Profile: Fresh start for Mr Joe Public - Matt Wood, managing director, Seventy Seven PR

Matt Wood's goatee has turned fag-ash grey and the agency at which he made his name, Joe Public Relations, is toast. But the 37-year-old Dartford boy retains the zest befitting his reputation as one of the most well regarded consumer PR men to emerge from the dotcom boom.

Wood founded Joe Public Relations, once one of the sharpest PR shops in town but an agency that suffered a torrid time after being merged into August. One Communications by parent NextFifteen last year. He walked just months after the deal and has now resurfaced as MD for Fishburn Hedges' new consumer arm, Seventy Seven PR.

Wood's appointment stemmed from an informal chat with FH deputy MD Elizabeth Ballard (a former colleague at Biss Lancaster), a three-hour drinking session with chairman Marc Moninski - and 11 interviews over three months.

Seventy Seven, named after the Kingsway (Holborn) address it shares with FH, is already working for clients such as eBay, Lycos and shopping comparison site

Wood says Moninski's advertising-planning pedigree, the corporate nous of director Guy Corbet, allied with his own 'creativity and consumer PR expertise', gives Seventy Seven the edge.

Wood studied marketing and journalism in the late 1980s at the Eastern Kentucky University. He headed Stateside on a golf scholarship, but his handicap has since slipped from two to six.

Back in London in the early 1990s, he worked at Expedia Communications before joining Biss Lancaster. He left after five years to join Freud Communications ('At Biss I learned to think strategically; at Freuds I learned about publicity - how to leak a story, how to pitch an exclusive,' he says). But he quit after five months and joined Text 100 as an account director in its consumer division. His career took off.

The Joe Public Relations brand was born in 1998 with nine staff and fees of around £300,000. It was boom time and it rode high on the back of clients such as Orange and Bookpages (later Amazon). Wood remembers: 'It felt like we could pick and choose the dotcom clients - we won AOL and'

He is proud of his work for, promoting the launch of local deliveries at almost 300 stores ('it was a case-study programme and quirky stuff - it was extremely successful').

He brings up Joe Public's Tesco work when asked what aggrieves him, saying passionately: 'It annoys me when companies are not rewarded for running a fucking good press office campaign.'

Other work he is proud of includes the creation of Bar Umbro on Shaftesbury Avenue during the 2002 World Cup - work he describes as 'wicked' (later, with a nod to his new colleague's vernacular, Moninski lauds Wood's 'street' sense).

Joe Public's profits were such that it briefly opened up in New York and Ibiza, the latter operation running for two party seasons, promoting MTV and B magazine.

Wood confesses that the Ibiza foray was a 'brand initiative' ('we got a shitload of CVs out of it!') - he himself never even visited the office.

But the heady days didn't last. He says: 'NextFifteen was sold to the market as a tech PR firm - we didn't fit in. It was group CEO Tim Dyson's idea to merge with August.One - I didn't particularly agree.'

AAR Group head of PR Alex Young believes Wood's fresh start is a 'smart move all round'. Seventy Seven clients are likely to get 'a large degree of sensible thought and strategic planning - there won't be creativity for creativity's sake,' she believes.

Wood himself would agree: 'The days of being funky for the sake of it are gone; it's not about a trendy image - it's about translating commercial agendas into news agendas.'

Seventy Seven today has eight staff, but Wood wants more than 50 within five years. He is targeting food-and-drink clients and wants a track record of 'working with marketing directors' and producing stellar 'integrated marketing' campaigns.

If Wood can bring the entrepreneurial zeal and creativity of his Joe Public days to FH, all the signs are that Seventy Seven will be an outfit to watch.


1990: Account executive, Expedia Communications

1991: Account Executive, Biss Lancaster

1996: Account manager, Freud Communications

1997: Account director, consumer division, Text 100

1998: Managing director, Joe Public Relations

2000: CEO, Joe Public Relations

2004: Managing director, Seventy Seven PR

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