In the Studio With — Inside The Academy: The PR agency creating work that gets noticed
Within five short years, London-based PR agency The Academy has already come a long way. With plans to continue to grow in all areas of the business, it’s clear that its co-founders, Dan Glover and Mitch Kaye, are doing something right. By making impactful work that gets noticed, the 45-strong team have leant their creative minds to clients including Amazon, Disney, Lucozade Sport, Morrisons and Alton Towers Resort. Whether it’s a broad range of both typical and less common company benefits, creative outings and an environment filled with tech and hard-working minds, here, Dan lets us in on the key elements to running a successful and happy agency.
45 people working across strategy, creative, production and connection
Alton Towers Resort, Amazon, Ardbeg, Bear Grylls Adventure, Compare the Market, Disney, Heathrow, Hotpoint, intu, Karcher, Lucozade Sport, Mastercard, Morrisons, Pharmacy2U, Shelter, Square Enix, The Jockey Club, Ubisoft, WWE, Xero, Zizzi
Co-founder Dan Glover at work
The Academy is a PR agency helping organisations, companies, brands and individuals work out what they want to be famous for, and then using creativity to relate information to the public in a meaningful and engaging way. Our work covers strategy, creative, production (such as photography, film, events, design) and connection (publicity, partnerships). We mainly work with companies and brands that want to create a connection to the general public – or B2C (business to consumer), in PR speak.
There aren’t many PR agencies that can offer best-in-class strategic thinking and creative activation – that is, the right and left side of the brain, but we do, hence our brand symbol of a brain. And we’re obsessed with work that actually works – evaluated by getting noticed, solving a business problem and passing into popular culture.
We’re called The Academy because we set a very high standard in our chosen field, but also because our building is a place of continuous learning. Every mind is bright and capable of solving PR problems, but the collective is stronger; a bit like Plato’s Academy in Ancient Greece, or, perhaps a bit more recent, the Avengers.
Work for Alton Towers: Wicker Man
intu: Big Bugs on Tour to create a memorable shopping experience
Mitch Kaye, co-founder and CEO, and I had already set up a successful PR company, Mischief, which we sold to Engine. Our time in a bigger communications group convinced us that PR should be a lead creative discipline, so we left and set up The Academy to be a PR-led marketing communications agency.
“We’re getting much bigger briefs to develop, craft and manage reputations, which a few years ago would typically go to advertising agencies.”
In a world where audiences are actively avoiding advertising, ideas need to be genuinely interesting to cut through and connect to audiences. That’s what good PR does. Companies are starting to recognise the power of PR, so we’re getting much bigger briefs to develop, craft and manage reputations, which a few years ago would typically have gone to advertising agencies.
Inside The Academy
The team at work
Inside The Adademy
In the last 12 months, we’ve worked with Rankin on a project for Disney to celebrate 90 years of Mickey Mouse’s impact on popular culture, connected horse racing to a younger audience by turning famous horses into comic book stars, and created a brand new event, #SleepwalkForShelter, to help end homelessness on behalf of Shelter that raised £250,000 in its first year.
We have four founding pillars: Intelligent thinking; applied creativity; quality production; and connected to the right people. A problem would typically be solved in that order, but the output is normally reduced to an idea with assets that is then connected to the right people – be it journalists, influencers or direct to an audience.
All of our work is seen by the general public, but we personally can’t publicise about half of it, due to confidentiality agreements. PR is a mysterious artform – you need to be comfortable sitting in the middle and pulling the strings, but also stepping aside to ensure the company, organisation, brand or individual gets the credit.
“PR is a mysterious artform – you need to be comfortable pulling the strings, but also stepping aside.”
Disney Marvel Comics: Comic Books on the Underground to celebrate Marvel Comics 80th anniversary
Shelter: #SleepWalkForShelter to get young people marching to end homelessness
Work for Morrisons: String it Back
Lucozade Sport: The Movers List championing 50 amateur 'movement' leaders
Ubisoft: Tales from the Dark Zone for launch of Tom Clancy’s The Division 2
The PR team is currently structured into two smaller teams (or ‘columns’) of around 15 people, specialising in different areas and typically looking after 10 clients or so. We also have a film column, events column and design column.
