Shaper: Mark Gallagher

Show aired on 15th April 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Nina Simone with the jaunty Brown Eyes Handsome Man. Good morning this is Jazz Shapers I am Elliot Moss thank you again for joining me here every Saturday. I hope you’ve been with me for a number of years because I’ve been enjoying it and I hope you have too. Jazz Shapers what is it? It is the place I hope you know where the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul pop up alongside their equivalence in the world of business and we call those people Business Shapers and alongside those Jazz Shapers they make up this wonderful programme. My Business Shaper today is Mark Gallagher and he is the founder and senior partner of Pagefield and Pagefield are a very successful communications agency working with extraordinarily interesting people and businesses and you are going to be hearing about how Mark has done what he has done. Lots coming up from him very shortly and in addition to hearing from him you’ll be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya and words of advice for your business and then we’ve got some fantastic music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including Albert King, GoGo Penguin, Eliane Elias and this from Sly And The Family Stone.

Sly And The Family Stone with Family Affair one of my all-time favourites. Mark Gallagher is my Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers and he is the founder and senior partner of Pagefield and they call themselves a communications agency. Let’s start at the end. Hello.

Mark Gallagher
Hello.

Elliot Moss
Thank you for joining me.

Mark Gallagher
A great pleasure.

Elliot Moss
Mark what is Pagefield? Tell me what does it do?

Mark Gallagher
At Pagefield we do media relations, public relations, we do issues in crisis management. We do lobbying, political lobbying and we run campaigns – so a very straight forward offer.

Elliot Moss
Clients including? That you can mention?

Mark Gallagher
We can mention virtually all of our clients they’re all up on the website. We launched about six years ago with zero clients and a couple of members of staff. Me and one other, two others in a little corporate squat in Golden Square. I am pleased to say six years later we are coming up to two hundred corporate clients that we’ve looked after in those first six years that have gone in the blink of an eye. Mostly corporates, mostly UK corporates but some overseas including some overseas governments as well.

Elliot Moss
So let’s go back a bit. You did philosophy, politics and economics, PPE at Oxford.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You went then into the world of communications and you’ve been therefore plying your craft for a number of years I won’t …

Mark Gallagher
Twenty five years.

Elliot Moss
Oh you were honest, well done.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah, yeah.

Elliot Moss
Many many corporate roles in there. You worked for ITV, I believe.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You were involved with Camelot.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You’ve done all sorts of stuff. At what point did you say do you know what I want to work for myself and when was that and why?

Mark Gallagher
It was funnily enough just coming up to my fortieth birthday so a classic sort of review of life I suppose and I got very, very lucky. One of my early bosses if you like was a fantastic guy called Stuart Purvis who at that stage was the Chief Executive of ITN and he was brave enough to offer me the job of Corporate Affairs Director at ITN when I was a whippersnapper, when I was twenty seven and so of course you approach your fortieth birthday having done thirteen or fourteen years in senior communications positions for some of the highest profile businesses in the UK as you say ITN, Camelot the National Lottery Operator that was facing some serious reputational challenges at the time that I joined in 2003 and then over with Michael Grade at ITV so at one level it’s like well does it get any better than that array of organisations, challenges and indeed bosses, chairmen and chief executives and do I want to be doing this for the next twenty years or so and the answer was that I did want to be doing it professionally but that I didn’t necessarily want to do it within a sort of corporate structure. So it was fairly obvious to me having taken a little break back in 2010 that starting my own agency was the best way forward.

Elliot Moss
And that’s exactly what he did. Stay with me to find out how Mark Gallagher has taken his desire to work for himself rather seriously and has grown his business quite fantastically over the last six years. That’s Mark Gallagher my Business Shaper today founder and senior partner of Pagefield. Time for some more music right now this is Albert King and Kansas City.

That was Albert King with Kansas City. Mark Gallagher is my Business Shaper today. He
is in the world of communications and PR. He has been doing it quite a while and if you were listening earlier you would have heard that eventually he said enough I’m going to work for myself. Do you remember that first day you got the little horrible squat in the middle of London, Golden Square I think you said?

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You walk in. Did you have a first client on the first day?

Mark Gallagher
No.

Elliot Moss
Or did you have to go and peddle?

Mark Gallagher
We had to go and peddle straight away.

Elliot Moss
How did you do that?

Mark Gallagher
And actually it was a shock to the system I have to tell you because of course one of the things about being at the relatively senior levels in the corporate world as those of your listeners that are in the corporate world will know, you end up being in a bit of a bubble. So when you turn up in your little corporate squat, a little bit of sub-let spacing in Golden Square and there’s you and two others and Boo Boo the pug and a couple of laptops and a couple of mobiles and that is your business and you see desks and chairs scattered around the place, telephones that don’t work, computer systems that don’t work or haven’t even been set up. Where’s the speed dial to the director of technology? There is no director of technology. There isn’t a chauffeur car waiting to collect you outside your front door in the morning as it did for many a year. So a lot of the shock to the system was outside of the corporate bubble where you had responsibility to get on with this stuff yourself and it is very refreshing, invigorating.

