RachelIrvine1

Rachel Irvine shares the highs and lows as Irvine Partners celebrates its 10th birthday

 

At a time when many PR agencies have retrenched, or worse, closed, Cape Town-based Irvine Partners is celebrating its 10th birthday. In its ten years, the company has expanded from Cape Town to Johannesburg, Lagos, Nairobi and most recently London.

Rachel Irvine, CEO of Irvine Partners

                                                                                            Rachel Irvine, CEO of Irvine Partners

How has the agency done it? Rachel Irvine, agency founder and CEO, credits hard work, resilience, and commitment from her team and her clients.

I chat to Rachel Irvine about the highs and lows of running a PR agency, and she shares some important lessons that will benefit other startups in these challenging times.

Congratulations on the 10-year anniversary of Irvine Partners. How do you feel about reaching such a milestone?

Hitting the 10-year mark in the middle of a global pandemic has made the milestone so much more humbling and poignant. Clearly we can’t have the big party we thought we’d be having with the teams from all of our offices in one place, but given that we are safe, healthy and our business is growing, we honestly couldn’t ask for a better birthday gift than that in 2020.

Tell us about how Irvine Partners came about?

I moved back to South Africa after long stints in London and Moscow and tried my hand at working for one or two established PR agencies in Cape Town and Johannesburg but nothing felt like a fit for the kind of agency I knew I wanted in my head.

"The media landscape was shifting and social media was starting to proliferate."

I just knew in my gut the PR game was due for an overhaul so I made the decision to move the agency I wanted out of my head and into reality, which led to Irvine Partners opening its doors a decade ago .

When you started out in 2010, what was your aim?

Honestly? At the beginning, the goal was to earn enough money to pay everyone's bills while making a mark for the agency by doing PR our way and building relationships with clients. That aim quickly shifted into wanting to be an all-in long-term partner to our clients - something that still drives the way we do business today.

Briefly tell us how the agency evolved into where it is now.

Our growth in the early years was typical - starting in Cape Town but wanting to do business in Johannesburg and going national fairly quickly. But the evolution of who we are today really started when our eyes moved beyond South Africa's borders, and we understood that we could serve clients better if we were their partners in multiple geographies.

"We make a conscious decision that when we expand into new territories, we have wholly-owned offices rather than affiliates or joint ventures."

Today we have additional offices in Kenya, London, Nigeria and very recently a satellite office in Berlin.

What are some of the big highlights over the last decade?

I know the right answer to this question is probably to name-drop big clients we’ve landed or massive campaigns we’ve successfully pulled off, but honestly the real highlights for me have been watching people in the agency grow. There is very little more satisfying for me than watching someone shoot the lights out professionally knowing I had a hand in guiding them or even simply acting as their soundboard.

Hayley van der Woude joining as managing director and as an equity partner a little over two years ago is a massive highlight for me.

"For any founder to realise their vision of scaling a business, a running mate who shares that vision and has the ability to execute is absolutely mission critical."

Thanks to Hayley’s input and effort, we continue to grow and build a culture of both excellence and enjoyment.

Lastly, launching our London office during Covid will stand out as a highlight for all of us at Irvine Partners. It was a beacon of hope during some very dark days during the early stages of the pandemic. The fact that we are still growing this office and adding new roles continues to inspire us as to the size of the opportunity.

2020 has been one helluva roller coaster ride. We've seen agencies retrench staff, and even close their doors. What kept you going? Was there at any point where you thought, this is it for Irvine Partners?

There were nine days in March when we lost a client a day - mostly tourism and real estate clients, and I was utterly terrified. I wrote to everyone on the team letting them know I would not be taking a salary and that the business needed everyone else to take a 20% salary cut so that we could save all jobs until the crazy was over.

 

 

This article was first published by Bizcommunity on the 25 November 2020. 

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