Thought Leaders Connected interviewed Matt Thomson, former MD of global agency, TheNewsMarket. We asked him about challenging, inspiring and memorable career moments. He also shares his learning about growing and selling an agency, his inspirations and how he is coping in lockdown.
For the last ten years I was Managing Director of TheNewsMarket, a global agency with customers and offices in US, Europe and Asia. Having sold the business and integrated it into new owners, I left the agency last summer and have been consulting on communication and digital transformation projects.
My three attributes for success:
TheNewsMarket started life as a video sharing service for PR professionals. The launch of YouTube threated to disrupt our business with a new focus on owned media. I had to quickly pivot our service offer to stay relevant.
Much of my career has been spent within the automotive sector and I’ve worked on high profile launches including Bugatti’s most expensive car La Voiture Noire and Lamborghini’s unveiling of the SUV that would double its production figures. But persuading PwC to reformat their tentpole presentation event at Davos with a new live TV show was truly memorable. The show, which features the firm’s global chairman, has gone from strength to strength and helped PwC achieve 50% share of voice among professional service firms at the WEF.
There is much debate about whether Zoom’s share price hike will survive post pandemic. But everyone is getting used to new communication methods and inevitably a new normal will emerge which relies on digital rather than physical experiences. Whilst my clients are scaling back their paid media campaigns and have halted all events, they recognise the importance of communicating and are still investing in PR.
I like Salesforce for managing client relationships and revenue forecasting, Jira and Teams for project management and remote working, Lead Forensics and GA for analysing website traffic and lead-gen, and Mail Chimp for low-cost email management. Zoom is great, but I prefer GoToMeeting for conferencing and screen share. Sprinklr is awesome for managing multiple social channels.
Lumpy revenue and profits can be alarming to would-be acquirers who are looking for consistency as well as growth. TheNewsMarket went through three acquisitions and in all cases, the high rate of client renewals and strong story on introducing new services to the retained client list was an important factor in the valuation.
Our former Chairman and a great mentor to me used a simple metaphor to describe management. A company is like a three-legged stool and if any fails, so does the business. The legs are the customer, the talent and the investors. A successful manager must pay attention to all three; brilliant work delivered by an outstanding team isn’t enough if the business isn’t profitable.
David Attenborough for getting us to pay attention to the overuse of plastics, Greta Thunberg for changing the politics around climate change, the Business Roundtable who redefined the Purpose of a Corporation to be benefit of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. And business leaders who turn rhetoric into action such as VW CEO Herbert Diess who has pledged Euro 33bn to turn the company into the world’s largest electric car maker.
Always interested in the sciences, I originally thought I’d go into medicine until an opportunity to watch a colectomy operation put me off. I still love science and studied Chemistry at University but was drawn more to the student theatre and event promotion which set me on my career path.
I love carpentry and am fascinated by the ingenious joints designed by master craftsmen to solve peculiar engineering challenges. My last project was to build a 16 x 5 metre raised deck for a glamping lodge at our home in the Cotswolds which guests will be able to enjoy as soon as the travel restrictions are lifted.
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