Laura Wood - Always up for a starring role

The Brooklyn Brothers' PR partner failed in auditions at drama school, but is showcasing her talents on the PR stage, finds Kate Magee.

Ice Cool: Laura Wood
Ice Cool: Laura Wood

Back in June, the PR industry was licking its wounds after it had, yet again, failed to produce a single gold winner at the Cannes PR Lions.

But one point was missed amid the collective soul searching. The sole UK creative agency to win a gold PR award, The Brooklyn Brothers, had a PR specialist at the heart of its winning campaign. Step forward Laura Wood.

The 36-year-old joined the three-year-old agency in 2011 as PR partner after, perhaps a little surprisingly, she decided to leave Golden Goose PR, the agency she co-founded and ran for nearly seven years with Miki Watson.

Wood was not in Cannes when the gong was awarded, but The Brooklyn Brothers' winning work with Iceland has the hallmarks of a PR-led campaign. It was a partnership that formed out of crisis - Iceland's erupting volcano and ash cloud thrust it into the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Within two weeks, agency staff were on a plane to Iceland to discuss how to rebuild the country's tourist industry.

'We thought people would not believe a traditional ad campaign saying the country had recovered. There was a lot of mistrust of the powers that be. So we got the people who were the best witness to what was going on there - the Icelandic people - to tell the story,' she says.

So began a range of activities that included the Icelandic president inviting tourists to have tea with his family.

Wood says the main difference in a creative rather than PR agency is that her colleagues from an advertising background have 'more conviction in selling their ideas and more rigour in their deliverables'.

She adds: 'PR is slightly apologetic about measuring results, but if you use the same insight as the advertising industry, you can be more convincing.'

Throughout the interview she is friendly, open and only the neon colours in her jacket betray a hint of her former interest in drama. As a 15-year-old, Wood was convinced she belonged on the stage. She bunked off school, travelled to London and conducted a successful interview for stage school. Although she did not take up the place, she continued to pursue acting as a career. After university she appeared in a production with actress Sigourney Weaver's husband.

'I was on such a high. I thought this is for me, but then I went for various auditions and did not get anywhere,' says Wood.

Instead, a friend helped to get her a job at Capital Radio where she was responsible for making sure celebrities such as Blue, the Spice Girls and East 17 were comfortable in the green room.

'I was the rookie doing the grunt work, including removing all the blue M&Ms from a mixed bowl for a rider, but as a result I was in touch with a lot of people,' she says.

After a brief stint at a radio station in Southampton, she returned to London, this time at Roche Communications as a restaurant PR professional. Despite loving food and building great media contacts, the four lunches or dinners a week with critics such as AA Gill, Giles Coren and Jay Rayner soon lost their appeal. 'I had to have three courses and order the signature dishes to show off the food. They were often the richest dishes on the menu. I began to hate eating out,' she says. 'I didn't have the appetite for it - literally,' she jokes.

She left for Joe Public Relations, which she claims was the 'best move of her career', because she met her future husband (then MD) Matt Wood. During her time there, she rolled out Tesco's online shopping service, travelling to 600 stores to talk to staff about the PR opportunities it presented. She also launched ASOS, AOL and eBay, which at the time was based in a tiny office in Fulham and was a challenger brand.

Eventually, she knew that 'if I was going to be dating Matt, I couldn't stay where I was'. She and a colleague, Miki Watson, wanted to set up their own agency. They were both very young, so took a mature approach to setting up. Watson left to gain in-house experience at AOL, while Wood joined media specialist Braben to build up her media contacts. Clients at the time included Elle, FHM, Turner Broadcast and Emap. 'CEO Sarah Braben (now Locke) taught me quite a bit about running a small business,' she remembers.

'I have fond memories of Laura,' says Locke. 'She was diligent, calm and had a good sense of humour. She was an important member of a growing team.'

When the time came, Watson and Wood launched Golden Goose PR with their first client The Clapham Grand nightclub.

'One of the big problems was that customers said the door staff were rude. So we brought in a specialist in royal etiquette to teach them better manners,' says Wood of a campaign that displays Golden Goose's trademark creativity.

The only point during the interview when Wood hesitates is when asked to explain why she left her own agency. 'I wanted to be part of an integrated business and have an opportunity to work on more global brands,' she says. 'It took a lot of thought to reach the decision.'

If she was unsure about leaving Golden Goose at the time, she now enthuses about her new environment. Aside from the Cannes award, she has already travelled to 18 different countries, launching the Range Rover Evoque with Victoria Beckham, and has thrown herself into redecorating the agency's offices - a product of her passion for interior design that has extended to her country house. It is clear the once-budding actress is enjoying her new part.

CV

2011 Partner, PR, The Brooklyn Brothers

2003 Co-founder, Golden Goose PR

2002  Senior consultant, The Braben Company

2000 Account manager, Joe Public Relations

1999 Account executive, Roche Communications

1998 Events co-ordinator, Capital Radio Group

TIPS FROM THE TOP

What was your biggest career break?

The job at Capital, otherwise I would still be doing auditions.

Have you had a notable mentor?

Matt, my husband. When I first began working with him, I thought he was a genius. He encouraged me to do Golden Goose and mentored me throughout.

What advice would you give to people climbing the career ladder?

Learn something new from each person you meet. It's about having a wider view. There is so much you can learn from working with people from different cities and territories, both in general life and in work. I have learned so much from all those at The Brooklyn Brothers.

What qualities do you look for in new recruits?

I want to work with people who love what they do. If you are dedicated to something, you are rewarded with success and the respect of your peers. Do what you love. Don't do it if you don't love it.

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