PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Sam Gavin, Grayling

We hear from Sam Gavin (29), senior account director, Grayling.

Grayling says Gavin epitomises what a true PR professional should be – thinking globally, while operating at a national and regional level. A trusted advisor to clients and colleagues, he helps lead Grayling's biggest global account – Huawei Consumer – and has helped bed in the brand and led numerous successful campaigns and launches. As an integral member of the new business team, Gavin's insights have helped win recent business with Aston Villa FC, the Commonwealth Games and Badminton England.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Sam's clearly a valued member of the agency and has driven excellent results for his clients. He has a great career ahead of him."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

Well, I’ve learnt there is no one role for a PR person. We need to wear so many different hats and be experts in a variety of fields – or at least know the right experts. When I started in PR, the focus was all about traditional media, but as technology and methods of communication evolve, so too do the ways that we reach our audiences.

The biggest learning curve for me has been shifting my mindset from purely being about media outreach to becoming more of a communication-led business consultant. Understanding commerciality and seeing that media is just one of our channels, albeit an incredibly important one.

Describe your experience of working in PR during the COVID-19 crisis.

In a strange way, not a lot has changed for me during the crisis. Being based in Birmingham and working on a global client, with the UK team mainly based in London, I have always had an element of remote working. Across country and time zones, we have had to be flexible to location, so the move to working from home was a smooth transition for us. What has really changed is the way we activate – we’ve had to completely re-evaluate physical events for media and consumers, quickly becoming experts in virtual experiences.

How (if at all) will the COVID-19 crisis change the PR industry?

If there is one thing this has taught us, it is that we don’t need to be bound so strictly by physical location. There is so much talent across the country, and I hope that the industry will start to be more flexible on where the people they work with are based. I’ve been lucky at Grayling; the network is one big team, so I have been able to work on the accounts that I’m best suited to, despite not physically being based where the rest of that team are. Having that trust in choosing the right people to get the job done will be a huge bonus for the industry post-COVID-19.

What one thing above all would you change about the PR industry?

Quite simply, I’d like to see a PR industry that is reflective of the general population. We need to be more diverse in every sense, from culture and race to class and background; as an industry, we speak to every audience in our campaigns, but we don’t represent them in our offices. This isn’t an issue with a quick fix, but it is encouraging to see a sense of positive change under way in the industry to address this.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Always one of life’s hardest questions to answer – as we’ve seen recently, everything is so fluid and plans can easily change. What I do know is that I want to still be in the Midlands, continuing to fly the flag for consumer tech in the region and across the globe. Failing that, a relocation to a tropical island would be acceptable.

How do you switch off from work?

The usual kind of things. I’m a massive music fan, love a good podcast and have got pretty into cooking. Recently I’ve moved house, so have spent pretty much all of my spare time working on home improvement – all to varying degrees of success.

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