Talk PR hires creative tech veteran for new 'strategy hub'; to drop 'PR' from name

Talk PR has hired creative tech veteran Craig Wills to head a new division focused on data and analytics, as it looks to broaden its offer - and remove "PR" from its title.

Wills (pictured), a founder of Naked Communications whose previous roles include executive strategy director at Exposure’s brand consultancy The Gild, joined yesterday in the new role of head of strategy. He will head Talk PR’s new strategy hub, focused on data and analytics.

Wills will also work with existing clients on influencer activities and help with new business at the M&C Saatchi-owned consumer, luxury and lifestyle-focused agency, which reported revenue of £3.8m in 2016.

There are plans to recruit a couple more people to the division, Talk PR CEO Jane Boardman told PRWeek.

Boardman cited the need to "out data" digital and media agencies.

"Our big move is to try to put more data into the business. The big agencies are evolving this a bit faster than the smaller ones like ours, but we want to make sure that we can stand out, particularly to the digital agencies and the media agencies that are slightly trying to eat our lunch - particularly on influencers."

Wills, who worked at Talk PR on a freelance basis over the summer, was previously head of planning at ad agency Fallon and also held global strategy roles at Havas and McCann over a 20-year career in the industry.

Rebrand

Boardman also told PRWeek the 50-person agency is to lose the "PR" suffix when it rebrands as Talk in January 2018. It follows similar moves by other agencies, including Lewis (formerly Lewis PR).

"I think it is important, because PR is so misunderstood," Boardman said. "I think people still think that we do, affectively, publicity. We don’t just do what people see as PR, and many agencies like us don’t."

She also cited the crossover of activities within M&C Saatchi agencies. "In order to service clients today and do something meaningful you have to go outside own your specific heritage area, which I guess is what we’re doing," Boardman added.

She also revealed that Talk PR, which is part of the global agency network Sermo, is hiring for the new role of head of UK.

"Our global team has got such a strong identity but it does very different things to the local team. Again, some agencies are merging the two, but it’s such a different skill set, such different types of people, so we hope we’ll get someone really strong to lead the UK."

Talk PR MD Helena Fisher recently left the agency to take the UK managing director role at Citizen Relations.

M&C Saatchi CEO David Kershaw told PRWeek yesterday that Talk PR didn’t have the same "stellar" growth as sister PR shops M&C Saatchi PR and Sport & Entertainment in the first half of 2017, after it stopped working with a number of Procter & Gamble brands.

Regarding trading for the rest of 2017, Boardman said: "Our income is going to be a little bit up from last year. Our profits are not going to be up from last year because we’ve invested a lot of money in things like bringing in the data process here, restructuring the company.

"I wouldn’t say it’s a particularly challenging time in terms of getting business and serving that business. It’s been a really good year, although we’ve deliberately chosen to invest in change a lot, hopefully to set ourselves up for the future."

However, she added: "I think it’s very hard to make money from clients anymore. Margins are being cut everywhere. Fees are very challenging and I think we’re expected to do more for less money."

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