Leadership Lesson with Giles Fraser, Co-Founder, Brands2life

Congratulations on the acquisition of Brands2Life by Paritee! Can you share some insights into how this acquisition came about, and what attracted you to partner with Paritee?

We had been independent for over twenty years but were conscious that the right partner could help us accelerate our growth plans. So when Paritee approached us in the spring of 2023 Sarah (Scales) and I felt we were ready to take on a partner who could help us take the business forward. We liked the Paritee people very much: they know our industry, have a great vision and share similar values. In our view they offer us the best of both worlds: we retain our brand and our ways of working but we benefit from the expertise of Paritee and a partnership with GK Nordics (and the other agencies on their platform over time).

With Brands2Life now under the umbrella of Paritee, how do you envision this partnership shaping the future trajectory of the agency, particularly in terms of expansion into other markets such as the US?

Paritee have ambitions to build ‘a new kind of agency platform’. Brands2Life will be the cornerstone of that platform in EMEA so it’s pretty exciting for all of us here. Our service and sector focus is very much aligned with their overall plan so we see growth all across the business. In addition, they want to help us grow our business in the US, which has always been high on our agenda.

With Brands2Life remaining a standalone brand, how do you plan to preserve the unique culture and identity of Brands2Life, while also integrating it into the broader Paritee network?

Both we – and Paritee – recognize that our culture is arguably our most important differentiator and we’re all determined to preserve that by maintaining our values and all the activities that emanate from that. The Paritee model doesn’t involve integration in the sense your question implies because they recognize that they are buying into a DNA that has been built over many years and they want that to remain in place. Thus said, we’re really enjoying building a partnership with GK Nordics and are looking forward to building further ones as Paritee builds out its platform.

You were an EOT, so clearly looked beyond traditional incentives. What impact did that have on the business and what other recommendations would you have to help cultivate a motivated and engaged workforce?

When you are an EOT everyone becomes an indirect shareholder so it was immensely satisfying for us to announce that everyone would benefit as part of the sale and are part of the next chapter. We’ve always been a very employee-centric business, so the EOT decision was a natural evolution of that.

Sarah and I – together with our board - invest a huge amount of time in listening and talking to our colleagues whether through formal research or regular feedback meetings. We digest the feedback we get and try to make sure we are putting changes and/or improvements in place wherever and whenever appropriate.

Our values are at the core of everything we do and are one of the reasons we believe we have stayed the course. We continually check we are adhering to them, and they remain our North Star when it comes to business decisions. People who stay with us tend to buy into those values and appreciate the fact that their experience bears out our commitment to them.

Given the dynamic nature of the communications industry, what are the essential qualities you believe leaders must possess to effectively navigate challenges and drive success in their agencies today?

There’s no one answer to that as it depends on the size of the agency, the stage in its evolution and the specific situation. Sarah and I run the business as a duo and have a great team around us. That means the right skills and expertise are usually available whatever the situation. It’s a rare leader who can do it all on his or her own.

But that doesn’t answer the question, does it?

All of the above notwithstanding, if I had to put down five qualities they would be: a strong set of values, empathy, drive, a commitment to innovation, and, crucially, bouncebackability.

Looking ahead, what specific skill sets do you anticipate PR businesses will prioritise in the coming years, and how are these influenced by emerging AI technology?

Fundamentally AI will automate and streamline many of the day-to-day tasks, agencies undertake so there should be more time and resource available to plan and advise better and formulate more robust and differentiating strategies, narrative and campaigns. AI creates an opportunity for us all but we have to be focused enough and committed enough to take it.

What progressive ESG strategies do you believe PR agency leaders can adopt to align with the 2030 Global Goals, and how might economic fluctuations impact these sustainability efforts?

We think there’s plenty that agencies can do in terms of ESG, and we don’t think that economic fluctuations should be a factor here.

In the field of climate change we became carbon-neutral in 2022 and we’re aiming for net zero by 2030. We measure and offset our emissions guided by the UNs Sustainable Development Goals and have supported many green projects around the world. We also plant trees – 7000 since 2019 to offset our emissions and we’re part of the Mayor of London’s Business Climate Change Challenge. These are all initiatives any agency can participate in.

What are your predictions for the year ahead in the communications industry?

More change than ever. Gen AI will transform our industry in a way many other technological innovations haven’t and there is more going on at a macro, geo-political level than ever before. The industry has had a tougher time of late but is heading in the right direction. We’re getting better at articulating our value and being paid the right amount for what we do. If we can stay resilient and keep innovating, we will all continue to grow and prosper.

Posted on 14.05.2024

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