Happy 7th birthday, Hooton!
Hooton was born in May 2014. The (surprisingly straightforward) paperwork had been signed, sealed and delivered and I was suddenly the very proud – and pretty naive – founder of an Amsterdam-based PR agency.
Hooton was the result of a deep-held belief that there had to be a different way of “doing PR”. After 21 years in the business, working as a PR Director for some of the biggest agencies in Europe, I was tired of PR always being an afterthought. Sure, some people get it. Some people understand what a game-changer plugging the PR team in at the ideation stage of a project can be. But… most don’t. People would rock up, the day before a massive project was about to be launched, and say, “Hey, this is coming out tomorrow – can you, like, PR it?” I found it infuriating.
PR gets such a bad rep. The stereotypes about it being super-shallow, untrustworthy and all about spin are incredibly damaging: “Go send your press release and leave us to do the hard work”. TV shows like Absolutely Fabulous, The Thick of It and Veep, while hilarious, definitely play into that expectation of it being somehow either fluffy or sneaky. Yes, of course, there are good and bad people in the industry, just like there are everywhere, but PR is so much more complex and nuanced than it’s given credit for. Bringing a PR team in at the start of a project can alter the course of the whole campaign. You can create something groundbreaking that has a lasting impact on culture. Why? Because there’s no formula to PR when it's done well. You have to know your client, the product, the launch, the news and all cultural trends intimately. You have to know exactly what’s going on in that world and also have a keen idea of what might be coming up. You then also have to be able to tell a story that’s relevant and that is true to the company’s ethos. It’s a sophisticated process.
Hooton was born out of a desire to create an agency that truly valued PR and that would help other companies get the most out of it. From a one-woman show in 2014, we now have a staff of three full-timers, a network of freelancers, an office on a canal in the centre of Amsterdam and a growing roster of loyal clients who understand the power of good comms. I am incredibly proud that seven years after thinking, “I really need to give this a go”, Hooton has thrived while continuing to stay true to its commitment to working with companies that are trying to create positive change in their respective fields. Companies like Arch & Hook, which is trying to stop virgin plastic production; Ace & Tate - challenging the eyewear industry to be more sustainable; BETC - helping the regeneration of Greater Paris; WE ARE Pi - holding the ad industry accountable for its lack of diversity, and Zoku & CityHub - smashing travel industry conventions to set new hospitality standards.
I’m also proud that we have a lot of fun! PR provides the most amazing opportunities to travel, meet creative people, make unexpected connections, and experience moments of glamour. When Hooton launched a dance app by Black Swan choreographer (and yes, Natalie Portman’s husband) Benjamin Millepied in LA we, somewhat surreally, ended up hanging out with Quincy Jones. We’ve worked in London, New York, Barcelona, Berlin, Venice, Cannes and Paris. It’s been a really rich cultural journey. And I think that’s what I’m most excited about post-pandemic – the explosion of artistic creativity I think we’re going to see.
I’m very proud that Hooton navigated an incredibly tough 2020 and came out fighting. The sectors we work within – mainly travel, culture, retail and lifestyle – are, justifiably, still very nervous, but they’re starting to relax as restrictions relax. It’s actually a very exciting time to be working in the creative industry. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported Hooton along the way and who continues to do so.
So here’s to the next seven years! Seven more years of throwing ourselves into the unknown with the same nervous excitement (and hopefully also with a few more Quincy Jones parties thrown in).