Martin Powell and the Empica team

60 Seconds with Empica’s Martin Powell

Following Empica’s move to bigger premises just outside Bristol, managing director Martin Powell talks about why the agency has moved, his 28 years in the industry and working with the regional press. 


Empica managing director Martin Powell

Martin Powell

You’ve recently moved from Long Ashton to The Courtyard in Wraxall Hill. What was the thinking behind the move?

We had been in our previous offices for 15 years and quite simply we had outgrown them so we moved to bigger premises nearby. It has given us the opportunity to refresh our offering and throw out a lot of junk!

Changes like this always help you to bring into focus your methods of working and update systems, so we believe the move will be positive for us and our clients.

What advantages do you gain on having your main office in the south-west? And how different do you believe it is to being based in London?

We have a satellite office in London. There is nothing magical about London. Most of our clients have their headquarters in the South West or want campaigns in the South West.

Bristol has a fantastic media scene with the BBC Wildlife Unit producing world class television, Aardman Animations leading the world in animation and every type of business based in the area. We are very content to service businesses that are here in the southwest and get their message out across the UK and internationally.

Why did you move from journalism to PR?

I made that move in 1989, so I think I qualify as a PR person now! I loved my time as a hard news reporter and as a journalist you are basically nosey and want to know what is happening. The downside to being a news reporter is that you never really do anything in depth as you are on to the next story very quickly.

I found in PR that you could work with clients on stories and follow through campaigns over a sustained period of time, which personally I find fulfilling and satisfying. I believe we make a real difference for our clients.

You started the agency in 1989, how has it evolved to survive the changes which have taken place over those 28 years?

The main changes have all been around the internet, mobile communication and the rise of social media. Of course at the same time we have seen the role of newspapers change and diminish. Throughout the years we have invested in technology to try to keep ahead of things where possible.

Video is now a strong part of our offering as we believe that people consume so much information on screen and the natural thing is to watch something on screen rather than read on screen. Back in 1989 the technology was very expensive, now it is relatively cheap which enables us to invest in people rather than kit to ensure we provide a top quality service.

How would you describe your relationship with the regional media? And how do the changes occurring in the sector impact your work?

We have to maintain strong relationships with the regional media in order to have impact for those clients who need to be seen there. It has been sad to see so many journalist jobs disappear and those that are left have little time to look at any issues in depth.

This means we have to be even more precise in our communication with them and do more of the groundwork for them. Changes are now happening very quickly and we have to look at creative ways of working with all media and continuing to be on top of those changes.

What is the most memorable campaign you’ve worked on and why?

There have been so many over the years. Personally, I have been working closely with Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby and her family for the last 10 years which has involved worldwide travel.

Dealing with the media in Bulgaria, Spain and Chicago for instance, were great experiences where you see lots of differences but also realise that pretty much all reporters are the same worldwide in their hunger for a story.

Finally, the name Empica comes from print typeface measurements and signifies your desire for measurable campaigns; how important is it for you to deliver measurable results? Which measures do you use?

It has always been a criticism of PR that it is difficult to measure compared to the likes of advertising. This is changing with so many stories now going online so that you can see how many people viewed or clicked on it. If clients don’t see results there is no point in a PR campaign.

We talk to clients at the beginning of a relationship about how they want to measure success and ensure we regularly report to them using just about every tool available!

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