Consistency critical to invisibility of good PR

Fri, Mar 30, 2012, 01:00

WILD GEESE:  Aedhmar HynesChief executive, Text 100 PR, New York

AEDHMAR HYNES doesn’t feel the need to get too caught up in explaining what public relations is. She would rather let the evidence speak for itself. As chief executive of Text 100, a global PR agency that has 28 offices in Asia, Africa, North America and Europe and employs 500 people, the Galway woman says: “I think the best work I can do is demonstrated through the success of clients like IBM, Cisco or British Airways.”

A sister of Druid theatre founder and Tony Award-winning director Garry Hynes, it is clear communication is in the blood. Mixing English with economics for her University College Galway (now NUIG) degree, Hynes topped it off with a postgrad in marketing at Galway RTC (now part of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology).

Emigration to London in 1990 was driven by the desire to travel and get experience overseas. She joined the company she now runs as an account executive.

“When I joined Text 100 initially, the big step up for me was to really learn technology,” she says.

Set up in 1982, the year IBM launched its first PC and about the time Microsoft entered Europe, Text 100 stole a march while traditional PR agencies still got to grips with the new tech sector.

With a steady stream of Silicon Valley scions advancing on Europe, Text 100 saw an opportunity to help them navigate the media, opening 10 offices across the continent to meet demand.

Becoming an adviser to companies such as the Digital Equipment Company, Xerox, Visa and commerical photography company Corbis, Hynes was in her element.

“I was fascinated at this point by technology and the speed of progress in these organisations,” she recalls. “Being on the agency side provided me with the opportunity to act as a consultant to some of the most exciting companies, to have a seat at the table and a voice, and to be able to add a perspective.”

Rather than PR being an afterthought, the poor relation of other marketing disciplines, for many of this new breed of companies, she says, it was core to their strategy.

Hynes made the leap from London to San Francisco, the cradle of the tech sector, in 1997. Tasked with building the company’s US presence, she set up four offices there and was appointed chief executive in 2000 – but the timing could not have been worse.

“In my first year as CEO, I was watching the economy and the market tank,” she says. With a sector that had been impossibly buoyant for a decade now flatlining, having a clear vision for the company was key.

Focused until then on establishing offices across the globe, she focused instead on creating a consistency of service across those offices. There followed an overhaul of the agency – its operational infrastructure, methodology and training – to create a more consistent experience for clients.

“I think if you’ve got a clear vision and it’s the right one, then clients will buy into that.”

Green shoots emerged in 2002 when IBM decided to consolidate its PR agency roster from 52 to two.

For an agency with such a short tenure in the US, Hynes says they were delighted to be asked to pitch. Winning the business was a huge boost. “It was such a huge endorsement of our strategy. IBM saw that we were a smaller agency but very much consistent in every market across the world. It was a big turning point for us.”

In 22 years in the profession, Hynes has seen media mushroom to include blogging, citizen journalism and social media which, she says, have strengthened the power of the customer.

“I think now more than ever there is a much higher need for authenticity. You don’t have the opportunity any more to hide behind a set of messages. Today’s organisations have to be values-based, they have to be authentic and they have to be consistent across all audiences, because the internet provides the forum for customers to determine whether an organisation is being true to itself.”

Rather than being amorphous, she insists PR has to be rooted in business goals and has to be measurable. “If we provide a strategic plan to achieve something over a period of time, then we have to be able to say it’s moving the needle – we have to be able to measure that.”

Hynes moved to New York, which she says is closer to the main media, in 2005. It is also closer to Ireland, which she visits regularly with her children.

While the company is seeing growth in the US and in Asia, although at a slower pace than before, she says Europe is “flat for us right now”. To those thinking of emigration, she says hard graft brings results. “The thing with the Irish abroad is we’ve got a great work ethic, and nothing substitutes for really hard work.

“I was driven by wanting to be the best at what I did, and I do think that does get noticed. If you keep focused on doing great work and letting that speak for you, the opportunities will come your way.”

*This article was amended on March 30th, 2012 to correct a factual error.