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Rus Clarke, Head of PR & Social Media, HROC

Rus Clarke, Head of PR & Social Media, HROC

Posted on 27 October 2023 by Claire Summerfield

Rus Clarke is the Head of PR & Social at HROC, a leading full service marketing and communications agency with an outstanding reputation. He's seen a lot of changes to the industry over the last 20 years and has grown an award winning PR & social team, working across corporate, B2B and corporate audiences.

Rus, how did you get into PR & Social?

I really didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, but English and Business Studies were two of my favourite subjects at school and when I was looking through university options, I stumbled across a PR degree and thought it sounded interesting.

Back then, there were only a handful of universities that offered the course, so I picked Leeds Met Uni as it offered a placement year in industry, something I thought would be invaluable for getting a job post Uni.

It was in the busy press office of Yorkshire Water for a year where I really got the bug for PR, working with some amazing and creative people that were pushing the boundaries of what you could and should be doing as a PR professional for a water company. From rebranding the business, corporate comms, community relations and some innovative campaigns the business was doing (like Tap Idol - off the back of Pop Idol), I was completely hooked!

That placement year gave me such a good grounding and convinced me that PR was the career for me. Once I graduated and returned back to Midlands, I picked up the Yellow Pages (for those that remember!) and called every agency in the Midlands to try and get a job. Luckily, someone took a chance on me and I've been doing it ever since!

What are your thoughts on the trends for the sector as we head into 2024?

We've all faced a turbulent and challenging few years post COVID getting used to new ways of working. One of the biggest challenges from my perspective has been maintaining a culture and working environment that enables people to thrive and grow, which has been difficult with a more flexible and hybrid approach to working.

The good news is that the PR and communications sector is full of innovate, creative and hard working professionals that have adapted well and continue to push forward.

In terms of trends for 2024, I think the conversations around AI, the potential regulations around its use and how we adopt it to maximise a competitive advantage will continue. Another key trend will be the benefits of UGC v Influencers and the debate around authenticity.

Looking at the bigger picture, there's going to be the ongoing challenge for any PR professional to continue to prove our worth and ROI! It’s not just the impact of PR and Social on a brand’s reputation and awareness anymore, but we also need to demonstrate our impact on sales and the bottom line.

There's also the need for businesses to retain and attract the best talent, look after employee well-being and work in a more collaborative and consultative way - all of which will be critical to success. There's no getting away from the cost of living crisis and inflation rates and the impact this is having on the economy so the more businesses can diversify themselves and demonstrate value, the better!

When you’re growing a team you need to balance skills with the culture of your team. How have you achieved this as you’ve grown the team and what do you value more?

Having the right skills that add value to your team is absolutely critical. At the end of the day, we are in a service industry and clients rely on us to deliver work they either don't have the skills to do themselves, or more likely, just don't have the time.

That's the benefit of working with an integrated marketing communications agency like HROC. We have a team of 69 communications specialists all under one roof that can support our clients with everything from strategy and planning, right through to delivery and evaluation, whether this is PR and Social Media, Video Production, Creative Services, Media and Digital and Search.

Once you've got the people with the right skills, then getting them to buy-in to the culture of the business and what our values, mission and vision is, is also crucial. The senior management team of the business have all been here between 10 to 35 years, and there's also a vast number of the wider team that are all 5+ years as well! We are obviously doing something right, and are extremely proud of this.

What’s made you stay at HROC for so long and what are you most proud of?

The culture and people at HROC and the client relationships we have developed and nurtured over the years has made me stay here for so long.

I'm coming up to 16 years and whilst every job has its challenges, I appreciate that I'm lucky enough to want to get out of bed every day and do what I do.

It's a business that makes you feel part of a family, a really nurturing environment filled with hard working, creative and passionate people that work with a smile on their face.

As a business, we have developed a reputation for going above and beyond for our clients and this has led to long standing relationships that I'm really proud to be a part of.

In terms of what I am most proud of from a personal perspective, I'd have to say that working with my senior team to navigate our way through COVID and come out the other side much stronger makes me most proud. Not only did we grow significantly in the PR and Social Media team doing this period - from 16 to 27 people, but I believe we’ve managed to maintain the fantastic culture that sets us apart in the market.

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