PR rising stars reflect on their careers and the industry: An interview with Max Mitchell (part 1 of a 2-part series)
Gifted with a talent for editorial narratives and a perfect environment for professional growth, markettiers Team Head Max Mitchell, reflects on his career journey, including winning the 2020 Rising Star of the Year award at the 2020 ICCO Global awards.
Mitchell got his start at markettiers—a leading broadcast PR agency generating creative national, regional and international campaigns—six years ago. After completing a Media Studies course at Kingston College, Mitchell reached out to markettiers’ CEO, who set him up with an internship. When his stint as an intern ended, Mitchell was offered a full-time role in the company’s newsroom. Now, he works as a Team Head, a position he’s held for the last two years.
ICCO: Can you walk us through your roles/ career up to now including your time at markettiers?
MM: I started my career at 21 within markettiers’ newsroom. I was introduced to, and worked with, ex-journalists and broadcast experts who taught me what makes a good editorial story, how to pitch to broadcast and the importance of understanding the needs of different media.
My role then moved from media-facing to client-facing as I became a Senior Account Executive and began taking my experience of the media to clients, advising, and reviewing current PR plans through the lens of landing broadcast media.
After a few years I climbed the ranks, and eventually, when I was a Senior Account Manager, I lead a team of 6 people. My role was very much about leading from the front and to help nurture and grow the team as we continued to bring on more brands.
The team grew to eight to 10 individuals and my role then included ensuring we continue to hit commercial targets and milestones. At which point, I was promoted to my current role as a Team Head.
ICCO: What attracted you to a career in communications?
MM: Growing up I always loved watching TV and going to the cinema. If you look at that as a standalone statement everyone’s first reaction would be ‘ooh he’s a bit lazy,’ but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Unlike most people, I loved the adverts and always wondered why they all looked and sounded so different.
What this ultimately meant for me is I excelled in anything in school that included media and allowed me to get answers to those questions. Eventually, my interest shifted from wondering why brands were talking and sounding the way they did to how and why those particular words were chosen and positioned the way they were. I ended up meeting the head of markettiers, who gave me the opportunity to join their newsroom, where I fell in love with editorial narratives. I never looked back.
ICCO: What aspect of your work do you enjoy the most?
MM: I’m going to cheat a bit on this answer because I honestly feel that without any one of these things in my day-to-day my job just wouldn’t be the same.
Firstly, the variety of clients I get to work with is extraordinary. I can be helping to launch a new vegan food product from a well-known high-street retailer on Monday, by Wednesday be championing small businesses and helping traditional bricks and mortar businesses digitally upskill and broaden their offering, and finish the week off making sure an environmental charity’s B-roll has had a touch point with international media in South America.
None of that, however, would be possible without my colleagues, whom I adore more than they know, and being a team lead puts me in a unique position where I can interview and help bring new, amazing, and diverse talent into the industry and into my team, to ensure we can continue our great work.
ICCO: How has your work life evolved over the past 2 years, not only in terms of your win but also the pandemic?
MM: Completely. And I don’t mean this just in the way that I now work from home most of the time in comparison to how I used to. The beginning of the pandemic for me was such a learning curve. I watched our senior team completely re-organise and re-focus a 100+ people workforce, not out of fear or worry but out of understanding that media habits were changing and therefore we must too (despite how comfortable we have become in the 27 years the company has been going), which is no easy feat, let alone to do it successfully.
This meant that my team and I had to, in essence, forget a lot of what we knew and spend even more of our time understanding media habits, needs and wants to ensure that we could continue to guide our clients through an ever-changing media landscape and continue to do great work for them.
ICCO: Has there been a campaign or project over the past year that you’re especially proud of contributing to?
MM: Absolutely. I run the team within markettiers that works with Freuds and the Cabinet Office on their Covid response within broadcast. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our role has been to use radio and TV to ensure the messaging around keeping safe, getting vaccinated and alike have cut through.
I’m extremely proud to have been a part of the current drive to make the UK the leading country in the vaccination programme and if even just one person listened and did something which ultimately saved theirs or a loved one’s life… that’s a job well done as far as I’m concerned. However, we know the reality is that many thousands have been reached and influenced by our work in a valuable way.
ICCO: Is there a personal characteristic that you feel has been greatly developed through your work in PR and communications?
MM: Through all its pros and cons, I have always been a pretty empathetic and understanding person, and this for me has continued to develop as we continue to work with a variety of diverse brands: the only way to truly communicate to diverse groups is to try and understand their hopes, dreams, fears, and cultural differences beyond just demographic.
ICCO: What are your thoughts on the importance of ethical PR & Communications globally?
MM: Being ethically sound should be strong in everything we do, and PR & Comms is no different. I personally believe there is a high standard of ethics within the industry but of course there is more that can be done, not least by actively engaging and supporting the individuals and organisations making those changes.
ICCO: ICCO’s World PR Reports over the last two years have revealed that retaining talent is the industry’s number 1 challenge. As a young person in the industry, do you have suggestions regarding ways PR leaders can nurture and retain the talent of younger employees?
MM: This is such an interesting question because I don’t think we can understate how important fresh, ambitious, and diverse groups of young talent are in this ever-changing industry and world. I also don’t feel this topic needs to be over complicated.
We work in an industry where businesses boast and win awards for reaching and changing the perceptions of everyone from the general public to the most discreet groups. Saying that, you would think we should have the highest rate of retention! Yet the truth is behind closed doors they lose young staff due to lack of understanding, listening and communication.
My advice for PR leaders is this: truly want to teach the next generation, share, and recognise the successes and compensate the pressures. I genuinely believe at markettiers my senior team care for me, want me to succeed and, although I’m not perfect, make sure through my career I’m on the straight and narrow. And for that I give them my loyalty and best.
Ultimately, be as great at communicating with your team as you are your clients. Be empathetic, give space to grow and celebrate growth that comes from the inevitable bumps in the road. In essence, make everyone feel we are all in this together.
This is part 1 of a 2-part interview series with 2020 and 2021’s ICCO Rising Stars of the Year. Visit News – ICCO PR next week for an interview with 2021’s winner; Interel’s Victoria McNish.