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Purple Sherbet: Boutique in all but delivery

The use of a public relations agency will bring a dedication to your business you didn’t know was possible. Here, Lisa Powlesland, managing director of Purple Sherbet, takes us through how her team is tenacious, and hell bent on overdelivering for their clients.

Tell me about the creation of Purple Sherbet, what gap in the market does it fill?

The business was set up a decade ago. It was given a total revamp in terms of branding and strategic focus seven years ago when the business changed hands.

Our point-of-difference? We’re boutique by size but not by delivery. Our extensive experience covers a broad range of marcomms touch points, while our agile working style delivers the cut through of a big agency. Purple Sherbet’s results certainly stand by this.

Lisa Powlesland

Our senior team hail from marketing backgrounds, so we tend to approach our work with a broader strategic lens than traditional PR agencies might. We have a diverse mix of corporate and consumer clients ranging from Local Government and infrastructure through to lifestyle and advocacy.

We always endeavour to be true to ourselves and won’t just take a client on for the sake of it if we don’t feel they are values-aligned and a good fit for our agency.

This is reflective of our current client base, all organisations consciously working to make their slice of the world a better place for their customers, staff and broader stakeholders.

Our hearts sing just as loudly when we amplify the stories of a pro bono client like Orange Sky, as they do when we deliver amazing campaigns for our corporate clients.

Purple Sherbet aspires to be the best boutique agency we can, while staying true to our values of honesty, integrity, and authenticity.

What are some of Purple Sherbet’s strengths / what do you think Purple Sherbet does to put itself ahead of the competition?

It’s what our clients consistently say about us: our attitude and our results.

The team is tenacious, and hell bent on overdelivering. We treat our suppliers and clients in a way that we would want to be treated ourselves. It should be a fundamental in any business really.

This makes us focus on doing the best work we possibly can for our clients and continuing to shape our agency into one our team feel proud to be part of every single day. That’s the yardstick we measure our success by.

We don’t want our staff working 14-hour days and burning out just so that we can get our revenue up. We do want our team to be able to do parent help at school and visit a friend in need during work hours, without asking permission from the boss. It’s about treating people like adults and trusting them to get the work done at a time that works best for them, which may well not be during ‘normal’ work hours. Our workplace flexibility over the last seven years has seen us build up an incredibly loyal team of which we are immensely proud.

We don’t aspire to be ‘seen’ so you won’t see us in the front row at NZ Fashion Week or the latest bar opening. You are far more likely to see our team in a high-vis vest directing a video shoot at a Waste Water Treatment Plant or a range of infrastructure projects. Outside the City Mission filming a Seven Sharp story to profile the life-changing work of charity for the homeless, Orange Sky. Or at the Rainbow Excellence Awards being held in Auckland on 9 Oct (couldn’t resist the plug), sharing stories of organisations that understand that their people are their most important asset.

Lastly, our agility means we adapt and evolve our business model to ensure that everything we are doing aligns with our clients’ needs and objectives. This is particularly relevant in the digital space.

Would you say Purple Sherbet is a ‘Traditional’ PR agency, why or why not?

I don’t think there are any ‘Traditional PR’ agencies left or if they are their days are numbered. Our craft as storytellers has never been more relevant but it’s the platforms that carry this content that have changed. This represents an exciting opportunity for our business and for our industry as a whole.

Why do you think it’s of growing importance for a PR agency to have a full-service offering?

There are a variety of ways to deliver a full-service offering. We have rock solid relationships with a range of extraordinary specialists such as videographers, large- scale event managers and graphic designers, who are always passionate and never become complacent. There are also cost benefits for clients with this approach, with more flexible and competitive rate cards on offer.

Tell me about some of the biggest challenges you are facing in this current landscape?

We pride ourselves on being agile and the COVID-19 crisis has demanded just that – think smart and be flexible.

In the week leading up to lockdown we watched in horror as a huge chunk of our client base lost their revenue overnight. It was like shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic waiting for the flow on effect which happened within a few days as 80% of our revenue simply disappeared.

But like everyone else, we quickly swung into survival mode. Lifelines quickly arrived by way of support from incredibly loyal staff, clients and industry friends. It is our investment in strong, long term relationships that continues to help us to weather this storm. For instance, some of our clients have moved forward projects that were scheduled for later in the year. The need for COVID-19 communications has also prompted urgent work from other clients.

We also used the lockdown as an opportunity to do some of our own strategic planning and our team also started learning Te Reo which has been on the ‘To Do’ list for several years.

We have been humbled by the willingness of industry colleagues such as Scott Campbell and Fiona Cassidy to share their knowledge around iwi engagement via webinars facilitated by our industry body PRINZ who have really supported businesses like ours during this time.

What does the future look like for the New Zealand PR Industry?

The digital space has made it more competitive for the PR industry, as we now compete with a broader range of marcomms agencies also working in this space. The PR industry needs to step-up to this challenge and ensure they’re as digital savvy as any of its competitors.

PR has always been steeped in storytelling and third-party advocacy, which is the key role of platforms like social media. So our industry needs to get better at standing up and telling our own story. This has already started to happen and our voice will only get stronger in the future.

I also think we are going to see agencies with smaller core teams and a pool of specialist freelancers who are drafted in to fill the gaps allowing for capacity to be quickly scaled up or down as required.

New Zealand is a relatively small market and there are many ways that agencies can share costs on things like media monitoring and other support services to provide better economies of scale. Collaborating with likeminded agencies who have shared values makes perfect sense and that is definitely on our radar.

It has been heart wrenching over recent months to witness a number of respected PR agencies shut-up shop. We’ve also seen some highly talented journalists thrown onto the scrap heap as our traditional media market shrivels. Watching some of these people rise from the ashes to create their own content and comms agencies has been incredibly inspiring. They are testament to the fact that our industry will not only survive but it will continue to evolve and that’s going to be a win-win for everyone, including our clients.

To find out more visit; www.purplesherbet.co.nz

This story is part of a commercial StopPress series celebrating the ever changing PR landscape. To read more on Storyteller Month, click here.

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