Who was your first client?
Our first client was UK-based Seattle Coffee Company which was sold to Starbucks. We led the award-winning campaign to create a coffee culture in the UK and lead the brand and financial communications in the £50 million pound acquisition by Starbucks. I personally handled Howard Schultz’s profile surrounding the deal launching the business into Europe and also had oversight of the culture and change management communications, as well as the brand’s purpose and CSR initiatives in the UK. Since then, our portfolio work has included Selfridges & Co, Selfridges Group, Value Retail, American Express, Corinthia Hotels, SABMiller, Diageo and Harrods.
What is a feature that makes your firm stand out in the HNW world?
Our private practice offering is one of our main specialisms. We nurture profiles of senior figures in the boardroom by building a narrative for them personally and the brands that they have created, proactively building reputations with a distinctive, compelling point of view.
Our client list consists of many of the world’s most successful companies and most admired business leaders, particularly from the retail and luxury spheres.
As reputation managers, we stand out in the field. We have the confidence and dexterity to combine creative vision with purpose and CSR and this has made our agency stand out to HNW businesses within the luxury world who seek out those who can confidently move between conversations with City editors and Vogue editors in every country.
As we are fast approaching GSC’s 21st anniversary, what do you think has changed in the last decade?
CSR and purpose have become popular buzzwords at the moment, but much of what they entail is inauthentic and focused on the short term. We have always made this area a big focus for us but as it becomes the norm, brands need to do more to stand out. That said there are some more opportunities, such as making businesses female-friendly and enabling better mentoring through the creation of more role models. And best of all, brand communications is now truly at the top table in the marketing mix. It’s no longer the poor cousin of advertising.
For us, in this ever-changing world, being adept at working internationally and being good at cultural translation has really set us apart from the competition.
What, if anything, would you improve within your industry, if you could?
The belief in the importance of absolute clarity. The idea that less is always more. Less rush less haste. Ensure people receive as much as they transmit. Don’t underestimate the importance of getting under the skin of people’s drivers to make things work and make a team work well and play well together.
Why are you industry leaders? What are the advantages for HNWs working with you, as opposed to working with another firm/acting alone?
We are future-facing big picture thinkers who execute things with microscopic attention to detail. We provide a safe pair of hands and we have worked with our clients for many years. They know that we always have their backs; we won’t sugar-coat the message and will always find the right solution. Most of all, HNWs value the fact that we are one step ahead anticipating possible opportunities and issues.
Many HNWs realise that ‘opening their kimonos’ to the media means being prepared to commit to issues worth getting behind – identifying those issues means being brave enough to say “no” and being bold enough to say ‘yes’ to what others may readily dismiss as out of hand.
From what we know of the HNW community, they value communications which earn lasting, meaningful connections and bonds with audiences. But it only happens when the work is uniquely authentic, impactful and brave and also grounded in commercial reality.
These ingredients shape and build reputations, because they not only challenge common conventions but are impossible to forget. HNWs want personalities and articulate people, but also greatly value those who are only willing to do the job if they believe it can be done flawlessly.
The international flavour of our team also brings to bear a unique blend of cultural perspectives, ways of thinking and ideas. Our people are fiercely challenging and creative – we delight in delivering.