that every new client should bring at least two out of the three. “Is it going to be a really fun account work on? Is it an account that’s potentially going to make you famous and do work that people are really going to be jealous of? Or is it a fortune account, an account that’s worth a lot of money and you’re actually going to pay the bills and pay the salaries?”

Read the full interview with our CEO here.