Friday 19 May, 2017

Richard Bright, Director of New Business

How long have you been at Weber Shandwick and what do you do?

About 22 years in all, albeit for the company’s many incarnations. Firstly PR Consultants Scotland (in Aberdeen), then Shandwick Scotland, Shandwick International and finally Weber Shandwick.

I am currently Director of Business Development, as well as having a strong client base working mainly from Edinburgh.   

How did you end up working at Weber Shandwick? 

A varied career history (well, the start of it anyway).  Originally I was a graduate trainee for CBS Records, where I lived the dream of working for both Bonnie Tyler and Shakin’ Stevens amongst others. I then became a press officer at Hammersmith and Fulham Council. 


Then a (cross-border) jump to Aberdeen City Council as Head of Press, then PR Consultants Scotland, which eventually became Weber Shandwick (see above). I can’t remember too much about why I joined Weber Shandwick in the first place but I do recall quite a lot of beer – and a pinball machine.

What do you enjoy most about working at Weber Shandwick?

Without being too clichéd, it’s the variety that keeps me here. We are a broad consultancy, with a huge range of specialisms plus an international network.  The opportunity for doing something new or different happens almost every day, which is why I have been here for so many of them. Also, being the New Business head means that a completely new, random challenge is only a phone call away.

What would you say has been your career highlight?

Without giving away too much from my long-awaited autobiography ‘My Life in PR’ by RMJ Bright, my two career highlights are both animal related.

Firstly, being involved in the campaign to get wolves reintroduced to Scotland, which was insanely brilliant. Then being part of the team that promoted the giant pandas coming to Edinburgh, which taught me quite a lot about how the media works on a global level, for good and bad. Full details in the book…

What would you say is the most enjoyable aspect of working in public relations/communications in Scotland?

(Weber Shandwick in) Scotland is the perfect location for doing our job properly, honestly and effectively.  Working here means we can absorb all the best bits of global communications thinking, but deliver it in a way which is realistic, cost effective and non-pretentious (well mostly).

I love the mix of intelligence, humour, cynicism and steely-eyed bitterness in Scotland which can temper even the most ridiculous of our industry rhetoric, to sometimes produce something worthwhile and even life-changing.   

Away from work, what do you like to do in your spare time?

Kids, mainly. I seem to be part of the generation that promotes children’s life experiences at the sacrifice of everything else, so I spend my life chasing after them at various sporting venues across Scotland.  Never happened when I was young. I was just left on my own to wander around the garden by myself which explains a lot about how I approach life.

Although I do actually run a bit, play tennis (4th team stalwart) and love disappearing into the Scottish mountains (with my family chasing after me).

Who is the one person (in this industry or outside) you admire the most for how they communicate?

I would still stay, completely unashamedly (and I am annoyed I have even started it like this) that Alastair Campbell remains my PR hero.

Despite all the stuff that still surrounds him and Blair, he was the first person in my professional lifetime to stand up to the media and genuinely take an agenda to them.  He understood how the media worked (especially the gutter press) and didn’t become intimidated by them. Lessons still hugely pertinent today.   

Tell us something not many people know about you

There is just too much, on a personal level. I’ll keep the lid on that particular Pandora’s Box, thank you. Professionally, I was shouted at separately by both Prince Andrew and The Duchess of York within three weeks of each other when I was doing (two parts of) a property job in Inverness, which I am actually quite proud about. Full details in the book.    

What do you consider to be your guilty pleasure(s)?

As my wife will readily tell you, I don’t feel guilty about anything. And I don’t really do pleasure either.  I mainly do complaining, which I quite enjoy. I suppose the one thing I do like doing is reading overly long analyses of military history in bed – so can I say Great Tank Battles of World War Two (under a duvet)? That, and original Jamaican ska music.

Who is your…

a) Must read columnist / publication?

b) Must follow on social media?

I have strange and unconquerable media habits, which I try to change but can’t. Firstly I’m addicted to Radio 5 Live and the BBC Sport website.  I’ve tried so hard to do other BBC’s – well mainly 2, 3, 4, 6 and Radio Scotland but I keep coming back to 5 which actually quite irritates me.

I am now even doing Radio 5 Sports Extra now I have Sonos, so it’s getting worse. Apart from that, it’s the Times, Scotsman and Edinburgh Evening News – and The Forester which is the newspaper my great grandfather founded in the Forest of Dean but was then sold out to evil global interests just before I was due to take the helm. I browse social media a lot but don’t have a ‘must’ follow, although I am trying hard to do so. Bagehot at the Economist is the nearest to it, I suppose.     

What was the last book you read and last film/boxset watched?

I’ve just finished a really enjoyable autobiography of Sir Tommy Macpherson ghosted by Scottish journalist Richard Bath. Sir Tommy was a bona fide war hero who makes Andy McNab look like Mother Theresa. But what makes this story fascinating is the rather mundane way it describes Tommy’s transition from an ‘ordinary’ Scottish lad from Newtonmore and Edinburgh to a Bren gun wielding superhero who saved the French resistance from the Nazis and most of Northern Italy from Tito’s communists. A brilliant read. 

Who needs box sets with proper stories like that.

What was the last live event you attended?

Obviously some avant-garde street theatre during the Fringe but actually it was the Edinburgh Military Tattoo which was brilliant.   

Favourite gif?

Surprisingly enough, I don’t have one. I don’t really think you need a favourite one, to be honest.

What would be your advice to someone entering the industry?

Work hard, keep an open mind and only start complaining once you have completed a 20-year stint. You deserve it then.

And finally, if you could improve one thing about PR in Scotland, what would it be?

That the work we do up here is genuinely recognised as being world class – by our industry peers and our (global) customers.

I, for one, am always battling an inferiority complex that someone, somewhere (OK, someone in London) is always doing it better than us, when in fact what we are doing up here matches the best of them, if not just a little bit better.  And cheaper.