Name: Andy Barr
Company: 10 Yetis Digital (we rebranded and added “Digital” to look down with the kids)
Job title: Head Yeti, or Managing Director if on the BBC
Did you go to university?
Wolverhampton, some form of marketing and biz management and a big regret. Some of the best PR folk I have ever worked with never went to university and got relevant experience instead. I wish I had done that. I don’t think I learned anything relevant at uni.
I learned how to deal with being spat at, in the face, by baying mobs of angry people who had not had any power during an England World Cup game.
What was your first job in PR?
An ex-Government electrical utility company. The best job ever! It gave me a solid grounding in communications. As it was an electricity company the end product was inherently dangerous, the company, and in fact most of the industry, accidentally maimed everything including people, animals and buildings. I learned everything about crisis communications, attending OFGEM and government enquiries, speech writing and how to deal with being spat at, in the face, by baying mobs of angry people who had not had any power during an England World Cup game. I loved it.
How did you get from there to your current role?
The diplomatic version: Utility to Unilever, then to two different financial services companies, (one being AXA when it was 15th largest company in the world, learned a lot, had an amazing boss in Peter Webb, best PR I have worked with!) then had a yearning to get back to crisis communications and what better company to do that with than First Group (as was), you know, the loved and respected bus and train company.
I had to de-escalate fist-fights during pay negotiations
That was an interesting job. My direct boss and immediate colleagues were ace but it was a hugely political company staffed by some of the most aggressive people I have ever seen in a working environment. I witnessed and had to de-escalate fist-fights during pay negotiations and if the general day to day was not surreal enough we had Alastair Campbell as an advisor who held workshops with the entire comm’s team. An entirely bonkers, brilliant and action packed time. I truly loved it and would encourage anyone to go and work in that industry to get grounding on the true meaning of PR. I left to start up 10 Yetis with my wife, Jilly.
I kept getting fired
The reality: In my early career (the utility co and another financial services co) I kept getting fired and I liked to think at the time that it was because I was inquisitive and entrepreneurial, the reality is that I was a young, chopsy, git!
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
I like to think I challenge the team to strive for greatness (they are all far greater PR folk than I ever will be) and lead the hunt for new business and overall company marketing. The team thinks I flounce around speaking at conferences in between “cocking about” on Twitter.
I feel very lucky to work in this industry
What do you like most about working in PR?
Everything! Cliched but I don’t care. The buzz, the fun, the laughs and even the lows. I love the challenge. It has also enabled me to travel to places I would never have probably gone to (some out of choice) and meet some of the brightest people in the world. I feel very lucky to work in this industry and, right now, with an amazing team.
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
If you are the MD of the company it is the continual strive to keep challenging and finding new ways to get the job done. That is a doddle though, compared to being an Account Executive who realises on a Thursday that they have to send a client report over on the Friday and they have yet to get any coverage or good news. That is stressful!
Personally, I never worked agency side until we set up 10 Yetis and quickly learning how to run an agency is really hard. I still balls it up, regularly.
Who is your PR inspiration?
Without a doubt, Peter Webb, my boss at AXA. He led from the front, never got you do anything he would not do himself and really does know all there is to know about PR. He is a massively under-rated PR legend and someone the industry needs to embrace instead of reading my genuinely idiotic ramblings.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given?
Probably at the utility company right back when I started out. I was writing a speech for the then new CEO and he explained his career success (he was a big time US business leader) was down to the mantra of “what gets measured gets done”, I have kind of taken that with me through every role and it has served me well.. Aside from that, it was never advice as such from Peter Webb (my old AXA boss, remember) it was just the fact he led by example. I try, and regularly fail, to do this.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
Too many to list in one place… but my go-to’s are probably Adverblog, The Drum and PR Moment for PR and campaign stuff. If I am struggling for a creative idea I usually go and steal and bastardise something from PRExamples, ran by the dashingly handsome Rich Leigh.
look engaged in meetings
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
If you are struggling to get into PR, get as much work experience as you can, it is what I look out for in CV’s. Also, be noticeable (not in a weird way). Some of the best people we have at our agency have got the job by sending something different as an alternative to a “normal” CV… video’s, model planes with info on, infographics etc etc.
Once you have got a foot in the door, never say no to any extra work that your line manager or MD asks you to do. This is one thing that always served me well in my early career. I worked crazy hours and took on every task and more that was asked of me. Finally, look engaged in meetings, one of my biggest bug-bears in general business.