Homage to the team

21 March 2021 | 6 min read | News
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
Paul MacKenzie-Cummins
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It has been 12 months since we all know what, and during 2020 the industry that I am proud to be a part of saw agency leaders pushed, pulled, stretched, tested, debilitated, gut-wrenched and heart-broken in equal measure. It was a period like no other, not even the recession of 2008 could hold a candle to what we all experienced last year, and for many agencies the challenges remain.

Clearly itself felt the stress and strains last year, too. It was hard. But critical to the business getting quickly back on track and into a position from which we could resume the growth trajectory we had enjoyed for each of the previous three years, was our people – the team.

A number of PR agencies have regrettably struggled beyond the point of survival since the outbreak of the pandemic. Indeed, the 2020 ICCO World PR Report revealed that “6 out 10 (62 per cent) [of PR] firms have had campaigns cancelled and 61 per cent expected a drop in fee income.” It also reported that almost half (46 per cent) of all PR agencies “reported a loss of earnings.”

At the same time, the PRCA found that 34 per cent of agencies have been forced to make redundancies, while the gender pay gap in the industry widened even further to 21 per cent. More on that in another planned blog post.

Being both right in the thick of what was happening and observers of how the PR landscape was radically changing on an almost daily basis, we could see what happened when businesses allowed circumstances to determine their fate, and so we re-imagined the way we operated and the services we provided at the time.

By setting the ball rolling with these new initiatives, the team could see that that

we were essentially putting the future fate of Clearly in our own hands and not those of the pandemic.


They had a goal that each of them shared: to get out of the sh*t we were in and get back on track to where we wanted to be as fast as was feasibly possible.

For that to happen, each of them knew they must perform their role to the very best of their ability, whilst ensuring they had the backs of the person to the left, right, below and above them. In doing so, everyone in the team understood

that by owning their individual role the business would likely emerge from the crisis in a stronger shape than many of our competitors who we could see had retreated into self-isolation mode.

It was empowering.

There was also a shift in the way in which we all viewed the work we do. We learned how to create not add value. So, the focus became one of how each person’s work could

  • make an impact for clients
  • help them build influence within each market they serve, and ultimately
  • improve their bottom line.

Above all else, there was a belief throughout the team that everything we were doing in the here and now would inevitably get us to where we want to be. And it did. They did it. In fact, when we celebrated our seventh anniversary in January 2021, Clearly was not only back on track once again we also recorded our third highest billings for a single month since 2014.

Last week, a client said to me of the team, “they ‘get’ us, they advise and challenge us, and they’re good people.” They are good people. They’re bloody awesome and the best team I’ve ever worked with over my 25-year career. So, you can probably appreciate that I have become exceptionally particular about the people we have looked to bring onboard since and become part of this incredible team.

Since January, Clearly has created and hired for three new positions. George was appointed as our Social Media & Influencer Marketing Executive, Megan joined as our very first Intern and will be with us for six months, and more recently Olivia has come on board as a Senior Account Executive.

Each of them brings something to the table that we don’t already have. But more important is

  • their attitude
  • their preparedness to support their colleagues when that extra pair of hands are needed
  • their willingness to learn, and
  • their commitment to ensuring that when they leave the office at the end of every week (albeit a virtual one at the moment) they can honestly say, “I feel that I’ve done my best by my colleagues and clients this week.”

I recently watched a TED talk that explained what researchers have found to be the most important ingredients for business success. The first of which is timing – being in the right place at the right time so that your product or service is ready to take advantage of the zeitgeist. The second most important factor is people – teams. Popular literature has been banging on about why ‘people are any organisation’s greatest asset’ and it has become clichéd. But when crisis strikes, no statement has even been truer.

I am exceptionally proud of the team for how they each reacted and responded to the events of the last year. They are unlikely to ever experience anything as challenging like that again in their lifetimes and they will always be able to look back on that period with (I hope) a sense of pride in themselves for what they achieved.

Running a PR business is bloody hard work and the most important job an agency leader does is to always have the back of their people because, as I have discovered over the last 12 months, they’ll always have mine.