60 Seconds with Grayling's Kat McGettigan

Kat McGettigan, head of Grayling’s consumer practice, discusses what first attracted her to the role, the need for brands to have a social purpose and the campaigns she’s loved working on.


You’ve been leading Grayling’s consumer practice for a few months now, how have you found the position?

I started the role nine months ago and it’s been everything I expected and more – the shortest and longest nine months I can remember for a while, but hugely rewarding.

My brief was to come in and press re-set on the consumer offer. Grayling were, in the past, incredibly strong here and there was lots of good work happening with some fantastic brands and lots of talent to work with, so it was about building back confidence and winning work that people wouldn’t expect Grayling to be doing.

We’ve had some great success in the last few months and won some big pitches and projects that have allowed us to start producing work that is bolder, more consumer driven, and that’s meant we’ve started attracting the attention of new types of prospects and talent.

What attracted you to the role at Grayling? How does being part of a large agency network affect your role?

I had a fantastic four and a half years at M&C Saatchi PR, in a huge period of growth and success, but I was keen to take on a new challenge. I had a few months out and then the opportunity to join Grayling and re-focus and re-establish the consumer offer was really compelling.

I also was hugely inspired by my CEO Sarah Scholefield when I met her, particularly her openness and ambition to transform the Grayling offer and proposition. It felt like an opportunity that I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t taken it – almost like a start-up in the comfort of a big agency set-up.

Being part of a large agency network means we are always looking at ways to integrate both in the UK and beyond, but with the clients’ needs firmly at the heart of this. We have a great pool of talent and tools to draw on, so when a client brief or new business opportunity comes in we can really take stock of who the right people are to deliver the brief or solve the problem.

The fact we have nine UK regional offices is a real USP and means we have great talent with local knowledge and expertise in all the major cities which I believe stands us apart for UK multi-location businesses. We are a national agency with a deep local presence.

The Channel 4 move to Leeds is an example of the growing trend of brands looking outside of London and Grayling is uniquely positioned to offer true expertise across the country.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

We’ve had a really busy last couple of months from launching an European campaign for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, unveiling the new seven urban wonders of the world, a great piece of insight and influencer work that’s had some real traction; to handling Team Europe captain Thomas Bjorn’s packed media schedule after a successful victory in the Ryder Cup.

A huge highlight has been working with Visa on their high street campaigns. The Great British High Street Awards was a hugely rewarding campaign at a time when the high street is in a state of flux – and is a sector and issue I am personally very passionate about.

We are also amplifying their Christmas campaign, which has seen Visa continue to back the high street by making the shop-owners the stars of the campaign.

There is more pressure than ever on brands to take stances on social issues and wider debates, what is your view on this?

My view is brands should be doing this as standard, not because they feel pressure. Brands need to be aware of the issues their consumers and potential customers care about and look at ways to really drive change and not just pay lip service to these issues.

Visa is a good example of this. They are a brand really getting behind and supporting the high street at a time when small retailers really need support. As someone who is passionate about supporting women in business, and a member of Women in PR, I always keep an eye on work getting behind pushing against female stereotyping.

As a huge Roald Dahl fan, I loved the recent campaign with Matilda turning 30 and standing up to Trump. Simple and with a hint of nostalgia. What’s not to love?

As a big sports fan, I always love the work Nike produces, consistently taking risks and pushing boundaries.

How do you look to measure the impact of your PR work?

Measurement is still a topic I think we will continue to debate and are still behind other disciplines when it comes to showing true ROI and impact.

That said there’s lots of good progress being made in this space and I think key is for client and agency to collaborate from the off and agree what success for that particular campaign looks like, as every campaign is different.

At Grayling we have a proprietary tool called GCore which helps brands take control of their search presence and has proved very successful for many of our clients to help them build more controlled positive content online.

The other good news is lots of brands are becoming more open in sharing access to their owned analytics and working more closely together to set up bespoke metrics to show real impact be that across conversation, brand awareness or harder sales data.

Finally, what have been the most memorable consumer campaigns you’ve worked on?

There have been too many to count! I absolutely loved the work I did for EDF Energy for the London 2012 Games while at Weber Shandwick. I’m a total Olympics geek so on a personal level it was great to work with a tier one sponsor at our home games.

The work we did – Energy of the Nation – changed perceptions around the energy company and delivered an innovative campaign using social media sentiment tracking to show how positive the nation was feeling towards the Games. It was the culmination of months and months and months of hard work.

I loved the work I did for Paddy Power at M&C Saatchi PR from launching David Ginola’s FIFA presidency bid to working with Dennis Rodman on his basketball match in North Korea. They were totally crazy campaigns but the determination, excitement and energy to pull these campaigns off will stick with me for a long time!

And this summer, delivering a fully integrated alternative World Cup anthem for BetStars with Ricky Wilson and Freddie Flintoff – a re-work of the Boney M classic Rasputin – in record-breaking time was another one that will be hard to beat any time soon!

About Alister Houghton

Alister writes about the PR and comms industry as content marketing manager at Cision. Send case studies, press releases and story pitches to alister.houghton@cision.com