Luke Thompson is a Partner at Transmission Private and heads up the company’s Client Services team. Prior to joining the agency in 2019, he worked in corporate, consumer and political communications across the UK and Europe. We sat down with Luke to chat about his background, career progression, personal tidbits, and what he’s learnt along the way.
Where are you from?
Luke: I grew up on the east coast of Lincolnshire, not too far from the famous seaside town of Skegness.
How did you end up developing a career in PR?
Luke: It all started through my interest in politics, news, and the media. I became fascinated with the concept of ‘spin’, and more broadly, how politicians communicate with the public and how they leverage the media to promote their message. In my final year of university, I started working for a politician in a communications role. That was my first taste in the world of PR; it is where I learnt and honed my craft so to speak and it was a real baptism of fire. After three years or so, I left to join the private sector and started working in consumer and corporate PR.
What do you enjoy most about the work you do?
Luke: Hard to say, actually! I genuinely love what I do; it’s intense, complex, demanding, challenging, yet those are all of the reasons why I do it. If I had to pinpoint one thing, it would be having the opportunity to work with extremely successful and interesting people. I love sitting down with a client, understanding their needs, problems and opportunities, and then advising them around it. The standard yardstick for success in PR is media coverage; with us, our clients are measuring success by the quality of advice we provide.
Also, I there is a real common sense of purpose within the team; and that is we are robustly pro-enterprise and entrepreneurship. We think the world is better, fairer, and richer because of successful entrepreneurs. Part of the job I enjoy is helping a client to communicate the great work they are doing in the world, be that through business, investments, or philanthropy. I think often wealthy individuals are defined in a 2D world by their wealth, and not what and how they contribute to society. It’s easy to look at someone successful and define them by their wealth and assets, but most successful entrepreneurs are self-made, amass their wealth by taking risks 99.9% of us wouldn’t dare to take, and make a huge, often hidden, contribution to the world in varied forms.
What is the most important PR & Media trend you see today?
Luke: There are several ongoing trends defining the wider PR industry. Reduced sales of print newspapers and the growth of online media; the scaling back of staff headcount in newsrooms; the 24-hour news cycle; the emergence of ‘street journalist’; the ability to communicate in new and different ways, and not solely through the external media.
Specific to our industry though, the big one is the growth in online media and how that plays out in managing your reputation and how you are perceived by colleagues, peers, friends, journalists, and the wider public. The type of content that appears for a search of your name online is the modern-day litmus test for your reputation. It used to be what appeared in the newspaper and word of mouth; today it’s online. One negative piece of online news—even in a small publication—has more ability to damage your reputation than before because once it’s online, it’s in the public domain forever.
I must say that this is applicable to anyone and any business, not just private clients. The only difference is if you are successful, there will be more interest in you and your dealings. Part of my job is to encourage clients to think strategically about their online search, and I tell them that Google is a blank canvas; how can we optimise your search in the best possible way to manage and curate your reputation. This is all done in a way that respects their privacy and doesn’t overexpose them to the outside world.
Where is your favourite place to be?
Luke: Having grown up on the coast, I love being on a beach. For me, it’s the ultimate antidote to the City and I love spending time on it all year round. I love swimming in the sea, too—usually in the summer though. The cold water has so many physical and mental health benefits.
Whom do you admire most?
Luke: I admire a lot of people actually; friends, family, colleagues, but all for different reasons.
I admire people who have come through adversity, whatever that might be; those who have shown the resilience to succeed. I also admire great leaders, particularly those that channel their talent and qualities to make a positive impact. Sir David Attenborough comes to mind, who has devoted his life’s work to a cause he feels passionate about. He has probably had the greatest impact on one single issue in my lifetime.
Interestingly, I read about Chuck Feeney recently; the billionaire who gave away his multi-billion fortune to charitable causes during his lifetime. He tried to do it anonymously. I think that’s to be admired.
What is your personal philosophy?
Luke: Stay humble, treat everyone with respect, and work your way from the bottom to get to the top.
I really believe if you want something, you have to go out and get it. Sounds cliché. You can’t rely on luck or goodwill; expect no favours; it’s up to you to make it happen through your own initiative, proactivity, and hard work. I’ve always fallen back on that throughout my career and I think it’s held me in good stead.
One thing I am passionate about is that I believe everyone—no matter who you are, what do you, where you come from—has their own value to add and impact to create. The beauty of humanity is that we are all different; we all have something to contribute that is unique. Success is what you determine it is, not what other people think it is.
What advice do you have for someone interested in a career in PR?
Luke: The core of a PR job—or any job for that matter—is the ability to write compelling, quality content. It could be for blogs, website copy, articles, press releases or for social media channels. If you are interested in a career in PR, learn to write creatively and to a good standard.
Anyone working in PR will know that feeling of elation when you secure a great piece of coverage. In contrast, every PR will also know that feeling when your press release fails to secure any pick-up. I have been through both processes; the highs and the lows, and it’s invaluable for developing a career in communications. You learn the tricks for securing coverage that can only be taught by trial and error and jumping in the deep end.
Luke Thompson is a Partner at Transmission Private and heads up the company’s Client Services team. Prior to joining the agency in 2019, he worked in corporate, consumer and political communications across the UK and Europe, and worked for a Member of the European Parliament.