Peter Sutton, MD at PMW, talks to Gorkana about his decision to launch an agency, the current comms climate, his passion for mountain-climbing and his work with the Dame Vera Lynne Children’s Charity.
Describe the current state of the comms industry.
Nowadays it is all about finding ways to communicate with the person you want to speak to, be it clients, consumers or other businesses, without wastage. By that I mean that businesses need to use all of this wonderful new technology we are constantly presented with to target their core customers in a clever way.
You’ve been running the show at PMW for more than 23 years now. What’s your favourite part of your job?
I find the science behind marketing interesting, but ultimately it’s the creativity that gets me out of bed in the morning. PMW’s core belief is that a totally bespoke marketing campaign that is appropriate to that client is what makes campaigns work.
Before that, you worked in radio. What made you jump ship to PR?
I dealt with a lot of advertising agencies over the years. As I had accumulated a lot of fantastic contacts in my career, I wanted to create an agency that, frankly, I felt could offer a better all-round service. I didn’t want the restraint of working in one media field and wanted to be involved in it all – so I started PMW 23 years ago, and I am still loving it.
What was your very first job?
My first ever job was working in a very old-fashioned hardware store when I was 18 years old. I still remember the smell of paraffin and coal.
PMW is based in the rural setting of Billingshurt in West Sussex. What are the advantages of being based outside of a more traditional, urban location?
Cost is an advantage of course. We don’t pay city rates and therefore don’t need to pass these costs onto our clients. Our converted barn in the middle of the Sussex countryside is a beautiful place to work and offers us a creative place to think. Our clients love visiting, especially when they are shown the office and see how the team works.
Which brand do you most admire?
I admire a lot of brands, of course. But the one that I think is consistently on-brand and has its true message running throughout is Virgin. It knows who it is and the brand’s creative ‘thread’ or DNA is obviously across the board.
What do you wish you had more time for?
I have a real passion for walking up mountains, and it would be great to have more time to conquer some of the big ones. I recently completed a 100 kilometre Thames Path walk and the Three Peaks in Wales, which includes Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon, all for charity. The next mountain on my list has to be Mount Kilimanjaro – I’m working towards this steadily!
You’ve also been chairman of the Dame Vera Lynn Children’s Charity since 2009. How did that come about?
I was chairman for five years having met Dame Vera through a millennium project we did with Guildford Borough Council, creating the world’s largest time vault. Dame Vera was voted as the spirit of the 20th Century as part of the celebrations and helped to seal the vault, which will be reopened in the year 3,000.
We still work with the charity in an advisory and voluntary role, and we are currently working on a very exciting project as Dame Vera will celebrate her 100th birthday next year. I can’t say much more for now, but it will be a significant event to mark her centenary – watch this space!