Elliot Moss
Was it? I mean you’re not saying this with a deeply traumatic looking face over there you’re kind of revelling in it a bit. But that means at that point you go from being a communications, that’s your craft skill over to one side which is still important but you actually become a business person?

Mark Gallagher
Absolutely right.

Elliot Moss
What else happened in those first few months before we get to the first client point what else did you have to deal with because you said you had, I mean the great thing about PR is and other similar businesses it’s about your brain, it’s about who you’re connected to, it’s about what you know. It’s less about stuff around you so you can literally have a mobile phone and a computer but what else did you have to contend with?

Mark Gallagher
Well one of the great joys of the profession is that if you are wanting to start your own business there are precious few barriers to entry so find yourself some space, so find yourself some working technology and if you’ve got a good reputation and you know good people that you can work with and you also know enough people that you can begin to talk to about being potential clients you are in business. Now of course I make it sound simple in reality there’s an awful lot of other stuff that’s needed to get a successful agency off the ground and certainly to get an agency growing and projecting that sense of solidity that is a comfort to clients and that’s something that was the biggest challenge for the first year which is winning your first clients, getting a decent team set up and crucially making sure that your offer in what is a very competitive market is absolutely crystal clear.

Elliot Moss
And we’re going to come to the offer but before we do just tell me about that first client. How did you get them and who were they?

Mark Gallagher
That was I am delighted to say two out of my three previous employers so ITN and Camelot were both keen to work with me again but in this different incarnation at Pagefield Communications so they became our first two clients.

Elliot Moss
That’s the importance of being in the mature world of being a good leaver and always having those relationships.

Mark Gallagher
Never be a bad leaver.

Elliot Moss
Never be a bad leaver, good advice. Stay with me for more from Mark Gallagher my Business Shaper. In the meantime the latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom I hope from our programme partners at Mischon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday morning I talk to someone who is shaping the world of business, who is doing things that we all wish we were doing too and I’ve been very lucky to talk to lots of people over the last five years. If you want to catch any of those iTunes is a good destination for you or anytime in the future CityAM.com in addition to the usual places. Mark Gallagher is my Business Shaper today and he is founder and senior partner of Pagefield. Pagefield is a communications agency he set up in 2010 after a very successful career in the corporate world. We were talking Mark about your first few clients which you said and the sage advice attached to it was although they were my clients they were my companies I worked for and they became my clients. What is it that you think they bought and what is it that clients continue to buy from you and now the people that work with you?

Mark Gallagher
Judgement I think is absolutely the number one criteria for successful communications and why people would buy the services of an agency like Pagefield, it’s all about judgement and in fact I was talking to a super senior communicator over dinner last night and we were debating how you develop that judgement as a professional characteristic and is it something that’s just reflective of your personality and how you are brought up and your life experiences or is it very specifically to do with your professional experience.

Elliot Moss
Judgement also comes from intellect let’s be honest here. You’ve got an excellent Degree which means you can’t be particularly stupid you must be smart. I mean that helps right? Judgement is also experience.

Mark Gallagher
Smart but I can’t wire a plug so you know it depends on your definition of smart.

Elliot Moss
We’re in the same club because I can’t do that or do any flat pack Ikea kind of things like that. I can do them inside out if you like. So there is an alliance of judgement borne out of experience and also intelligence because you wouldn’t be able to say that but I can of you. But the PR business and the communications business in general has got ironically a pretty bad press and especially probably in the last ten/fifteen years, maybe twenty years in this country Government is connected to spin, you don’t trust Politicians. We’ve seen that over the last eighteen months borne out at least the referendum which came up on 24 June last year and what’s gone on in America recently, we may well see it across Europe. People just don’t trust people and right behind those Politicians or alongside them are people like you.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
So what are we going to do about that? Or what are you going to do about that?

Mark Gallagher
Well it’s one of the reasons that I’m doing this interview today which is a New Year’s resolution to myself which was to get out there a bit more and to promote and to defend the joint professions of public relations and lobbying. You are quite right we get a terrible rep, we have a terrible press and the reality is that the work that we do or the work that a lot of us do for a lot of amazing clients and previously for amazing employers, we are on the side of the angels. We are doing great work but it’s not the kind of work that gets much publicity and that is why I’m very keen to talk about it in a place like this.

