How I Made It featuring Arlo Brady, CEO at freuds
Hanson Search steps inside the world of freuds to interview Chief Executive Officer Arlo Brady for its 'Inspiring Stories' career series. Arlo shares his thoughts on workplace diversity, challenges to the industry, and advice to his twenty-year-old self.
How did you get into the comms industry?
I didn’t expect to have a career the communications industry. Initially I wanted to work in business academia looking at how environmental and social issues impact big companies. In researching that, I realised that one of the biggest implications of environmental and social issues on big companies is reputation – it’s one of the main ways of creating or depleting the value of a business, and I didn’t really know much about that.
I continued my research (for a book I was writing) and I met a lot of people in the marketing industry – one of those people was the chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi. I was quite captivated by his demeanour. He suggested that I should be doing PR because that’s how you build reputation and protect it. My initial response was ‘absolutely no’ but he introduced me to Matthew (Freud) who had just become part of Publicis, and he changed my definition of what PR was. I realised how powerful PR can be as a force for good and for change.
Who has inspired you to succeed?
The wonderful thing about this job is that you meet amazing people, but a lot of them aren’t necessarily generous with their insights. When I joined freuds, the Vice Chairman - Philip Gould who was Tony Blair’s pollster - was both super inspirational and willing to share his thoughts and talk about you. I spent a lot of time with him, carrying his bag around the world, and I learnt a lot from him.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome?
Every day there are micro-challenges, and you get used to that as the norm of being in this industry. You can’t afford to get knocked off course by them. This industry is about challenges, and if they didn’t come to you, you wouldn’t get paid decent money to solve them!
The biggest challenge for me was the move from being an expert to a generalist – my training was focussed on being somebody who could express an in-depth perspective on a something specific, not things either side of it. Being an expert is wonderful, but my challenge was being able to articulate myself on many different things rather than that one. Being in charge comes with many challenges, but I think as long as you’re good at picking talent, then you’ll be fine.
What career advice would you give your twenty-year-old self?
Ask for what you want – you never know what you might get.
What are the top things which businesses can do to improve diversity in the workplace?
For me, the macro topic is social mobility and that’s what I prefer to focus on. Diversity often has a lot of baggage associated with it, whereas social mobility is a broader entry point. With diversity the focus is often on visible – or metropolitan – diversity, but I think that in a country like the UK social mobility is a huge problem. I don’t think that PR is a career that lots of people from different backgrounds necessarily consider - so you have to go out and actively find them. Some of our best hires have been from not obvious places. Also, starting salaries need to change in order to allow people to consider a career in this industry.
What key qualities do you think a leader needs to succeed in this industry today?
The one thing I look for in people above all else is empathy. When you’re in the communications industry you need to quickly be able to get what someone else is all about – what’s driving and motivating them.
Creativity is also very important. Here at freuds, everybody is encouraged to be creative in their own way, it’s what we’re known for.
What do you love about the industry?
I love the diversity of work and doing different things every day. I have a very short attention span and I love having lots of balls to juggle.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge to face the industry over the next few years?
Finding the right people who have a global outlook has increasingly been our biggest challenge at freuds. We need widely read people with a broad perspective and genuine interest in global issues.