One Green Bean: stories from a Sydney agency as a London start-up

For the past six months I’ve been flexing the ‘global’ part of my job title, basing myself (for the most part) out of our London business, which is now approaching 16 months old.

As an expat who’s been very comfortable enjoying the trappings of Sydney life for the past 12 years, it’s been a steep (re)learning curve – getting back into start-up mode and remembering what it’s like to be British. A start-up is not for the faint-hearted.

Kat Thomas

Think about the people that sit within five feet of you at work.. you’re hopefully spoilt for choice when it comes to expertise and inspiration. I know I am in Sydney.

Creative technologists who can build ‘things’, the most astute of thinkers, the constant sparks of genius that come from having 70 interesting and interested people under one roof. Plus a fridge that works. It’s a different story as a start up – the few have to up-skill to be experts at everything.

To be fair, I touched down at the end of OGB London’s first year – its inaugural successes are testament to the hard work of UK managing director Matt Buchanan.

OGB logoI pitched up for a few reasons… I did the Sydney/London commute seven times in 2015. Much as I love travel (shout out to the Qantas fish burger with Japanese pickles!) this was too much.

Ultimately, I realised that I could add some genuine value to the London team as it went through the exact same growth and growing pains that we experienced first time around. So I rolled up my sleeves, put on two pairs of socks and got stuck in.

So here I am in London. The weather’s crap, the Tube gives you the skin of a teenager and WH Smiths sells sushi. But we’re now a team of 19, so we’ve come a long way in a year and a half – a time when it’s sink or swim for start-ups. But it’s been all-consuming.

The other day I likened it to having a baby at 20 and another one at 40. Still life changing, thrilling and it’s reframed my perspective on what a truly satisfying day looks like, but this time around it’s a lot more knackering and the same old shit is still the same old shit. (This is purely a hypothesis, but it seems to get a laugh from the mums in the office).

So what’s new in the London PR world? In some ways.. not a lot. The media still has a healthy British appetite for a face and a photo-call. But similar to Sydney, content strategy and production is already over taking the more traditional PR work that we’re doing.

I still find myself on too many planes. We’re handling global social channel strategy and management for Strongbow and Desperados, and global PR and influencer strategy for Nestlé. This often means a weekly trip to Amsterdam or Geneva.

team sky racing

We’re working with Sky, leading the content, PR and social strategy for Team Sky: the cycling team. Which has meant shoots with Chris Froome and the pro-riders -wherever they happen to be – which so far has been Monaco and Tenerife. I’m moments from a lycra-clad mid-life crisis myself and proud of it.

I like that the size and scale of the UK market means a level of anonymity to the jostle around new business. Competition feels healthier.

I like that when we hire for the London office we’re meeting fresh faces with a broader breadth of experience. But I miss clients with genuine autonomy, my sense is that in Australia there are a few less hoops to jump through to get interesting work out the door; there’s no ‘European’ team on the doorstep breathing down their necks.

Office Life Concept - Computer Glass of Water and Stationery Pen colour Pencil paper Workbook Coffee Mug on grey Table focus on rear end of Keyboard

Landing the Daily Mail ‘hit’ in the UK is still more of a holy grail than it should be. In Australia, there’s a more sophisticated attitude to PR, given we don’t have the ‘tabloid formula’ to rely on. I miss the Aussie creative network, I miss humorous ’Strayan banter, I miss being offered water in meetings.

Being ‘British’ again is a curious thing, too. I’d forgotten that people have a tendency to start every sentence with a ‘sorry’, we’ll use ‘with the greatest respect’ in an attempt to be anything but.. we have to say ‘right’ before we wrap-up a meeting, end a phone call or leave the pub. Australians are straight-talkers, the Brits beat around the bush for hours, sometimes weeks.

And if I’ve learned anything about holding a global role, chase the summer around the world if you can, otherwise you’ll find yourself staring at a multipack of thermal bras in Marks & Spencer’s wondering what the fuck happened.

Kat Thomas is the founder and the executive creative director at One Green Bean


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.