This week, on the PRmoment podcast, as part of our life stories series, I’m interviewing Barbara Bates, global CEO of Hotwire.
Barbara was joint founder of the independent US tech specialist Eastwick and ran the firm for 25 years before selling to Hotwire, in what was Hotwire’s parent firm Enero Group’s biggest acquisition for the agency to date.
Following Hotwire’s takeover of Eastwick, Barbara became global CEO of the agency that had bought her company.
Hotwire has grown significantly since the acquisition and now has 250 staff in 12 different countries.
Here is a flavour of what we discussed:
- Barbara outlines how the tech sector has grown throughout her career, particularly in the US
- Barbara tells us how Eastwick got its witch-themed name
- How to manage a PR firm through three different recessions
- Why PR firms need to be know as being really good at one thing
- Why PR firms need to work with both larger brands and start-ups
- Why PR firms should be able to prepare their clients for sale, don’t just roll over for the financial PR firms
- Barbara tells us how she felt when she had to cut the number of employees in half when the dot-com bubble hit
- Why bravery is a vital part of leading a PR firm
- How the 2008 financial crash did not impact tech firms in the US “anything like” as much as the dot-com crash
- Whether the growth the tech sector is currently experiencing is a bubble or the new norm
- Why the agency of record model has been “dismissed” and firms now want agile specialists
- Barbara talks us through the positive growth in the US PR sector currently, with the exception of the large firms
- Why the dearth of available talent in New York and San Francisco is seeing the opening of offices in tier-two cities
- Why Barbara could have sold her business many times over the 10-year period prior to the Hotwire/Eastwick deal
- Why cultural misalignment is the chief reason agency acquisitions often don’t work
- Why Barbara didn’t think Hotwire would be able to afford Eastwick
- What it is like going from being bought by Hotwire to working for Hotwire
- Why Barbara regrets losing the Eastwick brand so quickly
- Why Barbara taking over as CEO of Hotwire in 2017, replacing previous CEO Brendon Craigie, was not part of the original plan
- The challenges and lessons of the Hotwire/Eastwick “merger”
- Why Hotwire is trying to build a networked agency at a time when the networked agency is arguably going out of fashion
- Barbara tells us about the reasons behind the rapid growth of mid-sized firms
- How the London Hotwire team picked up $1m in fees “in a matter of months” after the Eastwick merger
- What’s the longer term plan for Barbara and Hotwire?