Elliot Moss
We’re going to be talking a lot more with Mark in a few minutes but we’ve got some more music before that. This is Eliane Elias with Sambou Sambou and I hope I said it correctly it’s the title track from her new album.

That was Eliane Elias with Sambou Sambou and Mark Gallagher is still my Business Shaper I am very pleased he hasn’t left the building. We’ve been talking about judgement and about intelligence and now Mark this issue of trust. You build a business and we’re going to come onto the trust and the bigger point about you here in defence of your craft.

Mark Gallagher
Yes.

Elliot Moss
What about trust with the people that come to you. Again a lot of people come and go as I understand it in the PR world, they go from one agency to another and it’s strange to me that there is not much loyalty. How have you managed to inculcate loyalty in your gang. What are people buying into internally and what do they believe in therefore?

Mark Gallagher
I think probably two or three things. The first is they’re buying into an agency that has got authenticity, it’s got some kind of moral compass so we are one of the few agencies that has a highly interventionous advisory board and we go to the advisory board with any client that we think might be controversial, that might raise questions and we thoroughly debate at that advisory board which is led by my brilliant, brilliant chairman, Sir Christopher Mayer our former ambassador in Washington and they will not hold back if they think as a board that we are signing on a client that they just don’t like the smell of then they exercise their veto and that of course attracts a whole range of talent into the agency because they know that we’ve got that sense of values and our values are going to be different from other people’s values. I happen to be a big fan of the Great Seal of Israel or we have a client, Phillip Morris the tobacco company but where we’re promoting harm reduction products so that for terrible smokers like me I’ve finally got a product in the market which I’ve helped them get into the market which is going to cause me a good deal less harm. So partly it’s about authenticity and about having some kind of moral compass. Partly it’s also something that I think if you asked any of the people that worked in my teams in the corporate world, it’s about creating a good sense of, if you like, the work family. We spend a lot of time with each other. Just like law, PR and lobbying is a long hours business and therefore creating the right atmosphere, the right environment in the office, we don’t have any offices in the floor so I sit slap bang in the middle of my team in an open plan office surrounded by well thirty plus twenty people and so it’s a very sort of flat structure. It doesn’t feel very hierarchal. We have a great big long kitchen table where everybody’s encouraged to come and have their free breakfast in the morning and read the newspapers together and these are very soft power things. These are very small things and they’re certainly not very expensive things but they’re things that make a huge difference.

Elliot Moss
And just very briefly I mean this sounds a good thing. I mean what you’re describing is a nice place to work.

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
It’s caring and it’s clear as you said with Christopher Mayer there and the board they are making choices in their values base. Where are those values from for you because you strike me as someone who gets that people want to be treated properly and that that will work? What in your childhood or in your life has enabled you to kind of be the kind of person you are now?

Mark Gallagher
Well for me that’s a very personal but very straightforward question. I come from a very modest family background. Dad started as a welder and mum working in a pharmacy and they were very much the sort of economic product of the 1980s, so they took advantage of that spirit of entrepreneurism that Mrs Thatcher created in the ‘80s and worked their way up so I guess I got that moral compass, those basic values and the work ethic from that family background. So very, very straightforward, very, very simple and I think if you stick to those core principles and you don’t row away too much from that sort of background you’re going to be just fine.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for my final chat with my great guest today Mark Gallagher. Plus we’ll be playing a track from Manchester’s GoGo Penguin. That’s after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

That was GoGo Penguin with All Res and I really like that, hope you do too. Mark Gallagher has been my Business Shaper and is for a few more minutes. Founder and senior partner of Pagefield. Standing up for the fine profession that is standing up for other clients actually and giving them a voice. Do you still love what you do?

Mark Gallagher
Absolutely adore it. I feel totally blessed. Wake up every morning, bounce out of bed. Look forward to going to work.

Elliot Moss
What is it that still makes you happy then?

Mark Gallagher
Love that basic task. In fact you said at the beginning of that question which is that the promotion and the defence of good clients, doing good work and who deserve a voice and so that’s it core essence. Why wouldn’t you enjoy that professionally? Fantastic.

Elliot Moss
What about the money Mark we haven’t talked about money at all. I am assuming your business is successful, I’m assuming it keeps you in the manner to which you should be accustomed to be kept in. How much does it motivate you?

Mark Gallagher
It doesn’t motivate me much in itself. As we were talking earlier on you know life is full as an egg and life is expensive when you’ve got two kids and an ex and a current and all that stuff then you know the budget soon mounts up but it’s what it allows you to buy which is taking the kids on great holidays all that sort of basic stuff. But for money itself – not really a motivator.

Elliot Moss
Now obviously you said earlier your New Year’s resolution was to come out of the shadow as it were from behind your clients.

