What makes an award-winning PR agency?

Catherine reflects on what it takes to be the founder and MD of an award winning agency.

To be named the winner of an award is an exceptional achievement and I’ve been astounded that in the past month Pinstone has been acclaimed both as the PR Moments ‘Boutique Agency of the Year’ and ‘Business of the Year’ by the National Women in Agriculture awards.

These are awards that receive rafts of entries and nominations that judges painstakingly and diligently work through and score before consulting and finally short-listing and selecting a winner, category-by-category. So, reflecting on what has made Pinstone stand out has led to a little self-indulgent introspection.

It’s approaching two decades since Pinstone Communications Ltd was officially filed at Companies House, when I took a punt to ‘go solo’. With hindsight I feel I was naïve as to what running a business would entail. But that youthful inexperience brings a boldness to take a chance and to quote one of my favourite phrases, ‘don’t overthink it’ – well, that was definitely the case.

And so the story unfolded…. I had a phone and a computer, hiring each time we got too busy – purchasing an office to house us on the way – and ‘simply’ never said no to new business enquiries that came in by referral from happy clients recommending us to others, quietly growing year-on-year.

Quite why we excelled when other young businesses fall by the wayside to some extent came down to a stubborn determination. Setbacks – like the loss of one of a founding client – felt like the world imploding, but I never contemplated giving up for a moment.

I took the same attitude when my son was born. I had a staff of three of us, but maternity leave didn’t particularly enter my head as something I should be entitled to – it just wasn’t a choice available to me. But as obstacles presented (and early motherhood and business ownership were uneasy bedfellows at times), they were dealt with and as opportunities arose, I took them.

The most significant of opportunities turned out to be surrounding myself with a trusted team who share my values. Generating energy, passion, challenge and sparking off one another are the most important team traits that an agency can have. It’s as true today as it ever was.

For me, the team dynamic is the secret to success. The bar gets continually raised and the highs and lows of business no longer only impact yourself. The sense of responsibility generates a hunger, a drive and a motivation to do more and do it a bit better each time. Whether that’s client work or about the office systems or HR structures, or about the calibre of clients the agency can attract – the team sits at the heart of business growth. A business mentor to guide, advise and provide a rock of reassurance has also been invaluable.

Luck has of course paid its part and we hit on a gap in the market and a moment in time that’s opened doors for us. Working with my husband from the point of ‘needing a bit of help with the invoices’ when the baby came along 14 years ago – and never looking back – hasn’t been easy. But we’ve learned that our skill-sets are polar opposites, so while I was ‘never saying no to business’ and focused on client delivery with my team, he was exploring agency systems and software and monitoring tools and all the infrastructure an agency needs to support itself as it grows. We’d have fallen over without it.

I’m incredibly proud of Pinstone and it’s a pride that’s self-generated an important team culture where colleagues have huge respect for each other, have an entrenched work ethic and commitment to always ‘be the best they can be’. Sometimes breaking things down to the simplest of components – just like delivering an effective communications campaign – is what it takes.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our success and who’s part of our forward-looking journey as we open the page into the next chapter.

Catherine Linch, Pinstone’s founder and managing director

May, 2024


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