Reflecting on my first six months: a message from Grayling’s UK CEO, Heather Blundell

I was asked recently if I could summarise my fledgling months as UK CEO in three words. Many leapt to mind but in essence, describing one of the best jobs in public relations is easy: rewarding, challenging and exhilarating.

Earlier this year, I embarked on a whirlwind tour of our offices around the country and was touched by the warmth and support extended by everyone in the Grayling family.  It reinforced my conviction that our connections in print and broadcast media, carefully nurtured and maintained over many years, are quite simply the best in the industry; testament to our unwavering commitment to hard work and professionalism.

The world around us moves fast and yet Grayling UK remains agile and supremely well-equipped to meet the needs of our clients.

But what remains as true now as when I first joined Grayling UK is my passion for creating award-winning work and ensuring that Grayling continues to thrive as a media powerhouse. The last six months have been characterised by total dedication, relentless innovation, and above all, the power of collaboration across Grayling UK.

New business triumphs

The media landscape never stands still and neither do we. The first half of 2024 has seen Grayling UK usher in a wave of triumphs on the new business front and we are thrilled to welcome over 11 new clients into the Grayling family, including esteemed names such as Nissan, Birmingham FC Knighthead, and Grindr.

Client excellence

Each partnership is not just a business venture but a reflection of the trust our clients place in our capabilities – a trust that we can never take for granted and must strive to nurture by meeting, even exceeding, expectations.

Our commitment to excellence is reflected in the successful launch we orchestrated for Birmingham City FC and Knighthead, a momentous occasion that captured the spirit of teamwork and innovation.

Moreover, our collaboration with Bumble has led to tangible policy changes around cyber flashing, reinforcing our dedication to making a positive impact beyond conventional boundaries.

Our collaboration with Grindr stands out as particularly impressive in creating the first UK dating app that allows users to order free STI self-sampling kits to cut rising infection rates, in partnership with Prepster, The Love Tank and Sexual Health London. The response from the Grindr and LGBTQ+ communities has been amazing and, most importantly, the work immediately created advantage with a large uptick in tests ordered in the first 24 hours.

Championing diversity, equity, and inclusion

At Grayling UK, our DEI core values will be the cornerstones of our success this year and beyond.

As a leading UK comms agency, we are laser-focused on bridging the diversity gap, removing barriers, increasing representation and empowering individuals from all backgrounds – both within Grayling and our extended family of clients and partners.

Notable highlights include Grayling UK becoming the first PR agency to collaborate with MeVitae, the creators of a pioneering CV screening software that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to remove bias and foster fairness and diversity in the workplace. The partnership marks a significant step towards more inclusive hiring practices and sets a new benchmark for PR agencies.

I am also really excited about our partnerships with Creative Access – which promises to attract a wider diverse talent pool, encourage different perspectives and build an inclusive working environment – and also to be one of the founding members of the Global Purpose Enterprise (GPE), a trailblazer in promoting diversity, equity and inclusion through mentorship initiatives.

André Spence, founder of GPE, is also an amazing addition to Grayling UK’s senior advisory board.

We have also launched several Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that further underscore our pledge to amplify diverse voices and champion meaningful change. Our ERGs create a space where diverse perspectives are heard, valued and actively shape conversations around DEI, driving honest dialogue and action to create a more inclusive workplace. Our ERGs include:

  • The women’s network
  • LGBTQ+
  • Race, Ethnicity and Cultural Heritage
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Parenting
Senior Advisory Board

Grayling’s senior advisory board, refreshed this year, consists of influential figures drawn from industry, journalism and across the political spectrum – who provide senior strategic advice to both our business and clients.

We have been delighted to welcome Tanya Joseph, former advisor to Tony Blair and a renowned public and corporate affairs expert who brings with her a wealth of experience in managing reputations, navigating risks and communicating effectively across a variety of sectors.

Tanya joins social entrepreneur and founder of Global Purpose Enterprise, Andre Spence, and the Rt Hon Baroness Nicky Morgan, who is currently a member of the House of Lords.

Innovation in products and services

True to Grayling’s ethos to evolve and push boundaries, earlier this year saw the launch of Grayling Connect, an internal communications, employee engagement and change management service, led by Charlotte Harvey and new recruit Rachel Tolhurst.

This cutting-edge service will create and deliver data and insight-driven strategies to increase engagement and growth for brands.

The importance of businesses building relationships that are two-way, real and trusted cannot be overstated. Grayling Connect will enable our clients to go beyond conventional approaches to empower employers to foster their talent and deliver engaging and impactful internal engagement strategies.

Additionally, the launch of Humble Mavericks is incredibly exciting for our agency and reflects our vision and ambition to provide innovative creative services. This agile in-house production and design capability within our studio offers clients an always-on 24 hours service, enabling us to react swiftly and create content that is shareable, innovative and cuts through across multiple platforms to deliver industry-leading ROI; already servicing the likes of Nestle and Deliveroo.

Marketing and advocacy milestones

We kicked off the year with our “Matters that Matter” event which was a resounding success sprinkled with stellar panelists including Harry Wallop, Lucy Siegle, James Poulter, Jono Yates and Polly Curtis.

I also had the pleasure of speaking at Advertising Week about diversity and inclusion alongside industry luminaries, Nick Jones, visionary founder of Soho House and Andre Spence. I am reminded of the profound impact our collective voice can have in shaping the discourse of our industry.

We were delighted to host a breakfast panel in the London office as part of the PR Mums x Agency Debates series, in partnership with CIPR Greater London Group. It was an incredibly empowering event featuring inspirational female PR leaders from Oatley, BlackBerry and the Unmistakables who shared their journeys on the road to redefining “success” while juggling the demands of work and family.

Coming up next week we have an exclusive event with Alastair Campbell who will be providing us with his reflections on the General Election, the upcoming Government and how to ensure voices from business are heard by a new administration.

The past six months have indeed been rewarding, challenging and exhilarating. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to each member of the Grayling UK family and our esteemed clients for their unwavering support and commitment to excellence.

Together, we have achieved remarkable feats and I am confident that the best is yet to come.