PROFILE: Margot Raggett, CEO, Lexis PR

Consumer PR is often perceived as the zany, wacky side of the comms industry. But none of those adjectives could be used to describe Margot Raggett, the incoming CEO of 100-strong consumer shop Lexis PR.

Calm and collected, Raggett seems genuinely interested in the business of PR rather than the glamour. Unusually, she has only ever worked permanently for one agency. She was Lexis’s first graduate trainee and seventh member of staff in 1993. Now aged 35, she will take over the top role on 1 August, when outgoing CEO Hugh Birley takes a four-day-a-week chairman post.

Given her 14 years’ service, it is difficult to doubt Raggett’s passion for the Lexis brand, or – as she describes it – its ‘magic’. She says the agency has something special and ‘difficult to describe’ about it – ‘it’s intangible’.

Raggett joined Lexis after spending her final year of a degree in communications and image studies at the University of Kent trawling PRWeek for stories of agencies winning accounts, then writing to them to ask if they needed an extra pair of hands. Her letters would enclose a copy of the Kred, the student paper she edited.

The agency experienced ‘massive growth’ in its first six years. Raggett says she admired co-founders Bill Jones and Tim Adams, and the way they structured it ‘as a big agency from the beginning – all the structures in place so that rather than growing in a higgledy-piggledy fashion, the financial systems were tight and everything was right’.

After six years of hard slog, Raggett says she caused ‘a bit of a scandal’ when she took a sabbatical to Australia and then decided not to come back at the agreed time. But when she did return, a couple of months later, Raggett became aware that Jones and ­Adams wanted to make their exit from the firm. She put together a team of directors and spearheaded a successful MBO.

‘The prospect of Lexis being swallowed by some big corporation, by people I didn’t know, didn’t fit my view of what I knew Lexis was. I didn’t know what would happen to us. So I sugges­ted a management buyout.

‘The majority of MBOs fail, I believe, but that never occurred to me,’ she says.

Four years later, Next Fifteen Communications approached the company, offering a phased acquisition deal, which will conclude in 2009. Today Next Fifteen owns 76 per cent of Lexis, with current CEO Hugh Birley, Raggett and other staff owning the remainder.

When Birley decided to step down, Raggett says, bringing in an external CEO was an option. ‘The thought of bringing in someone who didn’t understand what makes Lexis special was difficult to contemplate,’ she adds.

Raggett – who lives in a house by the river in Putney and spends her free time travelling, drinking wine and gardening – is glowing in her praise of Birley, who she says is ‘a really good people person. He’s also fantastic fun – he touches people. Though we’re not losing him just yet,’ she emphasises.

Former Dove brand manager Jo Riley – a former client and now a Kraft marketing manager – describes Raggett as ‘completely honest and straight talking’ and says she possesses the rare combination of organisational skills and creativity. ‘She has a fun side, but she isn’t a mad creative type and that makes her access­ible and easy to talk to,’ adds Riley.

Raggett has ambitious plans for growth, aiming to expand the agency’s turnover from £7.6m to £10m over the next 18 months. With the ‘extra muscle’ of Next Fifteen behind the agency, Lexis is mulling acquisitions, particularly in the healthcare arena, and is set to open overseas offices. The US is the logical first step, given that Lexis has recently won a ‘global templating’ brief with ­existing client Coca-Cola, an account run from Atlanta.

That said, Raggett says she wants Lexis to retain its magic. ‘I don’t want us to fall into the establishment,’ she adds.

Back in her student days, Raggett was unsure whether to pursue a career in PR or in journalism. She made her decision, she says, because ‘rather than having to react all the time, I wanted to actually try and shape things’.

She certainly has the responsibility she wanted now.

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