Part-time musician and ex-soap star lead Bell Pottinger's new UK creative setup

Bell Pottinger has moved two staffers with performing arts experience into new roles as the agency's joint creative team, with a senior figure at the firm saying PR firms have often been "a bit conservative" in their creative arrangements.

Creative duet: Ballantine Dykes (left) and Mountford
Creative duet: Ballantine Dykes (left) and Mountford

Leila Mountford, who joined the agency last year as a creative having previously worked at Weber Shandwick, spent two-and-a-half years earlier in her career acting in Endemol-produced South African soap Isidingo.

Emma Ballantine Dykes joined the company as a graduate in 2009, and has recently been working part-time, combining this with a career as a singer-songwriter. Performing as Emma Ballantine, she sang at Glastonbury this year and was tipped by Glamour Magazine as One to Watch in 2016. 

Working as a two-person senior creative team with the job titles of senior consultant, the pair report to former TV producer Victoria Naylor-Leyland, who joined the firm last year as head of TV, film and video content. Naylor-Leyland now has the role of head of content and creative.

The new setup was formalised earlier this month.

Kevin Read, who as a partner at the agency oversees Bell Pottinger's UK work outside of its financial and political clients, told PRWeek: "We’re trying to part with the days of a one-man creative team, and we’ve found a format using people who have much more real-life experience, who are younger, and perhaps more social media savvy."

"We’re finding that works much better than one person coming up with an idea and trying to oversell it," he went on to say, adding that the PR industry "can sometimes be a bit conservative in the way it does creativity".

He said that Ballantine Dykes' "hybrid career" helped provide a "very powerful" offering for clients. "When you write a song you’ve got the process of creating it but you’ve also got to commercialise it," he said. Mountford's time working from scripts had enabled her to consider how different entities in a situation interact, which "creates a very different way of looking at a problem".

The world's 36th largest PR firm, Bell Pottinger clients in the areas overseen by Read include Air France, recruitment giant Hays, and South African Tourism.

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