Apart from coming after 156 and before 158, there’s really not a great deal to say about the number 157. Apart from it’s the 37th prime number. And a few bus companies favour it as a number for the odd route, here and there, writes FSC managing director Mark Stretton.
But the number is hugely significant – at least to us, at Fleet Street Communications HQ – as a few weeks ago communications industry bible PR Week ranked us as the 157th (largest) agency in the UK as part of its annual rankings. While we’re cognisant of the fact few people beyond these four walls will remember this achievement in the fullness of time (and that we’ve a wee way to go before the likes of Edelman and Brunswick start glancing over their shoulders, nervously), it nevertheless feels like a noteworthy milestone.
As such, it’s given us pause to reflect on our first six years, so if you’ll excuse the indulgence, here are a few thoughts about where we’ve been, how we view our business and the industry, and where we are going.
When we step back it’s clear that since we launched in 2011 we have been able to forge partnerships with a very high-calibre set of clients – it’s a list of which we are extremely proud. It includes the ALMR, Alix Partners, Be At One, Benugo, Carlsberg, Casual Dining Group, Diageo Reserve, Ei Group, Expedia, Fourth, Lamb Weston, Startle, Thai Leisure Group, Vianet and Wing Yip. Like our children we love them all… Some agencies, dare I say it, throw client names around like confetti but what we can say is that we have long-standing and meaningful relationships with all of these companies. Some have been with us from the start.
We recently asked a clutch of these clients to tell us why they worked with us, filming their answers for a piece of video content for the FSC website and our social handles. Reassuringly, their responses echoed the things that we hold dear and, candidly, what we had hoped to hear. Paraphrasing, they told us we are…”great to work with; highly knowledgeable; always give strong and honest advice; results-focused; always deliver and do what they say they’re going to do”.
And, not least, fun and enjoyable to work with. These videos will be live our website very shortly.
Rise of digital
When we launched, the use of smartphones was exploding. As such, we as a business have grown up in the true digital era of communications, which has changed everything. An example of this is video. Now that we as individuals are all roving media companies with the ability to capture everything on film, video has in a relatively short period of time become an essential part of the way companies and brands tell their story.
The challenge for communicators in 2017 is to continue to focus on the underlying message, on storytelling and the key strategic pillars of communications, whilst recognising that digital technologies continue to change the world in which we live and the platforms that we need to use. The marketing and communications plates beneath our feet our shifting and will continue to do so. Virtual reality is the next big opportunity (and disruptor).
As an agency, we plan to continue to grow, but it is not an absolute focus. This is, and always will be, on delivering quality work and consistent stand-out results, on the platform of long, mutually beneficial and valued partnerships with our clients.
Interestingly, the PR Week index of top UK agencies revealed that our revenue per employee was at the lower end of the spectrum, suggesting we invest more in people and service than the majority of our peers. While we track our revenue growth against the market (and secretly would like to break the top 150 in next year’s list), it is by no means what drives us.
As the celebrated American football coach Bill Walsh wrote in his eponymous book on leadership, if you get everything right (on and off the field of play) and control what you can control, the score takes care of itself.
Follow me on Twitter @markstretton
Mark Stretton is one of the founding directors of Fleet Street Communications