PR entrepreneurship advice and ideas from Lansons’ CEO

Posted on: 2013-12-18 in Examples   |   Tagged: lansons pr leaders pr leadership

Tony Langham, co-founder and CEO of Lansons (formerly Lansons Communications) talks entrepreneurship and corporate finance with Heather Baker

TonyLansons is a top ten independent PR and public affairs consultancy, 100% owned by a third of its people.

How did you get to be in charge of a PR agency?

I founded Lansons in 1989 with Clare Parsons. We had worked together at Dewe Rogerson before. We were quite young – 28 and 31 – and we therefore decided our focus needed to be on marcoms rather than strategic business advice. At the time, there were city PR agencies that knew about the city but couldn’t really translate that to financial services, and there were brand agencies that knew about consumer work. We bridged the gap with our marcoms consultancy that over the years became more of a corporate and strategic consultancy.

What’s been your proudest day on the job?

I’d have to break this down into internal and external. Internally, the days when we have new partners are always great – we have sold 40% of shares in the company to the staff. The first time we did this was in 1995 after we had been in business five years and nearly every year since then we have made new partners.

I’m also proud of Lansons’ being ranked as one of the FT’s best places to work for the last nine years.

Our recent rebrand was also pretty amazing. After 24 years Lansons Communications has become Lansons, and we have a great new strapline: Advice. Ideas. Results. The process has been brilliant. It’s been led internally by Joint Managing Director Rebecca Mayo and people have responded really well.

You’ve always specialised in financial services, but there must be a point where you get too big for a single market.

70% of our business now is financial services, and we have diversified our service offering, building a public affairs division and launching employee engagement and film production. But we have also started to work with other types of companies outside of financial services. These still tend to be on the serious side such as governments, technology companies and professional services.

And what’s been the lowest point?              

We have only had two redundancy rounds in 24 years and the lowest point is definitely the first time you do that. At the time we had been through 10 years of solid growth, which made the process very difficult.

Who has been your mentor?

I’ve been lucky to have Clare, my business partner. We are both consultants but different kinds - we approach things in a different way. I’ve also used chief execs of clients, one of whom I used to play squash with weekly.

If you had to offer advice to a budding PR entrepreneur, what would you say?

Go for it – it should all be about the work. Passion for the work is key. If you don’t have a passion for it, then go and do the thing you do have a passion for. In this industry you’ll be learning something new every day. It’s not enough just to exist –the world doesn’t need another communications consultancy in London – there has to be a point to it. For us the core business is about doing great work but we also want to be a better place to work and are still ambitious to grow.

Financial Management?

Understand where you make money – lots of PR people don’t understand where they make money. You see so many agencies have hourly rates with no commercial logic behind them – they don’t understand where the money comes from.

Business Development / Strategy?

The logical approach is to work out what clients you want to work with and what clients define your business and to go for them. But I also think you should just go for lots of opportunities and you should be part of communities – not just within the PR industry, but other communities. Remember that people value our thoughts and ideas and should be able to look at the people in your company and see that they have had thoughts and ideas of their own.

Finally, have a good heart. If we win something, a client or an award, it doesn’t make me think we’re the greatest company, and if we lose it we don’t have any bitterness because there’s always a next time. And try not to piss anyone off – that goes for people, clients and journalists.

What does 2014 hold for Lansons?

November will be our 25th anniversary so we are going to have a big year from November. Ahead of that, we’ll be capitalising on the new identity

Lansons’ absolute strength lies in corporate issues management, financial services, and reputation protection and our purpose is to be an holistic 360-degree consultancy. 

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About this blog

The B2B PR Blog is a resource for both PR professionals and people working in B2B industries on how to devise and implement successful B2B PR campaigns. The blog was founded by B2B PR specialist Heather Baker, who runs video production and corporate animation agency TopLine Film and digital PR and SEO agency  TopLine Comms. The B2B PR Blog takes contributions from sensible industry folk with something interesting to say.


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