Name: Pete Goold
Company: Punch Communications
Job: Founder and Director
Facebook: Punch Communications
I’m the MD of a company called Punch Communications which offers integrated PR, search and social media services. I founded the agency with my wife, Emma.
Fundamentally, what we do is talk to people to improve how people are presented to the outside world.
What PRs do is similar to painting with a colour palette. Once you understand the fundamentals, then it’s a question of which to use and in what sequence in order to advise people on the outside situation. For example, if someone from the education sector wants to reach potential customers, we will consider how certain tactics would work best for that scenario. For another company, the same tactics could be used differently. It’s all about how you apply things.
How many people work with you?
Today, in comparison to earlier in our company’s lifespan, we have slightly more internal resources, so my own job has become much better defined, with other team members taking ownership of areas that I used to look after. We have a team of 21 now. We began in 2003, hiring our first staff member in 2007. We have doubled in size every year since then.
The hardest part of that was certainly the stress of the first few hires. It was alien to me, I had no experience of it, and I don’t pretend to be the world’s best manager. I guess I have figured it out along the way.
PR is notoriously glamorous. How would you describe the industry?
PR is an industry in flux. It has changed greatly in the last few years and I’m proud we’ve been at the cusp of that change.
PR used to be about speaking to journalists and using them as a conduit to get the message out to a potential audience. Now you can go to bloggers, or directly to the customer, with the same end goal in mind.
PR is often defined as being the management of influence and reputation. Social media is about brands’ influence on the web.
PR companies must now incorporate social media. It is a huge part of what we do, and a vital communications tool.
PRs love to talk about their clients, so tell us who you've been working with...
Amongst others, Punch manages the Facebook pages for brands such as Sony Ericsson (now Sony Xperia) and Clinton Cards, helping to build the global fan base from 300,000 to 6million people in two years, in the case of the former.
As an individual, I’m very interested in search (or search engine optimisation), and we have developed a strong specialism in this, as well as social networking, resulting in an integrated approach to PR, search and social media.
We think it’s important that PR is not just about brand building, but how it can directly benefit the bottom line, through integrating search. Online PR coverage which integrates search can increase a website’s visibility in search engines, driving traffic and increasing sales. If you get this, you can transform your business.
What's a day like for you?
My days are very different from one to the next, which was one of the main appeals of the job for me. One day I'll be with a client, the next I'll be at my desk writing or speaking to press, another I'll be at a photoshoot or, these days, sitting at a whiteboard, coming up with an interesting social media strategy for a client. I've never been someone who can sit still for too long!
My job has changed massively, immeasurably since I started.
I spend my day writing, talking to clients, journalists, and bloggers, sitting round the whiteboard coming up with ideas about what we should be doing next, or even chatting whilst playing with colleagues on the games console. It’s a very social office.
And where does Punch call home?
We are located in the middle of rural Leicestershire. I used to work in several offices in central London, then we set up the business in the centre of Brighton. Our current office is close to where I live, and is on a working farm, so I can see cows and pigs from where I’m sitting. The office has exposed brick walls, contemporary art on the walls, and I have a bookshelf full of comics in my office. There’s a games console and TV on one wall, with bean bags in front. The office is split between Macs and PCs. The average age profile is fairly young. The youngest is around 22 and the oldest is about 40. I sit near the top end of that at 38.
Is PR really parties all the time?
I work long, erratic hours. Last night I worked until 11pm and started again at 7am this morning. Our office hours are 9am-6pm but I never work a normal day. I do what needs to be done whenever it needs doing, less on a Saturday and Sunday, although this weekend we have a big launch so I’ll be working on that.
To get to this point, there were many times I would work all day Saturday and all day Sunday. Much as I don’t associate with the term on a personal level, I suppose that I am an entrepreneur, and this is a growing business so it’s imperative that I take responsibility for getting the job done, which often means long hours.
What sort of qualities do you think you need to do what you do?
There are several very cool parts of PR, diversity is one of them. You need an understanding of what makes a good story, a passion for PR and communications, an awareness of people's views, skills in writing to journalists and the blogging world, and so on.
A typical PR person would be extroverted, passionate, dynamic and hungry to learn.
As well as being a classic extrovert, a perfect PR person will now need to also have a more numerate, analytical mind. This is essential to really get the most out of services such as Google Analytics. I am lucky to have both a passion for numbers and words, but not everybody does.
To work in PR you must also be dynamic, energetic and enthusiastic. I value these qualities much more than experience. They are the most important ones, and they can’t really be taught. You can learn everything else though.
I think there are two types of people. There are those who will turn up to work every day, get their feet under the desk, and start typing. Then there are those who will always have their heads up, seeing what change they can make happen.
I aspire not only to be like the second type, but to work with people like that.
I’m proud of the fact that many of the people at Punch are the kind that I’d want to hang out with on a Friday night.
All this hard work, do you have time for anything else?
I have a young family, and my job is very time consuming. I love what I do, but my family are the most important part of my life. I do mistrust anyone who says they have the perfect work-life balance. Some days I work a 15 hour day, others I get to leave in time to pick the kids up and spend time with them.
I’m a water baby so when I get time off work my family and I go surfing or swimming. Over the last few years I’ve started to spend a lot of time in the gym, which is great because it releases endorphins, eliminates stress, and boosts the metabolism.
How could I make you give me a job?
We get sent lots of CVs which have obviously had no love put into them. If this is the attention they’re putting into their own career, what does that say about how they’ll look after the people they work for? I’m not formal, today I’m wearing jeans and a t shirt for example, but none of my staff turn up dressed scruffily for work.
PR is fundamentally about how a brand, business or individual is perceived by third parties. If someone comes in not caring about how others perceive them, they’re probably not suited to the industry.
You can’t fake passion and enthusiasm in general, and for communications specifically. Questions like ‘what do you read?’, ‘what was the last newspaper you bought?’, ‘do you write a blog?’, ‘are you active in social media?’, you can’t really blag those answers. I would advise people to act as though they’re already doing the job that they want to do, and they will be more likely to get the role.
What's your best advice...
I would highly recommend the book 'Who Moved My Cheese' by Spencer Johnson, M.D., which is a modern parable about flexibility. The message is simply not to rely on stability as this will result in disappointment and life will move on around you.
Change is a constant in PR. To get the most out of it, you must not only endure but really embrace change.
The industry is constantly evolving and changing. At 10pm last night I was working on the train on my way home. This morning I was on my way to and from a meeting in Nottingham working on my laptop. I do what work dictates. I might not need to stay up until midnight tonight, but I will if my work needs it. To be successful in PR, you must be prepared to push yourself as hard as you can, which means that you really need to love what you do.