An Evening With Emma Kane, CEO at Newgate Communications

You are currently CEO of Newgate Communications, part of SEC Newgate S.p.A., the world’s fastest growing global communications consultancy which you are Deputy Group CEO of.  What challenges did you face in your previous position or positions which made you a success in your current role as you occupy today?

The negative experiences that shaped my approach were ones around poor culture and rigid/siloed approaches to meeting client needs.  These were the catalyst for launching my own agency, Redleaf Communications, in January 2000 after 15 years in in-house positions and agencies.  My vision was to build a brand that became synonymous with great service, that delivered measurable results, and was truly viewed as an integral part of the success of its clients’ businesses – all elements I have sought to replicate in my current role. Over the next 14 years, I created my dream agency and that led to it receiving many accolades.  I have witnessed in former roles what happens when businesses fail to evolve and in 2014 decided that boutique, specialist agencies would struggle in an increasingly global, digital world.  So, I embarked on a plan to pivot the business and started the stepped sale of the business in 2014 to an international group, a process which completed in 2018; that group is now known as SEC Newgate which was formed in 2018. 

My previous experience of integrating teams I acquired and creating a consistent culture has been invaluable.  When I took on the role of CEO of the enlarged business, I inherited a culture and a team based on two previous CEOs’ ways of doing things.  Implementing a programme to transform the culture and create one that was positive, collegiate and based on a strong set of values was core to the turnaround plan I implemented. 

Having an entrepreneurial spirit is also an essential quality because our entire group is run by people who have founded their own agencies – it is that entrepreneurial spirit which guides the research, advocacy and communication skills that we employ to assist our clients with their own corporate entrepreneurial aims.    

Which industries have you collaborated in most? 

My personal passions and experience lie primarily in real estate, professional and financial services, retail and leisure, consumer industries, TMT and charities. My roles as Chair of Target Ovarian Cancer, Chair of the Barbican Centre Trust and as a trustee of Nightingale Hammerson have given me a particularly in-depth understanding of the charity sector.  In my day to day roles with Newgate Communications and SEC Newgate, the string that runs through the counsel we provide, no matter what the sector, is the fact that we help business better understand what their audiences want from them, and vice versa, and help them apply this – it is all about helping achieve positive change.  
 

What would you argue is your biggest success at Newgate Communications? 

My biggest success is naturally linked to my biggest challenge – the merger of Newgate and Redleaf and then becoming CEO of the enlarged agency. Using the great foundations of two agencies, we’ve added more expertise and can now deliver seamless communications locally, national and internationally. 

The success can be measured by recently being ranked in the UK’s top 30 PR consultancies for 2020 by PR Week and our group, SEC Newgate S.p.A, being ranked as the fastest growing agency group in the world as well as the 26th largest in the Top 250 Global Agency Rankings 2020.

None of what we have achieved could be possible without the team and I am incredibly proud of the level of expertise, innovation, and drive that we have to offer our clients today.
 

As a leader yourself, what advice would you give burgeoning business leaders, in your field of business?

Surround yourself with the very best people.  Ensure you have someone as part of that team who is prepared to tell you when you are wrong and whose views you respect.  Treat everyone with respect and celebrate difference – the best team is one that has balanced skills and views – consider who you want to be in the bunker with; it’s easy when times are good but when the going gets tough you need to have the best people in it with you.  Listen – it is only by listening to people that you get the nuances of what they actually think and feel (often expressed in the last five minutes of a meeting) – encourage your team to talk to people too, not just hide behind electronic communication.  Understand the needs of your different stakeholders – they are not the same.  Celebrate success.  Don’t try to protect people’s feelings by ignoring mistakes – people get better and stronger by learning how to improve and difficult decisions are made easier if you explain the context in which they are made.  Lead from the front which means set examples and be generous with your time.  Use the data that exists around your business to be the best you can – a great management information system is a very good investment.

The rest of this editorial will be published at a later date