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PR Interview with Cathy Hayward, MD of Magenta Associates

Cathy Hayward, Magenta Associates

How can you keep journalists happy? “First and foremost, be reliable. Never miss deadlines,” suggests Magenta Associates’ Cathy Hayward.

Only seven years after starting the agency, Cathy has a team of 11, 25 full-time clients, and has won Sussex Small Business of the Year.

Congrats for winning the Sussex Small Business of the Year award for 2017. What do you think are the three things that all small businesses should do?

Thank you! We were very happy we won. In my opinion, having owned a small business for over seven years now, there are a few fundamental rules I think every MD should follow. Firstly, treat your employees as you’d like to be treated. Offer praise and support whenever you can, reward people for their hard work and go the extra mile to make your team feel valued. Small gestures – such as simply saying ‘thank you’ or buying the first round at the pub on pay day – can make a world of difference. Secondly, be realistic with your financial planning. The budget should be aspirational, of course, but also a real reflection of your capabilities as a business… as opposed to just a pipedream. And remember the old saying – “turnover is vanity, profit is sanity”. Finally, invest in your workplace to get the most out of your employees. Provide creative, flexible and vibrant spaces to ensure people can choose a setting that works best for them.


How important is it to win awards?

In our eyes, very. They’re not the be-all and end-all by any means, but they’re a fantastic way to reward and recognise business success. It’s a great internal morale booster, too. There are countless award schemes out there, from small localised events through to nationwide and global ceremonies. Do your research, be realistic and invest time in writing detailed entries, and you could be surprised where it takes you.


Working in the B2B built environment sector, do you have issues with client interests overlapping? And how do you deal with this?

No, generally we don’t have any issues. We’re specialists, not generalists – so naturally there can be some overlap, but not to the point where it becomes detrimental. In fact, we wouldn’t let that happen – it wouldn’t make business sense for either party if we took on an account we couldn’t fully support because of potential client conflict. We focus on the built environment and, as you can imagine, the sub-sectors under that umbrella are all very different, yet often complementary. I think the trick in dealing with any potential overlap is to be honest in the first place, and to manage accounts in a way that minimises overlap, i.e. by ensuring there are digital firewalls between teams.


In such a specific sector, it’s important to have good relationships with the journalists of your key publications. What is your advice for keeping journalists happy?

First and foremost, be reliable. Never miss deadlines. Next, you need to make sure you always have a good reason for contacting them – that means knowing what and how they cover stories, so you only send over relevant ideas and copy. Many of the Magenta staff have backgrounds in journalism so we totally understand both sides of the PR/journalist relationship. At Magenta, we pride ourselves on building genuine, personable and valuable relationships with our clients, each other, and of course, with journalists. Every contact is invited to our annual summer party, we send hand-written Christmas cards, and regularly meet them over a coffee or a bite to eat to just keep in touch and nurture the relationship.


What do you look for when hiring a new team member?

We look for someone who wants to be part of the journey, and someone with the right balance of aptitude and attitude. Relevant skills are, of course, essential – as is loyalty, professionalism, charisma and curiosity – but it’s also important that there’s the right cultural fit. That’s not to say we want to hire clones of ourselves – far from it, in fact. Diversity of people means diversity of thought and ideas – and that’s very important in our industry. The very nature of PR requires you to be a certain type of person (confident, a good communicator and a great relationship-builder) but that doesn’t mean we all have to look, behave and act the same.


Do you have a favourite project from Magenta Associates’ seven years?

We have worked with some truly fantastic clients over the years so it’s difficult to select one particular project. Our clients really do fantastic work and they are an absolute delight to work with, but one of my personal favourites has probably been working with Clowns Without Borders UK on a pro bono basis. The charity brings laughter and joy to children and communities affected by war or natural disaster all over the world. I’m a trustee on the board and I’m going to Jordan with them in a few weeks to support a tour to a refugee camp there.


How has your previous experience in journalism helped you run Magenta Associates?

I spent 15 years as a business journalist working for magazines in the finance, investment, HR, procurement, and marketing sectors, both as a staffer and a freelance journalist, so I understand what journalists are looking for and how PRs can support them. And I have a good grasp of what journalists really don’t want from PRs!


This interview wouldn’t be complete unless I brought up the Magenta Associates annual trip away. Lisbon last year, Barcelona in 2016 – I’ve got to admit, we’re all a little envious. What are the benefits of taking a trip away with the whole team? Also, do you know where you are off to this year?

They really are quite something! Last year we spent two days in Lisbon and managed to fit in a tour of the city on tuk-tuks, a champagne river tour, a food market, a creative planning session and, of course, a fair amount of eating and drinking! I thoroughly believe in investing in health and wellbeing – if you look after your people, they will look after you! So, what better way to reward them for their hard work over the past year than whisking them away for a night?! It’s a wonderful experience to get to know each other better, boost morale and ultimately, say thank you! This year we’re off to Seville as proposed by our Account Executive Gemma.


Follow Cathy on Twitter – @cathy_magenta

Visit the Magenta Associates Website