Just over 31 years ago, in a speech to mark her 40th year of reign, The Queen told the world that 1992 had been her annus horribilis. To quote, “not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure.”
During that year, three of The Queen’s children had separated from their spouses, the royal family had been plagued by scandal in the tabloids, and to top it all, her beloved home, Windsor Castle, caught fire (at least she had a few fallback options there.)
I am sure like the late Queen there are many agencies out there who would say that 2023 has not been their favourite 12 months. As political and economic turbulence rolls on and we’ve continued to see what the brave new post-pandemic, post-Boris, post-Truss and potentially soon, post-Sunak, world brings, it can feel like the agency world has faced one unwanted Christmas present after another.
In fact, for many, it has been a little like being locked in perpetuity on Christmas Eve all year. By this I mean the long wait to actually get to open your presents, or in the case of us agencies, actually getting that prospective client over the line so work can finally begin!
So, before I go any further, I genuinely wish all agencies the best for 2024. May it be bright, bold and bountiful for us all – in fact, an annus mirabilis or ‘wonderful year.’
To be honest, it has been a year of two halves for us at Skout; momentously good in some ways, and pretty challenging in others. While it has not been a year of growth, it hasn’t been one of shrinkage either. We’ve held steady and strong, testament the operational excellence we have in place for an agency of our size.
In other news, both our lovely clients and brilliant team have been pulling out all the stops. We’re lucky and thankful to have such loyal clients who have supported us, in some cases having to let other agency relationships wane but keeping us in place. We’re also delighted that some have increased their partnership with us, seeking additional support in broader areas of B2B PR and comms, and taking the relationship to the next level.
Equally, this would not have happened without the passion and dedication of every Skout – both those working with clients and those supporting operationally. Team camaraderie has never felt stronger and the focus on results for clients has been outstanding. We’ve seen Manchester Tech Festival profiled in its Holy Grail – The MEN; Crown World Mobility covered in Forbes; Assent Building Control in Construction News; LumApps in The Times; and M247 in The Daily Mail. We even inadvertently got coverage in LadBible!
As many will know, achieving earned media coverage in the current climate is not easy but the results speak for themselves – one tenacious and skilled team working together to achieve specific goals for each client. And the work doesn’t stop at PR, as we’ve increased our content marketing, social media and integrated campaigns focus too.
And, despite new business being more challenging than normal, we have seen success, starting work in late 2023 with a major facilities management provider, and earlier in the year, a global financial wellbeing company, and a market leader in food tech and distribution, among others.
So, although it has been a ‘level’ year financially, it’s been a booming one for our culture and client relationships.
In fact the year started on a (mile) high note, as we all took off to Palma de Majorca for our first ever overseas offsite. Having turned 13 in 2023, this could have been a risky strategy, as anyone who has holidayed abroad with a teenager will agree. It nearly was risky for me; it was the one time in my life I slept through my alarm. Luckily, as I sped through Duty Free with minutes to spare, the scent spraying shop assistants fell back and let me through – I made the plane in the nick of time.
What Palma did for us was cement our five year growth strategy as a team. What it also did was set a precedent – some team members have already been spotted thumbing through travel brochures for 2024.
Of course, soon after this came the really big news – Skout transformed into an employee-owned business on May 25th! We took this bold step to secure its future and to give the current and future team a reason to really care about where the business was going. We want Skout to become an increasingly present, independent force in B2B marketing, and this was a big step towards this. It has really resonated with the team, and there is a lot more work and learning to come as we grow into our employee ownership shoes.
Since then, and aside from being busy with client work, we’ve been developing the business in a number of areas. Notably, these include hiring our first pure content expert, a former BBC journalist and published author, James Bentley. We’ve also been working on growth mindset, an initiative spearheaded by my business partner, Claire Lamb. Over a week, the team worked hard to step outside their comfort zones and complete a self-set, work-based task to really challenge each of them.
Other key areas of investment have included further development of our tech practice, headed by Lee Simpson, and rethinking our client service strategy, led by Claire James. But in reality, every team member has contributed to the full and I applaud them all for it. I couldn’t ask for a brighter, funnier, more dedicated set of people.
So, before I find myself still writing this in 2024, I’ll sign off. Before I do, there’s one final small group of people I need to mention; possibly a group that other agency leads will recognise. That’s the few out there who left us unpaid and unhappy at specific points in 2023.
So, channelling my inner Kevin McCallister, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”
To the rest of you, Merry Christmas and Happy 2024.