Brendon Craigie joins us at Business Matters to explain the motivation to found PR agency Tyto and what was his inspiration for the business.
What do you currently do?
I’m the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Tyto, a pan-European PR agency focused on the colliding worlds of technology, science and innovation. Our aim is to help clients solve business challenges through the power of communications.
My primary motivation is the realisation of Tyto’s vision to create a new breed of agency experience that delivers on perfect partnership with our clients, our team, the media and all relevant stakeholders.
Our goal is to build a 30-person multinational, multidisciplinary consultancy, which operates as a single unit across Europe in four years. Through our location agnostic model, we are trying to build a similar culture to what office-based employees experience. However, we’re doing this with a team spread across Europe.
What was the inspiration behind the business?
Before co-founding Tyto, I’d played a major role in helping another agency become one of the top 10 PR consultancies in its sector globally, during which time I was Global CEO for six years. I had however reached a stage where I was bored and needed a new challenge.
Our approach at Tyto was borne out of the frustrations I had perceived clients as having in previous roles, many of which related to the issue of working in silos. We therefore wanted to break down the barriers between the interwoven worlds of technology, science and innovation.
We also invented the concept of ‘PR without borders’, of which there are two parts. The first, is that we recognise that the lines between PR and marketing are blurred and that we’re capable of taking an integrated approach. The second is reflected in the way we work with clients across the UK and Europe. We work as one team – there’s no individual UK, French or German teams – i.e. we take a truly international view.
Who do you admire?
I’ve been really fortunate to work with some great people. One of my early bosses was a woman called Michelle McLaughlin. We worked on the Microsoft account together and she was a brilliant practitioner, excellent at delivering an amazing service to clients. I learned a lot from her.
Kristin Syltevik, the co-founder of my former agency Hotwire also taught me a lot about sales, marketing, the importance of drive and the energy and commitment it takes to be successful.
Hotwire’s other co-founder, Anthony Wilson, was a real strategic thinker. He had a persuasive but gentle style that employees really responded to and that really opened my mind to the different ways to motivate people.
Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
I sometimes ask myself if I should have started my own business earlier. But, on reflection, the added experience has meant that we’ve been able to achieve so much in a short space of time. This is because when you’ve got 20 years’ experience under your belt, you have encountered most challenges before, so you know how to sidestep them or address them more efficiently.
For sci-fi fans, with experience you see things and solve them much more easily, a bit like how Neo in the Matrix can see and dodge bullets.
What defines your way of doing business?
When I co-founded Tyto, I wanted the business to be perceived as thoughtful, wise and knowledgeable. I like to think that those traits are reflective of my leadership style.
Not only as a consultant, but in business generally, I’ve therefore always believed that two of the most valuable skills are the ability to listen and think strategically.
When I was growing up, I went to eight different schools because my parents moved around a lot, so I had to be good at making friends quickly. One way I was able to do this was to ask questions and take an interest in others. Before sharing your own opinions, it’s important to listen carefully before opening your mouth.
Equally, being a strategic thinker and thinking two or three moves ahead like a chess player is just as important. Though, admittedly, I think I’m much better at thinking that way in PR than I am when playing chess.
What advice would you give to someone starting out?
It’s far easier to start with a blank sheet of paper than it is to try and reinvent something. In the process of developing Tyto, we tried to be laser-focussed on what clients and employees wanted and design the agency around that proprietary research.
It’s very easy when executing a passion project – whether it’s launching a PR agency or a bakery – to focus on what it means for you and your story. When we first started building Tyto, we had so many conversations to test our proposition and went through a rigorous process to identify what we stood for. This ensure what we ended up with wasn’t just highly personal and what we wanted but that we actually created something that clients and the market required.