Leadership Lessons with Paul Hutchings, Founder of Fox&Cat

Having just rebranded, we spoke with Paul Hutchings about his views on agency and client partnerships, and the changing tides in healthcare and pharmaceutical communications.

What makes a successful client/agency relationship?
Collective minds create what individual minds imagine. Great ideas get lost when there’s a lack of alignment and partnership. Collaboration is at the heart of our ethos with client and agency working as one collective team.

What’s different about our approach is that we parallel the importance of how we work together as an agency/client partnership, with that of the outcomes we achieve together. Our approach unlocks the potential behind the client-agency partnership, finds the most cost effective ways to deliver work, and puts processes in place to minimise the stress that can be felt through delivery. Our model uses team coaching as a tactic to ensure continually productive and motivating ways of working between client and agency as standard. It is proving to be a robust approach and a welcomed differentiator that clients appreciate the value of.

What do pharma and healthcare companies look for when considering agency partnerships?

In the process of our rebrand, we spoke to in-house teams across a variety of teams and departments. What we found is that communications work was still a priority, but in a rapidly scrutinised environment budget is more closely monitored and teams are shrinking. Combine that with business demands and pressures, changing requirements and so on, and it’s a tough time for communications professionals.

What’s needed is effective, efficient deliveries. Due diligence is also a key priority for companies right now, with a real focus on realistic, tangible outcomes. And value, of course. The demand is for more senior support to navigate some of the complexities we’re seeing while healthcare is under its reset.

In this competitive market where cost is a big factor for client considerations, what advice do you give agencies when it comes to demonstrating value?

For us it’s about delivering exactly what we say we’re going to – in the right time frame and with the approach and ethos. It’s that simple. With all the changes in today’s landscape, this is a challenge in itself.

Strategic partnerships are really important to us. Partnerships are so very different to being a service provider and mean that we can demonstrate the true depth of value that clients need.

Customised solutions are our bread and butter. It means we can deliver award-worthy work but do so efficiently and effectively.

Procurement can be a tricky one to navigate, any thoughts on how you engage them in the process of relationship building?

The procurement relationships are evolving rapidly at the moment because they’re under added pressure to ensure the work is done at the best value. So, like with any client, the relationship building is just as crucial here as it is elsewhere client-side.

Where we’ve benefitted the most is understanding what the goals and objectives of those departments are, and how we can best deliver against them.

What are the pros and cons of both large global networks as well as smaller independents?

One of the advantages of smaller agencies is that we’re flexible and can very quickly adapt to clients’ needs. We’re not encumbered by red tape. We can accommodate a more personalised service, and we have the freedom to do that. This also means our costs are lower and our value higher.

Larger agencies are in a strong position to provide expertise at scale with global networks, plus they have an established reputation that helps ensure a steady stream of new business. All great things that are totally achievable for smaller agencies too.

When thinking about the evolution of AI in PR and comms, how do you think this might impact entry level and junior roles in the agency world?

We’ve put a lot of thought into this at Fox&Cat. While AI accelerates the rate at which we can access insight and create copy, is still needs a human behind it to check for accuracy, add originally and manage confidentiality. It needs to be used with care and consideration. It’s a budget efficient way of working smarter not harder (or necessarily cheaper).

But honestly, there’s not a huge threat to entry or junior level roles – it simply might affect what those individuals do in their positions. What we’ll likely see is a use of AI as a starting point to ignite innovation and creativity.

A lot of this is waiting to see how some of these tech tools are going to land. If integration is the way forward, it’ll provide junior and entry level professionals with more support and learnings early on.

With this in mind, do you think we will see a remodel of agency structures?

We already are. Any agency that’s built up after COVID has no real HQ and this level of agility, employee autonomy, and cost saving is proving fantastic for businesses.

In terms of what that means to clients, the idea of fresh, young agencies made up of former MDs and CEOs is bringing about this new age of working. We’re not as constrained by traditional ways of working, but we’re still bringing that level of expertise and understanding to the table. Lower cost and senior teams are very much in smaller, emerging agencies’ wheelhouses and those are the top priorities for clients.

Any standout memorable feedback from clients or your network that makes you really proud?

It’s always rewarding when we receive positive feedback. We actually spoke with our clients and our workforce during our rebrand, and we received a 97% satisfaction rate with the way we work from our clients and 90% satisfaction from our network to deliver this – scores we are incredibly proud of.

One comment we received during our network survey was that “Fox and Cat provide the perfect balance between freedom and belonging.” That’s exactly what we’re about. We don’t want people to believe they’re chained in here, so that fluidity and freedom is exactly where we want to be.

We hear the same from our clients, particularly what we can deliver under intense pressure. That’s very rewarding, and what we’re continually striving for.

To speak to us about finding your next position, wherever in the world that may be, contact us today.

Posted on 30.05.2024

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