Emma Kane, CEO of Newgate Communications, discusses founding her own agency, becoming Newgate CEO and being awarded the Freedom of the City of London.
You oversaw the merger of Newgate and Redleaf at the end of last year, why did you choose to formally merge the two agencies and what benefits has it brought?
The integration was undertaken to focus all our activities on building one brand. Using the great foundations of two agencies, we’ve added more expertise and can now deliver seamless communications locally, national and internationally.
The move should remove any confusion in the market, will eliminate any unnecessary costs and enable us to operate on a one P&L basis. Teams across Newgate are already collaborating to offer clients a wider range of strategic communications. The depth of expertise we have in one room is outstanding and the buzz of excitement is fuelling great work.
Why did you found Redleaf Communications 19 years ago? Did you envision that years later you would be joint-CEO of a group of agencies?
In 2000, I had the benefit of fourteen years’ experience working in-house and in agencies and I was hugely ambitious, but the owners of the agency I was running did not share my appetite. I strongly felt the old adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks applied.
I did not set out to build a business with the intention of selling it to a group. My vision was to build a brand that became synonymous with great service, that delivered measurable results, and was truly viewed as an integral part of the success of its clients’ businesses.
That said, I feel like my current role as joint-CEO of the whole group’s international operations and chief executive of Newgate Communications in the UK is a dream come true and utilises all the skills and experience I have built.
What will be your key focuses in 2019?
I have an incredible team, clients, international footprint – we just needed a clear strategy and for the businesses to become fully integrated. Our strategy revolves around driving growth and profitability, developing new products and services, enhancing our culture and raising our profile.
We have a defined plan for the year ahead which includes rolling out in the UK our fully accredited research offering that powers our Australian business, investing more in our team, building the Newgate brand and improving the profitability of the business.
How has financial PR changed over the past 20 years?
Financial PR is just one part of Newgate’s business and I would say that pure financial PR has probably changed less than many other areas. However, the ability for investors, analysts, and other opinion formers to access information anywhere, anytime means that financial PR is rarely a standalone service these days; it needs to be part of an integrated programme.
Social media bulletin boards, stories breaking 24/7, the fact that information and opinion is no longer ‘chip paper’ but remains part of a company’s digital footprint, the speed at which contagion from bad news from others in the sector spreads… there are a multitude of ways but it is primarily technology which has changed financial PR.
I would say that it is also more highly valued in the boardroom where it has a seat at the table rather than waiting outside the room for the statement to be handed over for dissemination.
What is your favourite campaign to have been involved with?
That is an almost impossible question to answer because clients are like children, you can’t have a favourite, so perhaps I can say the incredible work that my team did surrounding the IPO of the law firm my husband founded, Rosenblatt Group plc.
Great coverage was secured, a fantastic investor base attracted and it was significantly oversubscribed so it was a great team effort with all the firm’s advisers and the Rosenblatt board.
How do you look to demonstrate the value of the work you do for clients?
It starts with agreeing a proper scope of work which defines what success will look like, how it will be measured and which clarifies what is valued and what is not.
Our campaigns are insight-led and based on facts not assumptions so that we can then use evidence in the form of data and research to quantify the return on investment. It is a true science now and it is brilliant that we can use sophisticated tools to quantify the impact of our work.
However, the width of the smile on our client’s face when we meet is also a pretty good measure.
If you had one piece of advice to give to aspiring PRs, what would it be?
Listen – and to do this you need to call people or meet them, don’t just communicate electronically because you miss all the nuances and clues which help you win the business you want, get the fees you deserve, or get the results you need when selling in a story or proposition.
Finally, you were awarded the Freedom of the City of London in 2017. How did you feel when you found out you’d be receiving it and are there any perks attached to the title?
Truthfully, I was thrilled skinny and very proud to have my work recognised – as a child, I loved the cartoon character Muttley who was also pretty keen on a medal! When I then researched the history, the ceremony and the names of others who had gone before me, it added a further layer of excitement.
It is really entirely ceremonial given the privileges include the right to drive sheep and cattle over London Bridge; to be hanged by a silken rope; to carry a sword in public, or if found drunk and incapable to be popped in a taxi rather than sent home (and I don’t drink so it would have to be a fierce Seedlip and tonic for that to be of any benefit).
The recognition in the form of a beautiful framed parchment certificate nestles proudly alongside my husband’s OBE on the shelf at home.