Davnet joined M&C Saatchi PR in late 2017 and as MD, shares responsibility for all client accounts (particularly on the commercial side of the relationships) with the rest of the UK Board members. Her passion is for great work, happy people (her team and clients) and ensuring everyone knows the value and impact of good PR!
Over the last two decades, prior to M&C, she was at the multi-award-winning boutique agency Unity for five years. Previous to that, Davnet was a Board Director at global integrated brand entertainment agency Cake (now part of Havas). Her last position was head of experiential (delivering groundbreaking work and positive outcomes for EE (then Orange), Coca Cola, Nintendo and Motorola amongst others).
As a freelance consultant, Davnet delivered the Olympic Torch Relay for Samsung, working closely with LOCOG in the planning and delivery of the 70 UK day tour.
She loves a good crisis and has worked across a variety of live music experiences (for example South West Four on Clapham Common) and large-scale participation events including the Deloitte Ride Across Britain in this capacity. Her only in-house stint was at the publishers, Penguin, marketing Classics to a new (non-academic) audience.
Apart from work, Davnet has many varied interests but if pressed, her favourite thing to do is open water swim with her bulldog and husband. She lives in West Green near Tottenham and is a bona fide Londoner.
Describe your background in 5 words max
Londoner, White, spiritually confused, European.
How did you get into PR and/communications?
I am one of two girls who was brought up by a single Mum with ambitions for her daughters. We lost my Dad when I was 11 and I had a couple of very serious years of being very grown up closely followed by rebellious (and highly enjoyable) teenage years. University hadn’t occurred to me. My mum cannily never mentioned it at home because she knew if it was her idea, I would probably reject it.
I switched to a Sixth Form college at 16 and after a year of A-levels, university was what all my new best mates were going to do next… At the time, there was no internet or social influencers other than mates, tutors and family. I spent an hour flicking through a UCAS book and a course at Leeds Met (now Leeds Beckett University) described a PR & Business Studies course. The only words I can remember now were: liking & being curious about people are musts. I (stupidly on reflection) just applied there to do a 4-year sandwich course with a year in industry.
It was the last year of the living and fees grants and I was incredibly lucky to both have support from my Mum (who was delighted I was studying…anything) and found I did actually enjoy most of the course content. My third year was a year-long placement. I applied for 100s and interviewed at Consolidated – and they offered me the job!
I was incredibly lucky to have a family home where I could affordably travel to their central London offices and work with some wonderful people and incredible clients (although I was slightly disappointed that the Diana Ross that was mentioned at interview turned out to be Dyno Rod. My listening skills have been honed since). I was totally clueless and blissfully unaware of hierarchy or professional social norms – hence me striking up an unlikely friendship with Alistair Gornall (the founder) and was thrilled to find a key part of my job seemed to be drinking in Soho at 2am with my boss (now Talker Tailor’s) Gary Wheeldon.
I was recently asked back to lecture students at Leeds Beckett – on the subject of Diversity & Inclusion and I was impressed at how clued up, committed and ambitious the students I met were.
It wasn’t a particularly conscious decision to go into PR but it was a very lucky decision and I have genuinely loved the places I have worked and the people I have worked with, over the last 20 years – so sometimes it pays off not to over think these things. Having said that, my student debt was in the region of £5k and it didn’t take me a life time to pay it off – so I was lucky in many more ways than that one decision.
What do you love about your job?
I have never stopped learning and have always worked with people who have generously taught me loads on daily basis. And I get to work (and have worked) with some incredibly talented people – I love that my role is to create the conditions for them to fulfil their potential. They are both true but slightly worthy. I also laugh my ass off most days.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud that I’ve resigned from two jobs in my career (without jobs to go to I might add), when I reached the stage where I felt my personal values were compromised. And for choosing a husband who didn’t once think this was reckless or crazy behaviour!).
