Behind the scenes: Unity

About the author

Our guest authors are what make PR Place such a vibrant hub of information, exploration and learning.

Founders of Unity
Founders of Unity

This is an article by Diana Bengea.

UK PR firm Unity has emerged as the most creative PR agency in the world, according to the 2013 Global Creative Index. A small firm, with only about 20 employees, Unity came out on top after placing two campaigns within the top 15 – the ‘Launch of Shwopping’ for Marks & Spencer; and ‘R UV UGLY’ for Cancer Research UK. In addition to this, Unity has earned EMEA Consumer Consultancy of the Year at the last SABRE Awards.

One of the co-founders of Unity, Nik Done, has agreed to tell us more about the story behind this success.

How did you start Unity? What was the moment when you decided that PR needed a fresh perspective and you could provide that.

Gerry and I had been working with each other for a number of years and were naturally rebelling against the way that things were done. We needed our own thing in order to truly explore and create.

What do you think about the PR market at the moment? Is it difficult to find a place in it?

There is so much potential – if you’re good, you’ll find a place, no problem. The marketing world is shrinking – and it’s to PR’s advantage – the ad agencies, the digital agencies – everyone is realising that it’s all about earned media and we’re in the perfect place to capitalise on this. Start by contacting us!

I would like to know more about the people behind Unity. How did you and Gerry Hopkinson get to know each other?

Gerry was actually my boss at a now defunct agency called Band & Brown. We quickly realised that when we worked together special things happened. After a number of years we decided to go it alone and we set up Unity as partners
Unity is a new competitor on the PR market, but has launched itself straight to the top. How did you manage to achieve that?
We’re actually 8 years old so not that young! We’ve just had our heads down doing truly great work over the last few years. And now it’s paying off. We’ve been topping the awards league tables for a number of years now – not bad for a team of 25!

You seem like a wild card in PR: almost nobody has heard about you before the campaigns for Marks & Spencer and Cancer Research UK. Do you think that the fact that you are so young on the market has been a disadvantage or an advantage?

We always had the big ideas but it took us a while to find the right kinds of clients – those willing to be brave and the budgets to make ideas fly. Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report always said that we just needed the big brands to give us a chance and proper budgets to do our ideas justice. We have that now – our clients include M&S, Ribena, Baileys, Ben & Jerrys, Lucozade and Aquafresh.

What’s more important, experience or having a fresh view of things, being original?
The latter. Each and every time. We don’t have a creative director – we look for that in everyone. Our job is to just provide an environment that promotes and encourages fresh thinking. And it can come from absolutely anyone.

What is your favourite campaign so far and why?

Wasted Youth – we put on the UK’s first prison gig a few years back featuring Dirty Pretty Things and The Enemy. It was in Pentonville – a maximum security prison – and was on behalf of an anti youth suicide charity. Calls to helplines went up by 33% overnight. 33%!!! We saved lives. You can’t better than that.

Is there a campaign made by somebody else that you wish you could have done yourself? Something that you believe to be ground breaking.

I always loved the Churchill dog starring in panto – brilliantly simple.

What advice do you have for students and young people who are at the beginning of their career?

Get out there and show your worth. All agencies are desperate for good, fresh talent. We want to get you as graduates and nurture that talent. Pick the agencies you want to work for and then go out there and grab their attention. You want to promote other brands and causes? Start by promoting yourselves.