5 Questions for Managing Director Laura Hall of M&C Saatchi PR

Q&A with the agency's new United States Managing Director.

Laura HallToday’s Roll Call included the news that agency veteran Laura Hall has accepted the managing director of US operations position at M&C Saatchi New York.

We also had the opportunity to speak with Hall about her new position, the general state of the industry, and her advice for upcoming PR stars.

1. How is PR different today than it was five or ten years ago?

The practice of PR has dynamically changed since the beginnings of social media and citizen journalism, and due to advances in smart technology which have put the power of communications in the hands of the consumer.

While the media (and bloggers) remain a primary target for reaching the masses, the way news stories break today often starts with the consumer and the content he/she captures and thus shares en masse digitally. As such, the cascade of influence today begins with the consumer that brands are ultimately trying to reach, which means engagement is now direct — one-on-one, more personal and conversational.

2. How does your new position relate to your previous agency work?

What M&C Saatchi PR offers as an agency is the ultimate compilation of the best of the best experiences I’ve had throughout my career – from global agencies working on Fortune 10 brands to running my own consultancy and helping startups move the needle.

I had my eyes set on this agency because it cultivates a “tiny giant” mentality, meaning we have the influence, resources and experience of a big agency – along with our parent company M&C Saatchi — yet we take a nimble, yet creative, approach to growing in partnership with our clients.

It’s this culture of “experienced” entrepreneurs focused on delivering best practices in unexpected ways that attracted me to the agency. This sets us up perfectly for risk taking – encouraging our clients to push the envelope, challenge the status quo and try new things to transform engagement.

3. What role will you play in ensuring that clients can use all the latest tools and tactics?

The benefit of working within the M&C Saatchi family is that I have direct access to the talent and resources shared worldwide, albeit across social media, design and branding, digital, mobile, and creative.

We have experts around the globe across all channels, and we work seamlessly together from a strategic foundation to apply the right discipline to meet our clients’ objectives. The agency has invested in building the right arsenal of tools to best serve the needs of our teams and clients, and I’m enjoying having anything I need at my fingertips.

4. What is the state of the PR industry’s public reputation today? Should we try to change it and, if so, how?

That is a loaded question.

It’s funny…25 years ago when I was asked about PR and what I did for a living, my go-to response was “we pitch stories about our clients to the media so they write positive articles about them in their outlet.”

Today, that’s only a small part of the overall journey PR has taken. Communications is centered on engagement and helping clients have an authentic voice in the conversations that matter, convert consumers into advocates, and create change that benefits their brand.

And how that engagement happens is not just by reading a great story in the newspaper about a client; today’s PR strategists have to take an omni-channel approach to understanding the behaviors of the end user and know where, when, why and how to engage them – and in a way they will relate to.

5. What is the most important piece of advice you can give to people who want to move up within the PR world?

Two things have helped me throughout my career the most are two things; number one is be an active listener.

Really listen to your client, listen to what keeps them up at night, listen to their pain points, listen to what matters to them. Being a good listener builds trust, and trust is vital in the pursuit of creative risk-taking.

Number two is be relevant: Know your clients’s stakeholders. Study their target audience. Be a part of their experiences and put yourself in their world so you can understand exactly how to communicate with them. Build your strategies around this intelligence, because that’s who your clients care about most at the end of the day.