Monday 25 October 2010

Five-minute Abchat: Oli Hibberd, Abchurch

As new Account Exec Oli Hibberd, @OHHPR, joins the Abchurch fold, we asked him how he came to be in PR and what he's expecting to see in the industry in the future.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Not unusually, my first ambition was to be a footballer, and the fact that my team, Swindon, aren’t brilliant probably meant this vision was held for a little too long! At the age of thirteen I attended a school known for its hockey, which signified that my football career wasn’t to be.

Then, there were dreams of being in a successful band, especially when it became apparent that spending a lot of time in pubs and bars didn’t harm your chances! Lack of musical ability turned out to be the deal-breaker, so the band idea never really took off.

Finally the idea of being a professional seasonaire always appealed to the skier in me. However the reality, which sometimes meant attaching snow chains to a minibus at 6:45am in -15 ºC, caused me to drop that plan after a couple of seasons.

How did you get into Financial PR?
Having spent several years in the professional services PR sector, both in-house and in agency roles, I had an awareness of what was happening in the City but had never experienced working in the heart of it.

After taking a couple of months out, exploring the reality of spending my life on the slopes, I returned to a very different London than the City I’d left six months previously.

The pace at which companies and other organisations had adapted to an increasingly challenging market was very interesting, but I knew it was an environment where I’d really have to hit the ground running. The chance to build on my previous experience, whilst facing new challenges in a swiftly evolving environment was something I was extremely keen to take part in.

If I wasn’t talking to you now, what would you be doing?
Right now, I would be organising a call with a client in the banking sector, to plan the media strategy around an event the Company is holding in November.

What is the most interesting thing about your work?
The opportunity to work on a range of clients in a number of sectors prevents the work from ever getting routine. It is also interesting in understanding the reasoning behind why two contrasting companies can react so differently to what is initially perceived as a similar challenge.

Is there a common misconception about PR?
The most frustrating misconceptions stem from a misunderstanding of the profession. However the number of business scandals played out in, and escalated by the media has demanded a greater understanding of the role PR has to play.

How has the industry changed over the last couple of years?
The credit crunch led to huge consolidation and this is likely to continue. Companies are still cautious with spending and the frivolity of the pre-credit crunch era is now a distant memory. In order to survive, PR agencies have adapted their offering and now a greater level of flexibility is required from every employee.

The press is also very different industry now, publications are not only news services but businesses as well. The recent Times vs. Guardian online paywall debate is evidence that a commercial solution to ensure the viability of the press is still some way off.

What developments do you expect to see in the next twelve months?
As the new government continues to cut spending and introduce new policies, along with the fear of a double dip, most organisations are unlikely to make any radical changes unless absolutely necessary. However, the speed of the downturn surprised everyone, so with the pace of change still so swift it is difficult to bank on anything happening for sure.

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