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Teams of specialists will always do a better job for clients than a group of generalists: Jonathan Hughes

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Teams of specialists will always do a better job for clients than a group of generalists: Jonathan Hughes

Jonathan Hughes, International President of PR and brand management agency, Golin shifted from the London office to Hong Kong in 2003 in order to manage the Asia business and strengthen the agency’s presence and capabilities across the region.

Following up with his recent visit to Mumbai, he converses with exchange4media about the current PR scene in Asia and why the company’s G4 model trumps the generalist model in creating a smoother work interface.

When asked about the differences in the PR industry in UK and that of Asia, Hughes explains, “It is very difficult to compare a single market like the UK with the 40 or so very distinct markets that make up Asia, but in general terms I think Asia is beginning to understand the dividends that can be had when you treat your brand or company reputation like any other commercial asset. A good reputation pays off in terms of consumer preference, customer loyalty, talent attraction and retention and faster recovery when issues inevitably occur.”

As part of the senior management team at Golin, Hughes has worked to design the company’s G4 model, which replaces generalist account teams with teams based around four communities of specialists – explorers, creators, connectors and catalysts.

When questioned the ability of such varied specialists to work in sync, Hughes assures, “We believe teams of specialists will always do a better job for clients than a group of generalists.  The question of being in sync doesn't arise as the teams don't work in isolation.”

Offering to compare the model to that of a road trip he adds, “Imagine there are four of you in a car, each one representing one of the four G4 communities. Only one personal at a time can actually drive but the others are still there in the car and they still have an input on which way to go. So to begin with our Explorers are driving the strategy and insight discussion but the others have input. Then the Creators will get behind the wheel and lead the creative ideation process but the explorers are still in the car. They too can have input on the creative idea just as the connectors and catalysts can.  In this way everyone is in sync and the outcome is more insightful, robust and creative campaigns for our clients.” 

In India, Golin has partnered with Lowe Lintas for the joint venture LinOpinion Golin Harris which is now in its second year of successful business. In the first half of 2015, the PR agency has won over 25 large value businesses.

Today the PR industry in India is seeing a prominent change with agencies refashioning the way they approach business. “I think that change is occurring now and it's around seeing the benefits from taking a more integrated approach across traditional, digital, earned, owned and paid media,” he mentions.


In 2014 in Mumbai, LinOpinion GH launched The Bridge -- a pioneering concept of Golin Harris which is the centerpiece of their G4 model and is aimed at helping brands engage their customers in real time as well as managing their online reputation. “It’s about the need to be relevant and you can only do that if you are monitoring and engaging in near real time, which is what we do with The Bridge. This transition is ongoing but our clients are seeing real value when we go beyond just media relations.”

One of the major setbacks with the PR industry in India is the gap between them and journalists when it comes to working together. Hughes believes this is not something unique only to India. “The key is specialism and that's what our G4 model is all about. One of the biggest reasons for this disconnect is when you have a generalist agency person trying to have a specialist conversation with a journalist.  So in our model we have a community of media specialists, called Connectors, who can engage on more of a peer to peer basis as they better understand their brief, the market and the needs of the journalist or blogger.  So if, as an industry, we want to bridge this gap we have to up our game.”

Golin today is moving past PR and onto content creation. “We are really innovating in the content creation space integrating earned, paid and owned media. It is a natural and logical fit for us but we find ourselves competing less with PR agencies and more with creative, digital and media agencies.  This is really making us up our game but we feel we have something unique and interesting to offer. This is very much in line with our ethos to ‘Go All In’ and push ourselves to do creatively brave work worthy of awe and action,” says Hughes of the innovative work being done by the agency. 


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