FIVE MINUTES WITH JOHN HIGGINSON
Former Metro political editor John Higginson set up communications agency Higginson PR with his wife, former Good Morning Britain political correspondent Clodagh Higginson, early last year. He speaks exclusively to Communicate magazine about his latest endeavours in public opinion shaping.
How have you found the transition from journalism to communications?
John Higginson: With communications and journalism you’re essentially chasing the same buzz. You’re trying to get stuff into the media in both cases (usually!). But with journalism it’s all about the byline most of the time it is you alone getting it. In communications its about getting your client into publications more often it is a team effort. It feels more grown up to be thinking in that way. To get a buzz from knowing the person you work for is basking in the glory.
You ran the ‘Justice Delayed Justice Denied’ campaign limiting pre-charge police bail. What were the results?
JH: It was effective because first, we had a good personal angle – Clodagh, my wife, had been negatively affected. Second, we got a broad base of support, from across the political spectrum, which helped to drive down possible criticism of the change. Third, we focused all our energy onto one single thing, reducing time spent on pre-charge bail to one month. This made the change seem inevitable and easy to enact with multiple winners and few losers which enabled Theresa May to sign it off quickly.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced so far at Higginson PR?
JH: One of our biggest challenges is growing while maintaining standards. As an agency you are selling a promise. If you don’t live up to that promise it can hit your reputation. As a result of our success we have a number of organisations coming to us that want us to replicate. But we are a small agency to do that we have to hire excellent people who get great pleasure from delivering excellence for great clients. That may sound easy but it’s not. By it’s very nature excellence is not ordinary.
Tell me about the ‘Plastic Free Aisle’ campaign?
JH: We took the same approach that worked for ‘Justice Delayed Justice Denied’: broad support sticking religiously to a single demand for a plastic free aisle in supermarkets. There are huge numbers of single-use plastic issues we could divert our attention to: straws, consumer goods packaging, take-away packaging, etc. But we stick to our single mantra and our single target, the supermarkets. Change is hard. It takes persistence. If you try to do to much at once you’ll end up making a lot of noise but not changing anything. Getting Theresa May to support it is great. But it is not success in itself. We still need supermarkets to provide a plastic free aisle. We are close.
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