A Week in My Life: Peter Burling, Client Services Director at Brazen

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Peter Burling

This week Peter Burling, Client Services Director at Brazen, runs us through a week in his working life. To suggest another senior media or creative figure for A Week In My Life, please email david@prolificnorth.co.uk

Monday October 30th

Another day, another strange bed!  This is not as salacious as it sounds: I’m in London for meetings so took the opportunity to catch up with friends in the city over the weekend.  

My smugness at not being on the 6am train from Manchester with my colleague Emma soon fades however after a quick scan of my emails at 7am.  Like most PR people I can’t help but sneak a quick peek just before bed and the second I wake up – I’m pretty sure it’s why every comms person I know complains of bad sleep habits.  As Client Services Director, it’s my responsibility to deal with any major client incidents and this morning we’ve been asked to deal with a sensitive issue breaking on social media for a client concerning the conduct of a store colleague and help mitigate the impact to the brand. 

Forgive my vagueness, but crisis management will always be an enigma in communications, the better it is the less detail you reveal!  Luckily we take great strides to help every client be prepared for issues so once the strategy had been agreed the team are quick to put the plan in motion.  

Next stop, a meeting with our client Merlin Entertainments at the London Eye to discuss plans for an exciting new attraction being launched in Birmingham in 2018.  We’re part of an agency group that will help deliver the world’s first ‘Bear Gryll’s Adventure’, an adrenaline packed experience currently under construction at the NEC.

The meeting overran and Emma and I had to channel our inner Bear and make a dash to Euston.  One abandoned taxi and a sprint across some very busy roads and Euston Square we made it.  Every PR person I know understands the urgency of getting that last off-peak back to Piccadilly – to miss it means either a three-hour wait until the 7pm train of doom or worse still face the wrath of accounts after having to explain the purchase of an additional ticket!

Tuesday October 31st 

I’ve recently moved out to Altrincham with my partner Scott and French bulldog Jean having spent the last 20 years living in the city centre.  It’s hardly the sticks but I’m still coming to terms with the 40-minute commute.  The drive infuriates me so I’ve taken to getting the tram when I don't need the car for meetings – it’s crazy busy in the mornings but I can usually find a corner and set about firing off a few dozen emails before even reaching town – the team love that!

We’re an incredibly busy agency but it’s important to find the time to get together to share any issues/ troubles/ learnings.  The weekly board and directors meeting gives us the opportunity to talk things through, to look at the work on the table this week and make sure we’ve got the right people in the right places doing the right stuff.

I’m pretty hands on with the majority of the agency’s accounts and spend the afternoon ringing around the principals within client businesses, checking we’re all on the same page and making sure we’re covering all areas for them.  I pick up a few extra projects from existing clients and set about briefing the teams.

Our clients are in constant conversation with their audiences and Brazen runs 9am to 10pm monitoring across digital and social channels for key accounts.  My cosy night in front of the fire with Sandi Toksvig and the GBBO final soon ended when I got the alert to an article that had been published on a tabloid website about a client.  A pretty unfavourable write up of a trade magazine’s opinion piece published earlier that week, full of hearsay and errors and turned out by an evening shift journalist meant another hour of drafting reactionary statements and a strong email to the journalist and the online editor – definitely more trick, less treat!

Wednesday November 1st

A frustrating drive in along the Princess Parkway (see previous entry) and a few calls with the client to discuss how to handle the negative fall-out from the previous evening’s article now doing the rounds among worried staff – still no word from rogue reporter!  

Today we have our monthly board meeting – never a dull affair!  As a business we’re completely buttoned down and transparent when it comes to our financial health.  We share numbers with the whole agency at quarterly updates because as a board we believe it’s important that everyone feels invested in what they’re doing and contributing towards.  We’ve had a good year (all things considered) and the final quarter looks pretty much locked down which is a result.  Today we’re nervously gazing into 2018 and forecasting – EAT, SLEEP, PR, REPEAT!

The journalist starts their shift at 3pm and I email over a formal email detailing the factual errors in the previous evening’s piece.  First we get an alteration of facts and the inclusion of a statement then the whole article gets taken down – result!  

I round off the day at a new business meeting.  It never gets boring presenting our agency credentials.  Feeling buoyed and not quite ready to face the rush hour traffic I stop by Brazen client Mahiki.  We threw a lavish launch for them a month ago full of celebrities. When I first started at Brazen we did a lot more launch parties and I couldn’t help but find myself on the door at the event, such is the power of the clipboard.

Thursday November 2nd

We’re lucky to work with some great brands and cross agency groups.  Magnet, the UK kitchen retailer has been a Brazen client for over 10 years and we work collaboratively with media planners Carat and creative lead JWT.  Today we’re planning the exciting launch of Magnet’s new winter campaign alongside the client.  The new creative territory presented is bold and fresh and gives great scope for PR and social campaigns. 

A quick lunch and another client issue to deal with.  This time a journalist investigating a faulty product and ‘damage to property’ claim against our client has approached us.  The information gathering machine kicks into gear and we’re soon able to offer an explanation strong enough for the journalist to spike the story – issue averted.

The afternoon is spent working with one of our bright spark directors who leads an ideas session for a potential new business prospect, a fantastic new FMCG product.  The brief to pitch on this one is less than a week but we’re up for the challenge.

A couple of things on tonight. A quick swing by the beautifully renovated Manchester Hall – an amazing new events space in the old Masonic halls that includes new restaurant Masons.  The fabulous and well-connected Deepa Parekh, a great friend and probably one of my first clients, is overseeing the whole project.

A quick sprint across town to join fellow board directors Nina Webb and Sasha Marks at the Principal Hotel for the annual CIPR Pride awards.  I used to look forward to these awards but the last few years the voting has seemed very political (read into that what you will).  We were hopeful though having had an amazing year and already scooping Best Agency at the Prolific North Awards and PRCA Awards – alas tonight wasn’t our night!  We did scoop an award for work done for client Chicago Town which saw us airlift a freezer full of Chicago Town The Takeaway pizza to residents of Knoydart, Britain’s most remote town earlier this year, Oh, and I won an iPad in the raffle so not all bad! 

Friday November 3rd

A 5.30am start after a night out on the town is never ideal - it was, however, necessary.  A quick check of my emails and I spot an alert from our HR portal congratulating me for my 14th work anniversary!  It’s literally flown by.  Today I’ve been at the offices of our biggest client attending meetings.  The morning was spent talking through processes and ways of working with the legal team – these guys are essential when information gathering to deal with crises and the meeting was incredibly useful.

A quick lunch with my main client contact, then a one to one with the COO to discuss how the week had panned out and affected business and thoughts on business vision, corporate communications strategy and actions.  Working with key business leaders and opinion formers is a real privilege and highlight of my job.

An early ‘ish’ finish today, managed to get back to Altrincham for 5pm although, the journey wasn’t without its challenges.  It never ceases to amaze me how many people they can fit into one train carriage on the 15.11 from Sheffield – was a feat worthy of ‘Dynamo’.

A brief check-in to the office to make sure everything is going smoothly and that the weekend sell-ins (we LOVE a Sunday for Monday at Brazen) are all planned and covered and it’s home to walk the dog all the way down the road to Toast, a great new restaurant for a bottle of wine followed by pizza and fun times at the fabulous Scalini.