Rep­u­ta­tions Agency founder Ni­amh Boyle has found con­cen­trat­ing on staff as well as clients is vi­tal in a fast-mov­ing in­dus­try, writes

Irish Independent - Business Week - - FRONT PAGE -

THE in­ter­net is chang­ing a lot of in­dus­tries – and caus­ing work­ers in those in­dus­tries a lot of pain. Print jour­nal­ism is an ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple, but the ef­fects are pro­found too on pub­lic re­la­tions, the “other side of the fence” when it comes to com­mu­ni­ca­tions. So­cial me­dia has given ev­ery­one with an in­ter­net connection a sim­i­larly pow­er­ful plat­form, and that can have pro­found con­se­quences for a com­pany’s rep­u­ta­tion.

That’s where Ni­amh Boyle and the firm she runs, The Rep­u­ta­tions Agency, come in.

PR is a crowded space in Ire­land and firms need to stand out. Where some firms may fo­cus on par­tic­u­lar sec­tors, on boost­ing a brand or on cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Boyle’s unique sell­ing point is a very gran­u­lar fo­cus on the con­cept of rep­u­ta­tion – mea­sur­ing it at first us­ing an­a­lyt­i­cal tools, build­ing strate­gies to en­hance it, and link­ing it to the achieve­ment of busi­ness goals..

What, though, about the rep­u­ta­tion of her own in­dus­try? Ask some­one on the street to name a PR per­son and the name they’ll prob­a­bly give is Alas­tair Camp­bell, com­monly por­trayed as a sort of bo­gey­man, a mas­ter of the dark art of ‘spin’.

Boyle says how­ever that she won’t work with some­one if it in­volves “de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble”.

“We were in­vited re­cently to meet and give our cre­den­tials to an or­gan­i­sa­tion... and at the end of the day we just had to say: ‘If we go down this route we are go­ing to be putting our­selves in a po­si­tion where we’re go­ing to have to be de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble.’ And we can’t do that, so we just had to pull out.

“We want to be proud of our clients and the work they do. And we want to help them go in the right di­rec­tion.”

Per­suad­ing com­pa­nies that you’re the right per­son to help is a tricky job. Pitches for big con­tracts can take up hun­dreds of hours of work, while there is a nat­u­ral churn fac­tor with clients who want to freshen things up.

It’s also im­por­tant to di­ver­sify your client base. Hav­ing mul­ti­ple ar­eas of ex­per­tise is one way of tack­ling a grow­ing trend whereby com­pa­nies are tak­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions in-house.

Tak­ing the right agency, the ar­gu­ment goes, means you get ac­cess to the full gamut of ser­vices rang­ing from cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions, to brand cam­paigns, to cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grammes, to spon­sor­ship.

Hence the 2014 merger be­tween Ms Boyle’s agency and the JWT Group, which brought a strong con­sumer-fac­ing ca­pa­bil­ity into the agency Boyle set up.

Af­ter an un­so­licited ap­proach from JWT, she could see the busi­ness sense in cre­at­ing a big­ger and more di­verse agency, but tak­ing in a part­ner was not easy.

“It was very dif­fi­cult to give up the 100pc own­er­ship. That took quite a lot of think­ing,” Boyle says. “I found it much more dif­fi­cult to do than I thought it would be be­cause it was

Gavin McLough­lin

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