Neil Gordon-Henderson, head of media content at Which? on his switch from journalism to PR and working for a campaigning publication.
What made you decide to switch from journalism to PR?
Broadcast was largely underserved for clients, and they had a fear that every interview would be Paxman or Marr. PR agencies would generally concentrate on print and trade but wouldn’t be comfortable challenging their clients to push themselves into new spaces like TV or Radio.
This was in 2007, well before the explosion of social media. So the work I did nearly 10 years ago was similar to the education brands are gaining from using social.
When I moved first to Wriglesworth and then to Red, I challenged clients to use data and case studies on TV and Radio. Once they’d got that bug by appearing on Working Lunch or BBC News 24 they loved it and didn’t feel like it would always be an interrogation.
What was the most difficult aspect of that switch? (Or the hardest part to adapt to?) And how would you advise others making the same switch?
Journalists are very opinionated and always have been. The transition from a busy play hard and work hard environment can be tough. You’re going into some offices where you can hear a pin drop, some projects have taken hard-working teams months to put together. Initially, it’s being able to give good counsel and showing your added value. Starting the conversation with “That’s rubbish, it won’t work on TV or in the Daily Mail” is not good. Learning to bite your tongue with clients is also very important.
Immersing yourself with some very bright, talented people and being one of the team helps. Having mentors like Neil Mackwood, John Wriglesworth, Andrew Baiden and Mike Morgan also helped.
What is the most exciting part of your job at Which?
Which? is nearly 60 years old and we are more than just a magazine. We are a campaigning consumer association. We defend the consumer and we challenge businesses to be better. I am very proud working with our press office, led by Abbie Sampson. The coverage we deliver in broadcast and print is immense. Over 60 front pages last year, more than 1000 broadcast appearances and in the media seven days a week. Being in-house with one client, rather than several, is fun.
What are your aspirations for the company’s corporate communications strategy?
We are 60 next year. I am looking forward to working on some amazing stories on our history.
What is your personal best buy following a Which? recommendation?
My personal best buy is the child seat for my daughter. Vital piece of kit to keep her safe.
- Are you working in one of the more interesting, or unusual, roles in PR? Or, do you have some strong views on the industry you want to share? If so, please drop Emily Andrews a line.