Profile: Crispin Manners, Kaizo CEO and PRCA chairman-elect

When the PRCA welcomes Crispin Manners as its chairman this month, it will not only get a man dedicated to upholding the vision of his father who helped found the organisation more than 30 years ago. It will get a man hell-bent on action.

This is a man who completely overhauled the business model of his father Norman Manners's other creation, The Argyll Consultancies, when he took the reins in 1990, to reinvent it as a pioneering technology PR practice, before remodelling it in 1999 as Kaizo.

Manners Jnr's lack of sentimentality (although travelling 10,000 miles with his son to see The Who in concert in Australia this August is evidence to the contrary) is matched, despite a relaxed demeanour, by a drive for measurable success. He insists that after his two-year stint as chairman, people will be able to see his contribution. He believes passionately that the PRCA must deliver more tangible benefits to members and help prove the value of PR to the wider marketing and business community.

Although he credits others for revitalising the PRCA from what he labels 'an old farts' club', he says he arrives at an opportune time to deliver on its promises. The body has a new business model, and the second series of the Consultancy Management Standard and its FrontLine initiative for young talent provide opportunities to demonstrate to members very real value for their fees. 'I'm keener than most to connect a thought to an action within the PRCA,' says Manners. 'Talking shop is not on the agenda.' Membership of the PRCA must grow from its current tally of 130 to 300, says Manners, for it to be truly representative of the industry.

Outgoing PRCA chairman Graham Lancaster says of Manners: 'He's a deep thinker but he's brave enough to put things into practice. We've come up with a tight focus over the last couple of years that has informed what we have been doing and Crispin has already set some very tight targets.'

While PR seems to be in Manners's blood - his son is a consultant at Weber Shandwick's Sydney office - his career was set on a different course before his youthful temper got in the way. A first job in food sales to supermarkets was progressing very successfully - he was CPC UK's salesman of the year in 1979 - but an unsuccessful application for a brand manager job brought out the firebrand in him: 'Because I was more of a temperamental character than I am today, I resigned in a fit of pique. Not advisable for a young man eight months into married life with a mortgage.'

Fortunately, PR was there to pick up the pieces in the form of what he calls a 'bag carrier' job for his father, accompanying the elder Manners to all meetings. 'Nepotism is a wonderful thing!' he admits. That role gave him a unique glimpse into the boardrooms of Argyll's FTSE 100 clients that, he says, informs his focus on what clients want: 'I got to see the direct link between what he did and the outcomes clients were looking for.'

Now 46, Manners is passionate about fostering the next generation of PR leaders. Last week he handed control of Kaizo to joint managing directors Liz Andrews, 31, and Paul Smith, 35. Manners will turn his attention to running Argyll's new 'sales acceleration' business for which he will consider reprising the 'bag carrier' role. 'The thing that distinguishes me at 46 from 23 is that I was content to travel along hopefully. Today I definitely have a life plan. I measure things by the outcomes you achieve rather than the journey,' says Manners.

'My father was a sower of acorns - the type of individual who understands that they won't necessarily be around to see the oak tree. A lot of other people are more impatient.' So which category does Manners fit into? 'I have never seen myself (as a sower) before, but perhaps now I do,' he admits. 'I think the acorn is less about organisations and structures and more about people.'

The PR industry is notorious for letting young talent drift into other careers, and addressing this talent is a core challenge for both the PRCA and agency heads, he says: 'There is so much wonderful talent, but some walk out of the industry and never come back and that's a crying shame.

The twentysomethings are the oak trees of the next decade.

'As long as I feel I am making a difference, I'll get a buzz out of life, and this position at the PRCA will definitely allow me to make that difference.'


1978: Territory sales rep, CPC UK Limited

1980: Assistant to chairman, The Argyll Consultancies (TAC)

1990: CEO, TAC

1998: Board member of PRCA and chairman of Professional Practices


1999: CEO, Kaizo

2004: Chairman, PRCA

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