Mark Gallagher
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Not because you’re hiding there at all but because you know you were doing what you were doing. Is it hard, you know you preach authenticity and you know that that is powerful and to me you’ve and I meet lots of people and I know when they’re not quite telling me the truth and it seems to me unless I’ve been duped that you see a very straight forward guy and you seem to love what you do?

Mark Gallagher
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Is it hard doing this now for you or not particularly?

Mark Gallagher
Yes it’s forcing myself out of the comfort zone. Hitting a public platform is not something that I’ve done in twenty five years in the business but I feel very strongly about the fact that there are huge numbers of intelligent and talented and well-motivated people who work in public relations and in lobbying and they get a bad rep and I don’t particularly mind it for myself but I do mind it particularly on behalf of my team when they get a bit of stick in the pub for the fact that they’re oh a lobbyist you know…

Elliot Moss
So what did you say? What’s the main thing that you say to people when they need to think about why your profession is a good one?

Mark Gallagher
We make the world a better place if you look at some of the campaigns that we are working on at Pagefield now and some of the things that I’ve worked on in my corporate life at ITN for example, I spent most of my time running lobbies that protected ITN’s journalists and other journalists around things like freedom of expression against poorly drafted, often maliciously drafted legislation from civil servants who wanted to deliberately restrict journalists expression of freedom. What’s not to like about that but it needs to be talked about and for people to know about it.

Elliot Moss
And politically obviously there’s a storm around all of us you’ve been again very comfortable to say what you think about the political situation whether it’s in this country or anywhere else.

Mark Gallagher
Absolutely yeah.

Elliot Moss
It feels good?

Mark Gallagher
It feels very good. I was an out and proud Brexiteer and campaigned very vigorously to liberate Britain from the European Union and again around the authenticity being far, far better to be clear and honest to your own principles which people admire even if they disagree with you.

Elliot Moss
It’s been a real pleasure talking to you and we could do it for a lot longer except that we are running out of time.

Mark Gallagher
That’s a shame.

Elliot Moss
That’s a shame but it’s been really good to meet you. Just before I let you go what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Mark Gallagher
I’ve chosen not quite jazz I suppose but Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and I just wanted to share it with listeners only on the basis that it was by far the most decompressing piece of music that I listen to when I’m driving back to see the kids in Suffolk on a Friday night.

Elliot Moss
Here it is just for you Mark, thank you very much.

That was Leonard Cohen with Hallelujah, the decompression song of my Business Shaper Mark Gallagher. Someone who talked about the importance of judgement and how you build that through intelligence and experience. Someone who believes in the power of authenticity which coming from someone in the PR world was maybe a surprising message but absolutely at the core of what he has done to build his business and the importance for him of advocacy and a point of view whether it’s about politics, whether it’s about his clients or whether indeed it’s about defending the very business that he works within, that is communications and public affairs. Really, really good stuff. Do join me again same time same place that’s next Saturday, 9.00am sharp for another addition of Jazz Shapers. Meanwhile coming up next its Nigel Williams.

Mark Gallagher

Mark Gallagher is the Senior Partner and Founder of Pagefield, a London-based communications agency which he founded in 2010. Pagefield specialises in reputation and crisis management, campaigning and public affairs, regulatory affairs, bid support, stakeholder relations and public relations.

Mark has more than 20 years of experience in public and regulatory affairs, corporate public relations and campaigning, where his clients included the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant and Camelot. He was also Public Affairs Director for ITN, where he managed the company’s campaign to win the ITV News contract.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“We launched about six years ago with zero clients and a couple of members of staff.  Me and two others in a little corporate squat in Golden Square.”

“…where’s the speed dial to the director of technology? There is no director of technology. There isn’t a chauffeur car waiting to collect you outside your front door in the morning as it did for many a year.”

“The biggest challenge for the first year is winning your first clients, getting a decent team set up and, crucially, making sure that your offer in what is a very competitive market is absolutely crystal clear.”

“Judgement, I think, is absolutely the number one criteria for successful communications and why people would buy the services of an agency like Pagefield. It’s all about judgement.”

“…they will not hold back if they think as a board that we are signing on a client that they just don’t like the smell of…”

“I come from a very modest family background. Dad started as a welder and mum worked in a pharmacy and they were very much an economic product of the 1980s…they took advantage of that spirit of entrepreneurism that Mrs Thatcher created and worked their way up…”

“I feel totally blessed. Wake up every morning, bounce out of bed. Look forward to going to work.”

” I feel very strongly about the fact that there are huge numbers of intelligent and talented and well-motivated people who work in public relations and in lobbying and they get a bad rep.”

” I was an out and proud Brexiteer and campaigned very vigorously to liberate Britain from the European Union. Far, far better to be clear and honest to your own principles which people admire even if they disagree with you.”