Profile: Media maverick - Brian MacLaurin, managing director, Brian MacLaurin Associates

It is 11.18am on the day terrorists struck at the heart of London's transport network. Brian MacLaurin, myself and thousands of others are watching Met Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair give his first televised statement. 'Very cool performance,' he notes.

When it comes to dealing with the media, MacLaurin is as good a judge as any. Now 55, he has been a reporter and head of comms at Scottish TV.

He has founded his own PR agency, acquired others, sold the lot and then started another one. He also seems to have had an impact on everyone he has ever worked with. Ian Monk, who left MacLaurin Media to set up Ian Monk Associates shortly after MacLaurin himself, describes him as a 'tremendous operator' who has the ability to win trust and respect.

Now, striding around his compact, modern Hammersmith office, tie-less and with shirtsleeves rolled up, he has the air of someone who is ready for action at a moment's notice.

It has been two years and a month since MacLaurin quit as chairman of MacLaurin Media, owned by the then Hatch Group, to set up niche consultancy Brian MacLaurin Associates. And the month is significant. When he left, he signed a two-year legal covenant that restricted the type of business he could operate, the clients he could work with, and even the number of staff he could employ. It also effectively 'gagged' him from commenting on his departure - something he can now do.

'I admit I might not be a particularly easy person to manage,' he says, grinning, 'but when Hatch bought us it effectively said "We know you're making £1.1m profit, £6m turnover and £4m fee income a year, but everything you're doing is wrong so we're going to change the way you do business, handle clients, organise time sheets... everything".

'So, instead of taking an energetic, and slightly maverick, company and building business around it, Hatch developed an HR department and a finance department and suddenly the whole company changed direction.

I found that extraordinarily difficult to deal with - especially as that was not how the deal was sold to me originally.'

To underline his point, MacLaurin reveals that when he bought Powerhouse in 1997, he had a 'definite strategy', leaving the running of the business to then Powerhouse MD Vicki Stace and providing support when necessary.

'That was the kind of deal I thought I had with Hatch,' he adds.

Although Michael Murphy, then Hatch CEO and now chief executive of Trimedia International, declines to comment on the affair, at the time of MacLaurin's departure he said the company was 'moving away from the personality business into areas such as financial PR and PA'.

These, says MacLaurin - whose clients include Chris Tarrant and Colin Montgomery - are not areas that interest him. 'I get a kick from working with people or companies that deal with the media on a daily basis, either through necessity or through being in the public eye.'

Now his restrictions on what he can do have been lifted, will he create a giant, high-profile agency? 'Certainly not,' he says. 'Over those two years I discovered a new way of doing business and generating revenue.

Recently I have found myself thinking "bloody hell - this is great fun.

Why should I change it now?". '

Vital to his strategy is MacLaurin's belief that clients 'buy in' to him, meaning he can only service a finite number: 'If someone comes to me, they expect to deal with me. I have to be involved.' This, he adds, prompted him last month to resign the Richard Desmond account (PRWeek, 17 June): 'It was too full-on. I needed to be available 24/7 and it gave me little time for anything else.'

He is also keen to point out that despite long weekends at his home in Spain, he is not, as someone suggested, entering a period of semi-retirement. He has also just become non-executive director at The Outside Organisation.

'I love the business passionately,' he says, eyes glinting. 'It excites me enough to get to work at 6.30 every morning. I cannot conceive of doing anything else.'


1979 Communications director, Scottish Television

1989 Communications director, Crown Communications

1992 Founder, MCM

2001 Chairman, MacLaurin Media

2003 Managing director, Brian MacLaurin Associates

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