60 Seconds with Manifest CEO Alex Myers
Alex Myers, founder and CEO at Manifest, talks about office moves, international growth and his ambition to have five offices on five continents by 2020. He insists that if you want to run an agency with a winning company culture, it’s essential to hire the right team and work hard on keeping them.
What’s your daily routine?
It’s a total cliché to say, ‘no two days are the same,’ right? If I was to try and give an average, I’d say my time is made up of 50% client work – creative strategy and brand consultancy, as well as senior support across campaigns – and 50% internal work.
My internal role is changing as we grow and expand our senior team, but I tend to focus on people development, agency innovation, international expansion and complaining about terrible music on the office Sonos.
What’s big news at Manifest?
We’re the fastest-growing independent agency in the UK, so there’s always a crazy amount of things going on. We’re moving our London office on October 3 to an awesome new space on Vine Hill in Farringdon. We’ll be just around the corner from where we are now, but the new space is three times the size and we’re just finalising designs to make it a whole new kind of working environment.
We’ve just hired two new directors to the business to expand both our corporate comms and brand design capabilities too, reinforcing our integrated approach and reflecting the bigger, integrated, global briefs we’ve won recently.
On top of all that, we’re opening our new Cape Town office in 2017, so we’re also working hard to make sure that’s as big a success as Manifest New York (which opened last year). We want to have five offices on five continents by the end of 2020, so this will take us over the halfway mark on that objective.
What are your top tips for running an agency?
Get the culture right. There are so many ‘expert tips’ for running a business, but they’re all insignificant compared with finding, hiring and keeping the best team – and culture is the key to all of that. I think everyone running a business is making it up as they go along (they just don’t admit it to themselves), so I also think accepting and embracing the joy of that, as well as the pressure of it, is something that’s made Manifest stronger.
We don’t simply try to improve industry practices, we build new ones from scratch – including developing our own proprietary technologies. But too many new agencies just give the old agency structure a lick of paint, call themselves ‘a new breed’ and fall into old habits, afraid to genuinely innovate.
For me, the satisfaction of running an agency doesn’t come from competing in this industry, but from redefining it.
How do you make smart hires?
I think it’s important to know what good looks like before you start the process, but always allow flexibility and trust your gut instinct. Hire the team member that you’re excited to hire, even if they aren’t the one that ticks all of your immediate boxes. Passion and potential outweigh qualifications and experience in this business.
We also have one golden rule in recruitment: no “brilliant dickheads”. It doesn’t matter how smart someone is, they aren’t worth hiring if they aren’t going to meet the only requirements that really count: work hard and be nice to people.
What are clients asking you about/for?
Brands are looking for agencies that take a strategic brand approach and there’s a new focus on creativity over creds, which means there’s been a democratisation of the industry recently. The old days of PR agencies being seen as a ‘press office shop’ are gone, thank God, and PR is now in a power position of providing the natural hub for all marketing disciplines.
Integration is now top of the agenda for clients, but true integration is about much more than an inter-agency meeting every now and again. We’ve found more and more brands looking for us to guide them through the process and build a comms structure that works through paid, earned, shared and owned media to deliver more agile and creative campaigns across the entire media landscape.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Ha – I have two kids under three. My ‘free’ time is spent answering ‘why?’ to every action witnessed by my two-year-old daughter and being sicked on by my seven-month old son.
- Engaging employees in PR agencies and clients was the subject of Gorkana’s recent webinar: How Employee Engagement Helps PR Agencies And Their Clients
- Are you working in an interesting or unusual PR role? Do you have strong views on the industry that you want to share with the Gorkana community? If so, please contact Emily Andrews.