I can’t quite believe I’ve been with Maxim for two decades. My career in PR wasn’t planned (I’d trained to be a primary school teacher) and when I first joined I only had a year’s experience at another agency, something I’d fallen into to clear a little debt after university.
I still remember my first day at Maxim – and many of them since – so this is a list of memorable moments, which doesn’t mean they were always good. There have been tears and tantrums (not necessarily mine) but overall, it’s been fun.*
*Disclaimer: it sounds like we spend a lot of time at events. PR isn’t the glamourous job you might perceive it to be but it turns out sitting at a desk for 90 per cent of the time isn’t as memorable as getting out and about.
1. I’ve had to buy a lot of strange things for work over the years, ranging from 25 children’s school shirts (which I then had to iron!) for a Stagecoach South East campaign, to hundreds of bananas to hand out at a B2B exhibition in 2007. It’s the latter that really sticks in my mind as I will never forget the looks people gave me as I wheeled an entire trolley full round Tesco and then had to count them at the checkout. It was worth it: they went down a storm as everyone else was handing out sweets and we had a healthy alternative.
2. I love dealing with the media and have always prided myself on being able to get on with most journalists. I can’t say the same for advertising reps, particularly the one who called me and threatened to use the telephone wire to strangle me after an error at his end meant the press release I’d faxed (yes, I’m old) had turned into hundreds of pages of code.
3. Talking of journalists, I will never forget a very senior member of the Kent media pointing out a shop window full of sex toys on a day trip to Amsterdam. We were working for Manston Airport at the time and had organised a press trip to wine, dine and demonstrate a new route from Thanet to Schipol. I also got to sit in a giant clog.
4. I’ve always loved event management but there’s one particular IT exhibition that wasn’t quite the success it should have been, largely due to the huge amounts of snow that fell the day before. Listening to the local radio en route to Thanet, we were told to travel only if necessary, but by then it was too late. To make matters worse, mid-journey the heater and windscreen wipers stopped working so it was my job to clear the windscreen with a roll of paper towel. Needless to say, not many people turned up to the exhibition but at least we made it home safely.
5. I haven’t travelled much for work but I was lucky enough to visit Finland, where play and fitness equipment provider Lappset is based. We had a brilliant few days touring the factory and trying out some new parkour equipment, but the highlight for me was meeting the real Father Christmas in Lapland. (He really was The One, don’t even consider arguing with me about this.)
6. Lappset also took me to the Finnish Ambassador’s residence in London for the launch of Angry Birds Activity Parks in the UK, and then to Nottinghamshire in 2012 where the first park opened. As well as being a lot of fun, these events were memorable for the huge amount of worldwide media coverage they generated. To this day, I’ve not played Angry Birds but they do bring back happy memories.
7. As mentioned above, PR is not the glamourous job you might think. This fact was confirmed to me when a colleague announced “I bet I’m the first person here to get ‘anal glands’ into a press release”. (For those who don’t know what this means, you are lucky.) In case you were wondering, she was writing a case study on a dog grooming parlour that had received support from Business Link Kent, one of our first clients.
8. I’m not a fan of heights, so when Stagecoach South East told me they wanted to promote a new route from Canterbury to the O2 I was a little nervous. After ordering a life-size cut out of Westlife’s Shane Filan (it made sense at the time), I got to work organising a press trip that involved climbing over the former millennium dome. I didn’t love it but I did do it – and it was certainly memorable. Kudos to Stagecoach’s MD who rushed off to buy drinks for everyone for the trip home.
9. Not all memories are good ones. Being in comms, I’m much happier dealing with words than numbers, so it was a particularly bad day when I was faced with numerous spreadsheets and charts for an annual report. I was struggling to make sense of it and became frustrated, which led to tears – lots of them.
10. I can’t really write a list of memorable moments without mentioning my husband Tim. We met when we joined Maxim within three weeks of each other but we didn’t get together for another two years. When we got married on a Friday afternoon in 2007, the office was closed so everyone could come along.
11. While we’re on the subject of weddings, our work for E.ON on the Hoo Peninsula led to a rather random proposal. We held numerous public exhibitions to inform local people about proposed changes at local power stations, often in the local working men’s club. The handyman, who must have been at least 30 years my senior, took a bit of a shine to me but it was still a shock when he actually proposed. Fortunately I was already engaged to Tim at the time.
