Lunch with… Mark Glover
PRCA director general Francis Ingham dines with Bellenden chief executive and APPC vice chair Mark Glover at Shepherd's restaurant.
My lunch with Mark Glover begins in a way that none of my previous Shepherd’s interviews have –discussing creativity. The agency’s just won a Holmes Report award. And Glover is clearly a happy man.
He says: “We’re delighted to have been named the seventh most creative agency, Pound for Pound, in the world. It’s great for the team, and reinforces the fact that we keep our standards high, which is critical to what we do. What’s more, we were the only public affairs agency. in the top ten.
“The key for us as a 40-45 consultant agency is always to maintain our high standards. The bigger you get, the more challenging it is to make sure you maintain standards across the agency. But we’ve managed to do that as we’ve grown, as we grown in the future, it’ll remain our priority.”
I ask if there are any particular target areas for the future
He tells me: “We’ll be growing our corporate affairs offer. Existing clients increasingly ask us to corporate affairs services. And we’re happy to oblige. We’ve always been an issues-led agency, and so adding a corporate affairs team and then ultimately a corporate affairs division to our offer will be key to our continued expansion.”
I joke that Glover should expect a pile of corporate affairs cvs landing on his desk in the near future, and his answer is empathic.
“In reality, our senior managers tend to be staff we’ve grown in-house, because we like people to have imbued the ethos that we put forward. We always like to have the staff there before we get the work. The other way round is incredibly risky. How can you maintain quality if you’re taking a huge risk on getting the right people in after you’ve got the client. I’m sure that the rewards may be there in the short-term, but over the long-term you are putting your company’s reputation at risk.”
All very considered and planned. Which sums him up actually – Glover’s one of the most thoughtful PA men I’ve met, a careful planner with a whole heap of drive. Which brings me on to his APPC plans.
Glover says: “In the short to medium term, we need to consolidate around maintaining the standards of the organisation and maintaining the register. There are several challenges thrown up by the statutory register, and the APPC has to be there, ensuring that our members’ interests are well-represented. And the APPC alongside the PRCA, needs to keep pressing for the statutory register to be broader. Law firms, management consultancies, even some think tanks are clearly undertaking third party public affairs lobbying activities, but have not declared it. That damages the reputation of the whole industry.”
And then Glover makes one of those thoughtful points that had utterly escaped me:
“Goodness knows what’s going to happen if David Cameron follows through with his threat to make 150 peers. Because looking at where the last batch of Peers came from, there are going to be a large number of agencies whose key people suddenly enter the Lords. And legislators shouldn’t be lobbyists.»
So if Lord Bingle of Bollinger were to be created, then his practice would have to cease. A dilemma suitable for an epic opera surely…..
Glover has just returned from Scotland, where a new lobbying regime is coming in. He says: “The key aspect of the Scottish Bill is that the bureaucratic burden it places on agencies, combined with the level of transparency delivered, needs to be proportionate. There are agencies in Scotland that are are not members of any professional body, and nevertheless boast of their standards. Unless a code of conduct is administered and judged by a third party, it’s not a code of conduct.”
And which of us would disagree with that? I try to tempt Glover into an indiscretion. Out of ten, how would he rate the lobbying registrar? Predictably, he’s too discerning to answer directly.
“I’d be worried if the Registrar felt that it was her job to be seen to be taking action if action wasn’t merited,” he says.
“We need action that is proportionate; and the opportunity, where the rules aren’t clear, for individuals and consultancies to adjust their behaviour. I feel particularly strongly that the fees levied should remain at roughly the level they are at the moment. I’d rather see membership of the register increasing than fees increasing.»
And then we talk politics. I ask how his party is doing.
He says: “Membership has shot up in the Labour Party. In my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham there are four times as many members now. My ward membership has grown from 90 to 370.
“The second piece of good news is that moderates –and I’d count myself as one- now have to come up with new ideas. Refresh what was perceived as managerial politics. There haven’t been many new ideas for the last ten years or so, and now there will be.”
And on the negative side of the ledger?
“Labour is very good at talking to itself, and forgets that it actually needs to convert people,” he says.
“The strategy seems to be ‘Let’s motivate the Left’, but that is only ever going to be a 30% strategy at best. And that’s not a strategy about being in government, that’s a strategy about winning the Labour Party. Labour has to be the party of government.”
Finally, I ask Glover to tell our readers one thing they might not know about him.
He tells me: “I think probably one thing the industry doesn’t know about me is that at university one of my student friends was Tim Farron.”
Which I guess reminds us that if you’re in the Labour Party, and a bit glum about the political scene, things could be worse. You could be a Lib Dem. At which point we turn to address the next issue of the day –eating.