This week, we're starting a new series called PR Reset, where I'm catching up with the CEOs of some of the UK's most prominent PR firms to talk about how they see their business, the PR world and the wider economy resetting post the Covid-19 lockdown.
First up, we've got the founder of W Communications Warren Johnson. Frankly, Warren’s on even more punchy form than ever! Here’s a summary of what we discussed:
2.12 mins How Warren has managed the coronavirus lockdown crisis for W.
2.50 mins Warren describes the first week of lockdown as “the worst of his professional career.”
2.52 mins How Warren and his FD had to renegotiate “something like 42 client contracts in the first two or three weeks” of lockdown.
3.20 mins How he saw his “job as trying to make sure money didn’t leave (W Communications) for good.”
3.40 mins How W took an “aggressively commercial approach to its cost base” during the lockdown.
3.52 mins How W’s “EBIT didn’t take much of a hit during the lockdown, but revenues were 8-10% down.”
4.16 mins Warren denies that W was spending £4K a month on cereal, beer and flowers pre-Covid. And how not being in the office actually “saves a vast amount of money”.
07.05 mins Why being independent and being able to make quick decisions helped W during this period – for example getting out of the office before lockdown started reduced a lot of costs.
07.48 mins Why W has not reduced any of W’s staff salaries during lockdown, but instead took this as an “opportunity to trim the herd a little bit from some underperforming staff.”
08.10 mins W has brought in new CEO inn Rachel Friend (she started 1 July). Why did Warren decide that now was right the time was right to bring in an outsider into that position?
08.46 mins Warren explains he wants “W to be an agency as big as Weber, I don’t know what that looks like, so I need someone who does.”
08.59 mins Warren says: “There are very few people that we can work in partnership with. but when I put that list together, Rachel (Friend) was number one on that list.”
09.35 mins Warren says independents have had a better lockdown than the group owned forms because of their agility.
10.15 mins Warren predicts a two-speed recovery for the PR sector: “the better operators are already back on their A-game”
10.45 mins Warren says: “There is a slight nanny state evolving where people believe they need to be as far away from the office as possible.”
10.58 mins Why after three months of working from home people need to come back into the office to collaborate.
11.04 mins “Zoom is not the right format to be creative.”
12.11 mins Many PR firms are looking to return the office in Sept – but W returned to the office from 1 July in a “beta” phase.
13.51 mins Warren’s “fog of lockdown has already lifted” and why he’s “keen more people experience that.”
14.09 mins How W’s employees were about “a third, a third, a third” when it came to their keenness to return to the office.
14.34 mins Most of the employees who were concerned about returning to the office were worried about the travel.
15.17 mins Some of W’s younger employees have given up flats in London and have moved back to their parents’ homes.
16.55 mins Warren says he’s “not sure whether we (W) can be in a position where we can have people working remotely permanently...s o that is going to present a few problems.”
17.05 mins PR people, especially junior PR “people have become overconfident in their sense of job security”.
18.05 mins This should be a