Mike Morgan chats with us about honesty, changing perspective and keeping promises

Role: CEO

Organisation: Red Consultancy

Mike Morgan was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Janie Emmerson, MD of Communications at Hanson Search, interviewed Mike to find out how he made it in the industry.

Why did you get into communications? It was the early 1990s recession, and there just weren’t any jobs in journalism at the time, so I took my skillset into a writing job in an agency called Paragon. Back then, there was a much greater market for what I’d call industrial newspapers, which were company newspapers produced on what was a fairly large scale. Many agencies had huge divisions devoted to that sector, so I came into communications through that writing route, which was a bit accidental, and eventually I ended up in PR rather than editorial.

What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career? Probably honesty. The strange thing about our business is that the outside perspective is that we move things around, we bend the truth and we master the dark arts. But in reality, we do the opposite. We sit in front of clients and say “Actually, this is the truth, this is where we are, and this is how it is”. People are much better when dealt with honestly and clients are always happier with a straight response.

What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome? Changing perspective from doing to managing and leading. It sounds a bit banal, but how you go from being good at what you do in terms of producing content, to turning that into something more valuable and learning to manage within a business is tricky. Just being good at something doesn’t mean you’re going to be good at managing other people doing it. Our industry basically promotes you on the basis of one set of skills, and then asks you to be something different. That can be tough.

Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with? Probably Lesley Brend, the founder of Red. Today I still think back to things she told me and think how right she was. The things she said make sense, and have made even more sense as the years have gone on.

What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given? Years ago, someone told me to always read the FT at the weekend. They said that you can often learn so much more from the weekend edition because it covers the stuff that couldn’t be covered in the week. Another good one is ‘keep your promises’ because that’s what it all comes down to. Be conscious of what you’ve committed to, and if you deviate from it, make sure that you can close that gap.

In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry? I think that there will be fewer bigger agencies, and that they’ll do a lot more than they do now. They’ll all be much broader in their outlook. Corporate earnings are now coming more from companies being able to manage their costs rather than driving growth and I expect this trend will continue leading to more outsourcing.

What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator? Northern. Easily bored.

Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications? Brewing or wine-making. I think we’re in this post-industrial world where we all think it would be nice to do something like that, whereas if we were in it, we’d all want to get out of it again!


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Posted on 21.03.2016

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