We try to keep teams small and working on a maximum of three clients, so that they are able to get under the skin of the business and can offer intelligent consultancy and great client servicing. A good PR will have a general knowledge of all areas of the job, but we do have specialists heading up strategy, creative, production and connection.
Inside The Academy
We’ve worked really hard to build a network of creatives to help make work that passes into popular culture. Many are from non-commercial backgrounds and we tend to think of them more as creative collaborators. We do have a bank of more traditional freelancers we can call in should big projects land at the same time.
No single day is the same and there are plenty of unusual roles that crop up, whether that’s selecting a playlist for an A-list celeb party, or hanging out of a helicopter trying to get the perfect end shot for a film.
We’re passionate to break down any kind of barrier that prevents people from any background entering the PR industry. The discipline needs a diverse and representative workforce so we’re always open to interns, apprentices and placement schemes.
Inside The Academy
The Academy office
Environment and Culture
We’re based near Exmouth Market, which is generally a bit quieter than central London and with access to a few more green spaces – plus great food that’s good for the mind.
We offer the typical benefits – gym membership, company physical health cover and Amazon Prime (for a client) – but also perhaps less common benefits, such as mindfulness, nutritionists, financial advisors and a ‘learn something new’ fund.
“Every six weeks we’ll take the agency on a creative outing to inspire the team’s minds at the company’s expense.”
Every six weeks we’ll take the agency on a creative outing to inspire the team’s minds at the company’s expense. Then every Friday we host a ‘Lunch & Learn’, where we either teach a practical lesson or invite inspiring creatives or businesspeople in to share their stories.
We have people who put on their own events, perform comedy and make films, but I would say that we actively encourage people to fulfil their passions in their day job. It’s such a brilliant industry to be involved in, as we’re communicating to people like us, so if you have a burning desire to work with someone or make something, you can usually find a client brief that will pay for it.
Meet some of The Academy team
Neil Broderick, Associate Director (previously Senior Account Director, Account Director since 2014)
Previous Employment: Mischief PR
Graduated from Dublin City University (DCU) in 2009
“I’ve worked with the agency founders Mitch Kaye and Dan Glover for nearly ten years, having spent almost five years at their previous agency, Mischief. I was probably a bit fortunate that they took a shot on a young lad from Ireland back in 2010, but I like to think I showed that I shared the same ambition to be the best, to do the most creatively effective work in the industry and to push the boundaries of what PR can actually do.
“I love that something from my head, from the team or from our building can become something that gets talked about all over the world and fortunately we have a lot of talented, creative minds who share the same passion.”
Sophie Pettifer, Account Director (previously Senior Account Manager since 2016)
Previous Employment: First job
Graduated from Loughborough University in 2012
“I was doing an initial two-week work experience placement and, at the end of the first week I was offered a permanent role at another agency. I knew I couldn’t turn down a permanent role, but I also knew I wanted to stay right where I was, so that day I told my then-director and she put a contract on my desk the next morning.
“I said yes to everything that came my way, I listened and asked questions which meant I learnt quickly and could do more and more for my teams; be a sponge, absorb everything around you and then apply it. And be a nice person while you do it! That makes you memorable.”
Lynn Irungu, PR Graduate (placement year)
Previous Employment: Nursing Assistant
Graduating from Birmingham City University in 2021
“I’ve been supporting my different teams with planning, reporting, liaising with media and assisting with events and productions.
“I was on the hunt for a placement, much like a lot of uni students in my year – it was a painful process to say the least. I really wanted to do my placement in London, so I began my search for the right fit and I was immediately drawn to The Academy after seeing the work that they did.”
Will Norman, Creative since 2018
Previous Employment: First Job
Graduated from University of Sussex in 2017
“I work as part of the production team to create anything from set-based commercials, documentary pieces, event films, wrap films, filmed podcasts, voxpop interviews, stop-motion films, animations and GIFS. I’m constantly on my toes, exploring all areas of production and sharpening my filmmaking toolkit.
“It’s an incredibly exciting role, particularly for someone at the early stages of their career. Each job brings new challenges, which I welcome enthusiastically.”
Stay tuned to read full interviews with selected team members in the coming weeks.
The Academy is a Lecture in Progress agency partner. Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]