Profile: Alistair Mackinnon-Musson, Hudson Sandler: A witty client handler with a lust for PR life - Alistair Mackinnon-Musson brings his own brand of PR to Hudson Sandler

Alistair Mackinnon-Musson. Virgo. Tidy desk (’It makes you more efficient’). Free-thinker. Sits in the boardroom of his new company Hudson Sandler and tucks his hair neatly behind his ears. ’It’s a new job among friends,’ he says.

Alistair Mackinnon-Musson. Virgo. Tidy desk (’It makes you more

efficient’). Free-thinker. Sits in the boardroom of his new company

Hudson Sandler and tucks his hair neatly behind his ears. ’It’s a new

job among friends,’ he says.



Ten days ago he and two colleagues, Philippa Robeson and Philip Dennis

moved the 20 or so yards down the road from Square Mile to rival Hudson

Sandler, taking 13 clients with them.



Hudson Sandler is privately-owned, but is affiliated to the Grayling

Group, which is owned by Havas, one of the world’s largest advertising

and marketing groups. Mackinnon-Musson has been working with and for

some of these clients for up to 14 years, and is not one to allow

something such as a change of agency to stop him. When he joined Square

Mile as a director in 1996, he brought with him ten clients from his

previous agency, Financial Dynamics.



So what is the Mackinnon-Musson USP? ’Clients hire people, as opposed to

hiring the name of an agency. I have a laugh with my clients. I don’t

have a client/consultancy relationship. Many people in the corporate

armory don’t move across that boundary. I can ring up my clients and

pull their leg, and they pull mine.’



Mackinnon-Musson started his career in financial PR at Financial

Dynamics in 1987 after the first half of a chartered accountancy course

left him cold. He wanted to be ’shaping the future, not auditing the

past - at the front, the sharp end of the boat, not the flat end’.



His thoughts turned to the world of advertising, and he started in

financial PR as a side door into this. ’There were five of us working in

the same room. Financial PR was the dot.com business of its day. We were

energetic, young and highly motivated by making money.’



Fourteen years later the fundamentals of his way of working have changed

little since Financial Dynamics days. Set up by Justin Downes, whom

Mackinnon-Musson cites as a great influence and mentor, FD was run in

teams responsible for their own clients and with a high degree of

freedom. The aim was to professionalise and intellectualise financial PR

’which hitherto had been done in a more casual way by ex-hacks’, says

Mackinnon-Musson.



Downes says Mackinnon-Musson stands out because of his intelligence and

creativity. ’He was instrumental in helping me to build the business, he

has a great facility with clients and is a great strategic thinker,’ he

says.



Mackinnon-Musson counts among his other great influences Lynne Franks,

with whom he has worked during his long relationship with retailer

Next.



’She taught me to see how different slices of the population react to

different things, which is probably why I now work with such a broad

range of clients.’



These clients include PPL Therapeutics (the people behind Dolly the

Sheep) and, more recently, individuals such as ex-Dome chief executive

Jennie Page.



In 1996 he joined Square Mile as a director, choosing from six offers,

including from Hudson Sandler and the Grayling Group. At Square Mile he

started doing corporate PR, including working with senior executives as

a sounding board on company strategy. His move to Hudson Sandler was

inspired by the need for a broader resource base, he says.



’My clients wanted support in Europe,’ he says, citing the large network

of related companies of which Hudson Sandler is a part.



He claims the move from Square Mile was amicable, and that working as he

did, his two ex-partners Tim Jackaman and Susan Ellis would have

expected him to take clients with him.



There is something almost Dale Winton-esque in his open enthusiasm for

life and work. ’I have a wonderful relationship which keeps me balanced,

gives me a sense of proportion. You have to be able to look at yourself

in the mirror in the morning, and if you don’t like what you see, you

should change it,’ he says.



’In a business of largely boring characters, Alistair stands out as

being both personally and mentally flamboyant,’ says Downes.



Mackinnon-Musson says PR is a simple job, best achieved through an

interest in people, a capacity to understand what they want and to relay

that successfully to the media. ’But successful PR people are born,

never made. They are brilliant because of their personality,’ he says.

Does he put himself in this class? ’I’d leave that for others to

say.’



’He’s one of the sharpest, wittiest people I’ve ever met,’ says Kevin

Bell of Bell Pottinger, who has worked with Mackinnon-Musson over the

years with various clients. ’He can always see round a problem. He’s not

everyone’s cup of tea - he’s creative and can ask awkward questions, but

he makes chief executives stop and think. Alistair can give a CEO in

trouble a view of the light at the end of the tunnel.’ And that can’t be

bad, can it?



HIGHLIGHTS

1988

Director, Financial Dynamics

1996

Director, Square Mile

2000

Director, Hudson Sandler



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