PROFILE: Emma Wright, managing director, Publicasity

As Emma Wright hands over a metre-long pack of Jaffa Cakes, she explains how her 'staff-friendly' agency likes to 'think differently'.

The comment would be enough to make anyone with a remotely cynical view of such things roll their eyeballs and sigh.

But Wright, who was promoted to MD of 45-strong Hemel Hempstead and London-based agency Publicasity six months ago (PRWeek, 5 Oct 2006), oozes enough energy and conviction to make her comments seem worth
investigating further.

Wright is something of a stalwart at the agency, which was known as icas PR until last year. She first joined the firm in its former guise ten years ago, but left August.One Communications in 2000 after a year. She returned to icas as associate director. Completing a partial MBO last year, she also oversaw the name change.

‘We had some professionals look at a few ideas but found we were actually better at it ourselves, plus it's nice to give the money to a staff member instead,' Wright says. The theme of looking after staff is one Wright likes to emphasise. A lot.

‘We've had one person leave in the past year. That's because we create an entrepreneurial spirit and a flexible working environment,' she says. PRWeek hears such claims incess­antly from agencies, but Wright backs hers up with some fresh thinking.

‘What about mothers?' she muses, talking 29 to the dozen and citing the fact that Publicasity's Hemel Hempstead office has a crèche - believed to be the first of its kind in the industry. ‘There are hundreds of mothers or prospective mothers, mid-30s women, who are excellent PR people but have to quit because of the demands of the job. We can make a real home for them.'

The suggestion that clients could suffer as a result - say, if an acc­ount leader is off with her kids when a crisis strikes - is batted away.

‘We have two or three account directors working with clients, which allows for the flexibility,' she insists. Wright, who is in her mid-30s, has a three-year-old child. She believes Publicasity, now 20 years old, has the opportunity to double in size within the next three to five years.

The agency, under the leadership of founder Carl Courtney - who became chairman last year - has a corporate and B2B heritage but is building a formidable consumer client list including United Biscuits (hence the Jaffa Cakes), car maker Kia and Australian wine brand Rosemount. It was this consumer push that prompted the name switch.

Courtney says the agency missed Wright when she left for August.One and was happy to hand over the day-to-day reins last year to her and deputy MD Zoe Ward-Waring. ‘Emma is energetic and has genuinely bright ideas about the future of PR,' says Courtney.

Former colleague Julie Brown, now at 3 Monkeys Communications, agrees Wright is ‘endlessly positive, full of ideas and great to be around'.

Wright herself argues: ‘Good talent goes in-house because there are a lot of agencies that are sweatshops. You have to create a good environment for them to stay.' She adds, cryptically: ‘Staff dislike agencies built around one person.'

Conversation skips around with Wright, but she talks with conviction, particularly on the topic of payment by results, which she refers to more than once. ‘If good staff go in-house then they will be more demanding on their agency,' she argues. ‘If we don't do what our client asks then why should we be paid?' Public­asity is in the process of adopting the payment by results model for all of its clients.

Wright's enthusiasm for PR evolved during a stint in event management during her English, History and Media course at Portsmouth University.

The role led to The Reputation Managers in Milton Keynes, and then Paragon Communications, where she worked on the launch of mobile phone brand Orange. ‘It was very exciting,' she recalls.

And one tends to believe her - all that ener­gy can be very infectious.

CV - Emma Wright

2006
MD, Publicasity

2001
Associate director, icas PR

2000
Associate director, August.One Communications

1997
Account manager, icas PR

1995
Senior account executive, Paragon Communications

1994
Graduate role, The Reputation Managers


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