12. In 2015 we organised the first Kent Press & Broadcast Awards, which continues to be a favourite part of my job. It’s a not-for-profit scheme that recognises and rewards local journalism and while it’s a lot of work, seeing how happy people are just to be shortlisted makes it all worthwhile. I have a lot of amazing memories related to KPBA but the outstanding one has to be the two journalists who were so pleased to win that they stripped down to their pants and ran onto the cricket pitch where the ceremony was being held. We won’t subject you to a picture of that (although I am open to bribes) so here are some happy winners instead.
13. Another favourite part of my job is working for the NHS. It has always felt like a privilege, but working full time for NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group for 15 months during the pandemic was something else. I loved being able to make a difference by playing a very small part in the response to Covid and it certainly put my crisis communications skills to the test. It also earned us a very nice testimonial.
14. When Tim and I first thought about getting a dog, I checked with Maxim to see if it would be OK to bring her in one day a week. Alice was a hit and it wasn’t long before I was met with a very disappointed “Oh, it’s just you” if I turned up to the office without her. She soon became part of the team and as she genuinely makes everyone smile, she is officially known as our chief morale officer.
15. It’s hard to believe that when I applied for my job at Maxim, there was one shared email address for the whole team and no such thing as social media. I’ve started all of our social channels over the years and there have been numerous memorable moments. I’m a great believer in the power of engagement and will not apologise for one of our most popular posts being a discussion about what to put on a crumpet. There’s a lot to be said for small talk with journalists, clients and stakeholders – you never know where it might lead.
16. One of the largest events I’ve ever attended was Her Majesty The Queen’s visit to Royal British Legion Industries’ (RBLI) Aylesford site to mark the charity’s 100th anniversary. I was helping to manage the press (I’ve never seen so many photographers fight for the perfect shot) but I never quite got my head around the number of people involved or the hours that went into preparing for Her Majesty’s visit. I’d worked on a Royal visit years before but nothing compares to the organisation that comes with a visit from The Queen.
17. As well as working with clients, I also take the lead on a lot of Maxim projects such as our ever-popular desktop calendars and the Christmas competitions. Nothing makes me happier than when I get an email from someone requesting a calendar as they’re jealous of colleagues who have one. Working on our Christmas competitions often gives me a chance to be creative; my favourites have been those where I break out my miniatures, borrow some LEGO Minifigures and create some memorable scenes. Pictured below are news stories from 2016.
18. Over the years, the vast majority of Maxim employees have been ex-journalists, including my husband. That means I’ve been able to pick up numerous tips from them on how the media works, but that’s not a substitute for visiting a newsroom. Watching BBC South East being broadcast from the gallery and being present for the editor’s feedback afterwards was a day I’ll never forget (spoiler alert: there are extremely high standards). I was also lucky enough to spend an afternoon with the Kent & Sussex Courier – where I got my first byline – and to have a day with the team at ITV Meridian where I attended the morning news meeting, went out with a reporter and even had a stab at writing some headlines (which was a lot harder than you might think).
19. I’m a great believer in celebrating the good times and recognising important anniversaries, so in 2015 we arranged a surprise gathering for the company founders to mark Maxim’s 20th anniversary. Most of our ex-employees came along and more than 60 people – including staff, clients and suppliers – contributed to a book of photos and messages congratulating Andrew and Philip. We also had masks made so when they entered the pub they were faced with a room full of lookalikes – something I will never forget.
20. It seems only right to finish on becoming a director, which happened to coincide with my 20th anniversary at Maxim. Being a PR agency, we really wanted to get some media coverage for the announcement which means having an eye-catching, professionally-taken photograph to accompany your press release. I had the bright idea (!) of creating some oversized children’s building blocks to represent how we are building the company and to show our services, but I hadn’t quite realised how long they would take to make. They seemed to do the trick though as we achieved the coverage we wanted.
So that’s my 20 most memorable moments to date – there are many more but most of them aren’t suitable for public consumption. The last two decades have flown by and I’ve had some amazing experiences, meeting some wonderful people along the way. Pop back in 2041 to read the next instalment of my memorable moments!
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