What do you think of when you think of PR? Champagne, parties, relentless phone calls, incessant emailing and daaaarlings? Perhaps some of that is still true, but today’s subject is here to prove that there’s more to PR than meets the eye...
Jamie Mancini does things differently. He is a Creative Associate at John Doe PR, a London based agency. With clients ranging from Facebook, Pernod Ricard, Adidas Originals and Itsu, they strive to be “culturally connected and creatively obsessed” and it’s certainly working for the agency, their clients, and Jamie who was recently named as one of PR Week’s 30 under 30. I caught up with Jamie in a trendy east London rooftop bar (because, of course) to find out more.
How To Get A Job In PR
Jamie came into PR the way that many do - his parents told him to go out and get a real job. A family friend’s connection with Rachel Bell (Founder of Shine PR and Co-founder of John Doe) led to a coffee. “I had a bit of a chat with Rachel about my background, my studies and my interests and she just said “You are perfect fit for John Doe” and so I was literally carted off there that afternoon. In a regrettable Topman suit and pink Paisley tie” And so the work experience placement became an internship, and the internship became a full-time job and the rest is history, even the suit and tie.
But this isn’t just another tale of nepotism within the media industry, it seems that Jamie’s knack for critically examining contemporary culture and conversation started much earlier. A graduate in Theatre Studies from Queen Mary University he found a passion for analysing stories, identifying cultural standpoints and putting art into context. Three skills that, funnily enough, John Doe are pretty good at too. So how do you turn a work experience placement into a proper job? Through hard work. “I think because there were just six of us when I started, and it was such a daring agency, that you just had to muck in. I was in early every day, changing the soap dispensers in the morning, then doing client work. I even remember selling my old boss’s house, and then buying a new one, all whilst in the middle of a big client meeting – the lesson that day was multi tasking!” Oh and FYI, that big client meeting was with Vauxhall - his first big account - where he led a campaign for the major car brand with the artist Alex Chinneck, whereby they hung a car upside down next to the London Eye. Not a bad way to start your career.
How To Not Do PR
Our old perceptions of PR are of Ab Fab, or Samantha Jones in Sex and the City, schmoozing celebrities and journalists at glitzy parties to get column inches. Firstly, print isn’t the only thing that matters now. There’s a little thing called social media to think about, too. “When social media first came along, no one knew what to do with it, the advertising guys didn’t want to touch it, so the PR guys took hold, but then [the Ad guys] tried to take ownership and it's become another channel for ads. But people see straight through that shit when done inauthentically.” It’s an ethos that seems so obvious, and yet perplexes Jamie when brands get it so wrong.
At its core, PR is about creating conversation. But what is the best way to get people talking? “PR always used to be about some gaudy horrible stunt to get people talking in different ways. But where’s the deeper meaning behind it? FHM project Gail Porter on to the Houses of Parliament, and everyone else starts projecting on to the Houses of Parliament. Michael Jackson floats himself down the Thames for the HIStory tour, and every other agency is floating something down the Thames. Yes, you’ll get coverage, but what is that actually doing for the brand?”
And How To Do PR
So, we find ourselves with a slight contradiction. Hanging a car upside down in one of the busiest areas in London - it’s a publicity stunt, yes. But dig deeper and you’ll see it’s the marriage of art and enterprise that encourages the right conversation in the right places. Something that Jamie, and by default, John Doe put first. That’s why they’re breaking boundaries in PR.
John Doe’s most recent campaign with Havana Club Rum, who wanted to get people talking about the brand and Cuban Culture, is the perfect example of this. “So we decided to take a look at Cuban culture through a London lens. We drew up three cultural pillars. Art, music, and food. Three pillars that both London and Cuba hold with high regard. There’s a huge underground art and music scene in Cuba, as well as an underground food scene.” What, you might ask, is an ‘underground food scene’? “They have these things called paladars, which are very small restaurants run out of people’s homes. Much like supper clubs in London. In Cuba they had rationing, so they’d have rice and beans, but they’d also bring out a smuggled lobster from under the counter. It’s incredible.”
The outcome? Ben Eine the street artist renowned for his lettering across London, and Dom Cools-Lartigue the founder of Street Feast were flown to Cuba to learn more about the culture and inject their experience into specially commissioned work. This trip was celebrated with a Soho pop-up; Ben Eine exhibited his Cuba-inspired work, ‘The Unexpected’, which was later auctioned off for the charity, Shelter. Dom Cools-Lartigue developed a seven course tasting menu inspired by those small paladars, and Cuban musician Daymé Arocena, a discovery of Giles Peterson, gave a special performance. Not only did this campaign earn Havana Club press stories with purpose and meaning, but it also brought Cuba to London in a way that Londoners could get on board with, and drink a little Havana Club Rum whilst they did so.
“It was like, “Right let’s find someone that Londoners will know, and take them over to Havana and see what they’re inspired by.” The whole point of working with creatives, is that they’re creative, and you work with them because they’re good at what they do. You don’t tell them what to do. And that’s what we did with those guys.” And that, my friends, is how Jamie Mancini does PR.
…The Famous Last Words
Phrase you wish everyone would stop using: Bants!
Obsessed with: Elon Musk
Three things you need for work: The Guardian App, a brisk walk, and a constant supply of black coffee.
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