One Green Bean founder on smashing culture, clients setting tight briefs and content versus stunts

The founder of One Green Bean has revealed the cultural barriers she faced when she expanded her UK agency through the take-over of Havas PR in London.

Speaking at Mumbrella’s CommsCon conference in Sydney on Thursday, Kat Thomas reflected on the 10 years of her Sydney operation and the launch two years ago of One Green Bean London.

In a wide-ranging presentation, which saw Thomas reflect on the value of culture and how to get the culture right, the value of entertaining content, how content trumps stunts, the shift towards PR centric advertising, Thomas encouraged agency bosses to look for ideas across the business while also emphasising the importance of being your most important client and taking the time to celebrate the business.

Discussing the growth of her London offering, which is now aligned with Havas, she said: “About 18 months ago in London we had the opportunity to take over a very small corner of Havas PR, which was a languishing PR agency with about 10 or 12 people in it.”

Referring to the cult 2004 film about high school cliques, Thomas told the audience: “We inherited the cast of Mean Girls.

“It was completely unrecognisable, we had to make a tough call to smash it and start again.”

Kat Thomas: “We inherited the cast of Mean Girls”

A number of the staff she inherited departed the agency, Thomas hinted.

She said: “You have to isolate what the problems are and that also comes down to individuals and work out how to deal with that, and we had to take it apart to put it back together.

“For me culture is like concrete. You pour this vision, you pour this appetite for pulling everyone together into a business and it seeps into all the corners and then it sets and when it sets and it’s positive, it sets the flavour of the business, it sets the tone of the business when new people join they look to the culture to get a really good sense of the place.”

Thomas also warned that too many clients in Australia expect more from their agencies than they are paying for.

She said: “The over servicing going on here, for those of you who speak that language, is out of control. We are struggling with stopping people spending all day, everyday, and their weekends, on this piece of business.”

Kat Thomas: The days of the PR stunt are coming to an end

Sharing advice for clients on how to get the most from their agency relationships, Thomas suggested they should focus on agreeing to tighter briefs.

“Starting with the obvious, a brief, a clear brief, a good brief, making sure you’re aligned with your team. We’ve seen circumstances where a particular client wants something visionary and bold and and the rest of the team is talking column inches and KPIs,” she said.

Thomas also argued that the days of the PR stunt are coming to an end, being replaced by big content ideas.

“There was an era where if you do a stunt or do an event and then hold a press call – then panic shitless that no one will turn up. But really we’ve seen a really big push into unlocking the power and the potential of content versus stunts,” she said.


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