SPOTLIGHT ON: JOHN BROWN, GROUP HEAD OF ENGAGEMENT, HOTWIRE PR

Name: John Brown
Company: Hotwire PR
Job title: Group Head of Engagement
Twitter: @brownbare
LinkedIn: John Brown
Website: www.hotwirepr.com

Did you go to university?
I did indeed. I went to Bournemouth University and studied Environment and Conservation Biology. Despite having a cracking PR department at this uni, I wanted to learn something scientific that also gave me the opportunity to really research and question a topic. That grounding worked well for my career.

What was your first job in PR?
I worked at a boutique tech agency in Wardour Street called Buffalo Communications. It was a great agency and I’m convinced that due to the size of the business, I was given much more opportunity and responsibility early on. Had I gone to a large agency first, I probably wouldn’t have had the same experience.

I became a sponge and still am. There are a lot of cleverer people than me out there and I gladly listen and read up on them and then use what I’ve learnt in practice.

How did you get from there to your current role?
Hard graft and a hunger to do more. There’s no secret sauce or magic formula. I worked hard to nail the basics as quickly as possible, motivated primarily by my absolute hatred for admin and bloody coverage reports.

I became a sponge and still am. There are a lot of cleverer people than me out there and I gladly listen and read up on them and then use what I’ve learnt in practice.

Also, I stuck my neck on the line and gambled. By constantly raising my hand to take things on that, frankly, I didn’t know how to achieve, I was able to learn quick and get results.

Sure, sometimes I screwed up, but no one else was raising their hand and you can’t get too much of a slapped wrist for doing what others won’t or can’t.

From there, my career progressed based on a few things:
• Becoming indispensable to clients (that cements you to revenue)
• Knowing things before others (that cements you to innovation)
• Having an opinion (that gives you a personality in a pretty vanilla industry)

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
Change my son’s nappies and get angry at UKIP.

But at work I spend most of my time being astonished by the work my team and the agency is doing! Outside of that, I spend the rest of my time talking at various conferences and events about comms trends, advising clients on their comms strategy and brand, and reading/watching/listening to as much as I can.

What do you like most about working in PR?
Seeing communications strategy become the business strategy for a brand.

What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
Convincing people that they should be placing communications at the heart of their business strategy.

Huge kudos to those people as we’re an industry that’s not changed it’s approach to talent since its inception.

Who is your PR inspiration?
Anyone who doesn’t fit the cookie cutter mould of white, middle class Britain and has still made it in the industry. Huge kudos to those people as we’re an industry that’s not changed it’s approach to talent since its inception.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you?
Walk into a meeting like you’re the fu$%ing CEO. Steve Earl.

Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I follow a whole bunch of people on Medium, but Stephen Waddington’s blog is particularly good. But here’s a typical snapshot of my day:

6am – wake up, check Facebook for news etc. (it’s how I discovered we’d voted ‘leave’)

7am – still buy a Guardian Newspaper – read it on the commute and get it primarily for the comments section

8.30am – get into work and open up Feedly, get stuck into marketing, national and local news

11am – coffee and The Economist Espresso app

Lunch – couple of Quartz articles, social media check and Feedly scan

Mid afternoon – another Feedly scan & download a few podcasts (Radio 4 in particular)

6pm – head home, listen to a podcast or two, go through Medium

8pm – Wife tells me everything else I’ve missed

10pm – Facebook check

(every Friday I still get The Economist, New Statesman and The Week)

Give a shit.

What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
Nurture curiosity.
Be eager – this isn’t a lifestyle career that fits around your artisan coffee shop. Be bold.
Read books, articles, blogs etc. (creativity is built on the shoulders of other people’s cool ideas)
Write as much as you can.
Get into public speaking early.
Don’t sacrifice your morals for the sake of anything.
Give a shit.

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