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PR interview with Rhodri Harries, managing director of Kaizo

About Kaizo

What industry sectors does the agency specialise in?

We have a bit of a mix but typically our clients are in consumer or business tech or food and wellbeing sectors.

The common thread with consumer audiences being how brands fit into lives and lifestyles, and for business audience not just understanding the technology but what value it brings to businesses and the commercial impact that this has.

What is special about the agency’s approach to PR?

Well on top of the people of course… we have been blazing the word-of-mouth trail for a long time, identifying customer influencers, building recommendations and tying it all back to how businesses grow. In fact, we created and managed customer communities online when Facebook was in its infancy.

That said, we have never shied away from the importance of traditional media relations in setting the agenda and driving conversations.

What we think makes us special is the way we integrate channels with the knowledge and skills on how they work together and how they produce business-changing results, not just because they are there and we should do something with them.

How has your MBO affected how the company operates?

Well the answer to this is very little, yet a huge amount. Very little, in that the MBO was of all the trading assets and liabilities of Kaizo, so we were the same team in the same premises with the same clients as before. Yet a huge amount, as we are now masters of our own destiny with ambitious growth targets with the ability to reward not just those that are shareholders, but everyone in the business commensurately.

In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing PR today?

Economic pressures have a knock-on effect for all businesses, even if it isn’t direct. That said, it is an exciting time to work in PR; as media becomes more social there are more areas to grow. But there are also more competitors encroaching on our space, so our biggest challenge is to ensure we grab new opportunities and optimise these.

About clients

Tell us about a client you recently worked with. What was the company’s brief, your approach and the result?

With 5% of profits from the sale of House of Marley products donated to charity, we didn’t just help launch a product and brand, we launched a movement. Media interviews with Rohan Marley including BBC, Sky and Channel Five built profile, and a live performance by Julian Marley in HMV’s Oxford Street store drove buzz and excitement through social media and listings.

An exclusive launch event with MARLEY demo studios, specially created Marley cocktails, live art graffiti and Julian’s second gig of the day entertained 350 people (including 100 media) all helped to generate over 100 pieces of coverage, reaching over 200 million impressions, and helping sales to exceed expectation.

How do you balance the use of social media and traditional PR in your campaigns?

We ‘balance’ in line with what the job to be done is. For some, media coverage is more prominent where market positioning, thought leadership and trust building is key. For others, social media plays the biggest role in driving recommendations, and spreading conversations.

Is there a potential client you’d love to work for?

Hmmmm…all the ones we work with and then…MY dream client is the Welsh Rugby Union team.

Which campaign are you most proud of?

Still most proud of the work we did for Flip Video, the world’s first shoot and share camcorder, which we helped take from niche category to mass market appeal.

From capturing a catwalk style icon to that instantaneous family moment; from cool youths to intrepid travellers; from schools to businesses, our approach showed how Flip Video allows everyone to shoot, connect and share their everyday experiences.

In 2010 the brand retained number one pocket video camera (GFK & Amazon) and achieved number one overall camcorder product (Futuresource).

About journalists

Which areas of the press do you communicate with the most?

All of them…really depends on the client. For business technology the focus is typically trade, for consumer brands it’s national, consumer and regional.

How do you build and maintain strong relationships with journalists?

A mix of ways, but not bombarding with poorly-targeted information and not wasting time helps here!

How do you think the PR/journalist dynamic will change in the future?

It is sad to say but less and less talk, more and more online sharing seems to be the future, partly driven by pressures to deliver news every hour of every day. I hope this isn’t the case…but I think it might be.

About you

How did you get into PR?

I had a taste for it from managing the press for the rugby club at Newcastle Poly, but my first career opportunity came by answering an ad for a trainee in the Evening Standard, which turned out to be at a very small PR and events company called David Crewe Associates.

I then joined agency GCI – now part of Cohn & Wolfe – as it was growing, and progressed from account manager to board director in less than three years! I became deputy managing director in 2006, before moving to my current role as managing director of Kaizo in 2007.

Name three guests you’d invite to a dinner party and why…

My wife, Jonathan Davies (the welsh rugby great) and William Shatner!

How involved are you with social media?

If you’re not involved in social media, you shouldn’t be involved in PR. A bit like saying you don’t read a newspaper (or online version)…