Date Posted: Friday 24th January 2020
DIARY directory recently caught up with Managing Director at Catalyst and Co-Founder of Dr. PAWPAW, Johnny Paterson. Catalyst is a leading hair, beauty and lifestyle London-based PR agency, offering traditional PR, digital PR and social media services. Johnny's parents founded Catalyst in 1995. We spoke to him about managing a team and how technology has changed the way brands communicate.
Why did your parents decide to form Catalyst? And why did you choose to follow in their footsteps?
My parents John and Marian Paterson used to publish hair magazine Estetica UK. They would get haircare brands phone in constantly, seeking advice about how to run their businesses and what their marketing and PR strategies should be. Brands trusted their advice and when they announced Catalyst, Goldwell UK was one of their first, long-standing clients.
I always have had music at my heart (I am currently learning the piano and I play guitar), I tried hard at the beginning to follow this as a career path, but whilst I was doing so, my Dad suggested I join the team at Catalyst as the office assistant for a few days a week to earn some money. I ended up being the office assistant for two years. I put the time in and enjoyed it more than I could have imagined. I progressed up the ladder and was given my own accounts to handle and then in 2008, after 13 years with the business, took on the reigns as Managing Director.
Over the years that you have been MD at Catalyst what have the biggest changes in the industry been?
The technology! I remember working in the office in 1995 and there being typewriters to work on. The day we introduced the first computer, with the internet on, we were wowed. I am showing my age now!
One of the biggest changes I have also noticed is speed. The speed we work at has increased drastically and quick turnarounds are a daily occurrence. It used to be about perfecting strategy and press meetings galore, but now we’re offering a 360-degree approach at incredible speed, whilst still delivering professional and quality work/services for our clients.
I have also noticed that we are now the storytellers of media. Yes, we send stories to journalists, but we can also influence what the general public see and hear through social media. This is why I believe so many indie brands can now develop without big budgets.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
I have to say, that now with over 20 years of experience I find very little challenging. I generally have the answers for most things, which is an amazing position to be in and pays off when clients come to me. Also, because of Dr.PAWPAW, Catalyst is very commercially understanding of what works and what doesn't for marketing and buyers.
If something ever does come up that I am not sure on I will ask for advice or I will turn to the PRCA.*
Over the years working with other PR agencies has been challenging. There is a lot of unhealthy competitiveness in our industry, which I don’t think is constructive. I believe we should work together more, share experiences and ensure industry standards are adhered too, for example, I see so many companies undercharge for their valuable time and efforts.
Being a brand owner, I meet with so many like-minded brand owners. We help each other along the way and this is how I think every industry should work.
What qualities do you look for in the staff you hire?
Fun, friendly and a smile!
Other key qualities for me have always been proactiveness; our clients demand this and enthusiasm, which goes a long way in our industry and encourages general office morale and team/client activity. Determination is also key, people with the drive to deliver and of course, the ability to have fun, keep on track and remain grounded in our busy fast-paced industry.
What tips would you give for managing a successful team?
Communication between all team members. This is so important to ensure no one feels abandoned or left in the dark. We ensure all our team, no matter their role, know exactly what is going on. We achieve this with regular team meetings and constant updates across the board for all clients.
Empathy is a big one for me. I always try to consider how people are feeling. It’s a given that people can’t always leave their personal lives at home and we don’t encourage our staff to do this. We empathise when they’re having a bad day and support them the best we can.
Through man management, I always try to encourage our team members' individuals strengths and I carefully select who will be handling each account based on these strengths and/or ways of working. This creates a stronger team, playing to everyone's expertise and applying them all in the best way possible to create a great working relationship between everyone.
You co-founded your own brand, Dr. PawPaw in 2013, what advice would you give for running and building a successful beauty business?
Find a good partner, lucky for me I had already found that in my wife, Pauline Paterson. We couldn't have predicted how great our working relationship could be and with our fantastic team, we have been instrumental in the success of Dr.PAWPAW so far.
You also need to find either innovation or a product that people want but they can’t find easily. This creates an instant demand, which should reflect in sales.
Due diligence, trademark your brand, ensure it is protected from the very beginning as sometimes costly necessities will save you a lot of grief down the line. Make sure people truly understand your brand and what it stands for. Also, create quality products by working with the right manufacturers and suppliers at the right price.
A good PR does a lot more than just build brand awareness. One of the reasons I decided to start the brand was to be able to show my clients this. We really understand the business side of things too, not just the brand building.
Finally, it really isn’t easy and six years in we’re delighted with the results we have had but it hasn’t been an overnight success. It has been lots of hard work from a growing team of dedicated people to get us to where we are today.
In the next five years, how do you predict the social media landscape will change?
With it changing so quickly, five years in social media terms seems like decades away! I think our social media platforms will be intertwined with TV soon. We could be watching Netflix and Live News and TV through social media. There will be no more switching apps or devices as it could all be easily accessible in one place.
I also think news feeds from Instagram and Facebook will expand. At the moment everything is all in one place, but I think there will be multiple feeds; one for news, one for advertisers and one for family and friends.
I am also excited about how the Chinese market works with total integration across shopping, social, purchasing and communication. I hope the UK embraces 5G so that we can grow our own economy as they have done.
There's also sure to be some brand-new platform none of us know about yet that will break the mold. It will replace one of the current leaders as technologies and consumer demands develop.
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