Dan Baxter: Bitten by the tech bug

The Text 100 MD's enthusiasm for the fast-paced world of tech PR has been instrumental in his speedy rise to the top, finds Sara Luker.

Dan Baxter: 'It's such an exciting time to be in tech PR'
Dan Baxter: 'It's such an exciting time to be in tech PR'

Although Dan Baxter is literally head and shoulders above his PR counterparts at a lofty 6ft 6in, he is refreshingly down to earth. Despite expanding his family, getting married, and taking the reins as MD of Text 100 in the past year, his feet remain firmly on the ground.

The quietly but quickly spoken, modest Baxter could be forgiven a bit of gloating after being part of the Next Fifteen team that recently won the global Nokia account.

This is not the first time Next Fifteen has used its group status to bag a big account. Another example was the international pan-EMEA contract with chip giant AMD in 2008.

'Being part of Next Fifteen means we can offer clients this holistic approach and use different expertise from around the group,' says Baxter. 'Nokia will be unique as the way we're working on the account is fully integrated - not different parts separated off.'

A wise head on young shoulders, Baxter, 34, had an interesting rise to the top at Text 100. He stepped up after his predecessor, Kirsty Leighton, resigned to spend more time with her family after only four months in the role.

Baxter took over with immediate effect, after four years with the agency. He says of Leighton: 'It was a surprise when she stepped down. I respected her decision - first as a parent and second as someone who knows how hard it is to get the work/life balance right when in this industry.'

Baxter's grounding in PR came from within the walls of AxiCom, where he was a graduate trainee. He was there for five years and describes the process as a 'baptism of fire'.

'It was full of long days and long nights, but I loved every minute,' he says with a smile. 'It was a great initiation. I was working on European accounts for some great clients including IBM and Toshiba.'

This is when he fell in love with tech PR and his career has not strayed off the technology highway since.

'What I love most about technology PR is the pace - it's absolutely manic,' he adds. 'There's always something or someone new appearing with the next greatest innovation.'

A role as director at Catalysis followed and his MD at the time, Peter Sive, has watched Baxter's career with some interest: 'I'm not at all surprised by his success and I think we'll see him achieve even more in the future. He's a man you can depend on and someone who gets everyone on his side. People want to follow his lead.'

This observation has proved accurate, with Baxter rising quickly to become Text 100 MD. When asked what his secret is, his cheeks redden. 'I guess you need a range of skills,' he says. 'You need to be able to be excellent at client service, be a great communicator, not only with clients, but internally too. Above all you need to understand people and how you can help them.'

Baxter believes clients now realise the importance of social media but many are unsure of their next step.

'That's why we must give them the strategies they need to move forward,' he explains. 'It's such an exciting time to be in tech PR - social media are changing traditional comms - and I love being in the middle of it all.

'We need to keep pace with an ever-changing environment. Technology isn't about the device any more - it's about the experience.

'Social media have created a desire to share everything. This creates an amazing connection with consumers and a way for brands to communicate directly with their customers - and we are helping this happen.'

This approach seems to be working. One of Baxter's clients was keen to sing his praises despite being sat on a beach during his family holiday in France.

Stephen Duignan, EMEA head of comms and PR for SanDisk, says of Baxter: 'He's a gentleman in the old sense of the word. He has a calm and considered approach to really getting to know the needs of the client and then methodically coming up with a creative response.'

Not only has PR given Baxter a career - it has also given him a wife in Katie. They met through mutual friends who are also PR professionals.

They have two children, one-year-old Felix and three-year-old Imogen. 'If I have any time away from work it's spent with them,' he says.

Text 100 seems finally to have found the right person to lead it in the UK. However, his colleagues may struggle to keep up with his pace.

2010 MD UK, Text 100; V-P, Next Fifteen
2008 Director, Text 100
2006 Regional client lead, Text 100
2005 Associate director, Catalysis
1997 Graduate trainee, AxiCom


What was your biggest career break?

Running UK and pan-European campaigns for Intel gave me fantastic experience in working with a large global brand undergoing a major transformation. And spending an evening with Jonathan Ross, unveiling global F1 sponsorships and scribbling speeches for CEOs meant I learned very quickly.

Have you had a notable mentor?

I've been lucky to work with people who have shown genuine passion for comms, technology and brands. Our global CEO Aedhmar Hynes is an inspiration to anyone in PR, having started her career at Text 100 and grown to lead a global company.

What advice would you give someone climbing the career ladder?

Create your own opportunities, don't wait to be asked, and think about how you can add extra value to everything you do - all while having a healthy sense of paranoia. And think digital - it will help you leapfrog people with years more experience.

What qualities do you prize in new recruits?

Enthusiasm, motivation and passion go an awfully long way in our industry. As does laughing at my jokes.

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