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Sometimes people just don’t like you and that’s okay! I’m a strong character and I have been very lucky to have largely found work homes that have embraced lots of different people, styles and personalities – including mine. But there have been occasions where I’ve not been the right fit for someone (colleagues and clients!) and is a hard blow for a people pleaser like me to accept that.
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
I love Simon Moore – who I worked with at Cake when he was Creative Director of the UK business. He’s the biggest walking contradiction. Is very dry, loves misery and winding people up but is incredibly kind and genuinely interested in the lives of the people he works with.
And Rachel Friend from Weber – an ex-client and industry legend. She is one of the warmest people I’ve ever met and makes everyone feel like they are the most special person she’s ever met. She does all this and ruthlessly manages an incredibly successful business. Skills.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Ironically – relating to people. A basic understanding of how humans work and what makes us tick should be part of the training for all of us.
What is your favourite social network and why?
I don’t have a favourite. I think they are excellent tools for people that enjoy and embrace them, and clearly they can be utilised to deliver impactful results for organisations, brands and charities. And I live in a society that has free media absent from State controls – so appreciate their value. But I also fear the impact of what they are doing to self-esteem, real life relationships and culture. I sound about 90 saying that but I get a lot more from hours with people than hours with my nose in a feed.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
I can’t leave the house without a good 30 mins of the Today programme for a rounded take on what’s on the nation’s agenda, and Mishal Husain in particular for telling Boris to “Please stop talking” last year. Still mourning Jon Ronson’s writing for the Guardian but can at least get his dry wit and insight from his book collection now.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Be your own barometer of success… there will always be people better off than you, and worse off than you, in every imaginable way. Focus on what makes you happy and try and not get distracted with how everyone else is doing.
And Don’t Be Shit (new boss’ sage advice to the whole team).
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
I really liked the Lacoste – Save Our Species work where their famous croc was replaced by 10 endangered species. A great way for the brand to promote their partnership with the charity (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and secure blanket, global awareness for both parties. I’m not a big fan of slagging other people’s work, but although the recent Greggs campaign ‘Gregory & Gregory’ was undeniably a PR hit, I groaned at the lack of originality.
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
My take, it certainly isn’t tokenistic where I work. It is absolutely business critical and a creative necessary to have diversity of thought (and preaching to the converted here, but naturally we only get that with all kinds of people from different backgrounds, with different experience etc).
We talk about it a lot within our agency. As the PR business connected to the advertising business – we’re sensitive about it. To be transparent, we were on the ropes for a comment made on the subject in Campaign magazine last year from the ECD, Justin Tindall.
If you don’t recall or know, one of his comments (retracted and apologised for) was that he was ‘bored of diversity’.
What was most upsetting is it fundamentally doesn’t reflect the beliefs of that agency or groups of agencies, and it would be devastating for me for anyone from a ‘different’ background to reject us as an option off the back of this comment, because ‘diversity of thought is a creative necessity’ is one of their and our core values.
The ad agency’s global chief executive issued a statement to clarify the commitment to diversity and it’s worth a read. https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/m-c-saatchi-hangs-tindall-does-not-hinder-agencys-diversity-agenda/1449245
I am generally more interested in deeds not words, and after my first six months at the agency, I think we’re making the right moves in this area and have a great truly diverse team from bottom to top, but like most UK PR businesses, we can and must do more.
What advice would you give a talented BME PR Pro starting to think this sector will never give them the opportunities they deserve and are close to jacking it in to retrain as a doctor (which would make their African parents very happy)?
Oh no! This would break my heart. I don’t want to sound trite, but this has to be the time where the industry is most conscious and truly awakened to diversity, so hopefully opportunities are more open and genuine than ever before. Surely this has to be true?!
Finally, on a lighter note… We can’t wait to see you at the BME PR Pros Summer Party. What can the DJ play to get you on the dancefloor?
Rhianna’s Love in a Hopeless Place will get me on the floor. And naturally Beyoncé Run the World!
Connect with Davnet on LinkedIn.