Matt is Director of News & External Relations at TfL, where he runs the organisation’s Media Relations, Government Relations, Corporate Comms and Stakeholder Advocacy &Engagement departments.
In his nine years at TfL he has led media and PR work including the launch of London’s Night Tube, the 150 th anniversary of London Underground, and the launch of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone. The TfL Press Office was also named the best in-house PR team in the recent PR Week Awards.
For the last decade his team has run a paid internship encouraging BAME people into PR, and the programme has expanded this year to bring new diverse talent into other areas of comms.
Before TfL, Matt worked for the Mayor of London’s Press Office; two years under Ken Livingstone and two years under Boris Johnson. He has also worked in media relations for the children’s charity Barnardo’s and for the online political think tank Open Democracy.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
Londoner, loves politics and music.
● How did you get into PR/communications?
Like many other people, I stumbled into it! I’ve been into history and politics pretty much all my life and studied politics at university. After graduating with no fixed plan I did a range of weird jobs (including everything from children’s play scheme worker to recruitment consultant), before getting a break in a political organisation, Open Democracy. I somehow blagged a role looking after comms and the rest is history.
● What do you love about your job?
It’s never dull. I describe it as like having to solve a Rubik’s cube but, while you’re doing it, people keep coming up and putting new Rubik’s cubes on your desk. The great thing is working with an abundance of talented people who have usually solved most of the cubes by the time I rock up.
● What are you most proud of?
Surviving bringing up three kids and (hopefully) still being someone that most people don’t think is a d*ckhead.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That I was now too old for the lifestyle of an internationally-renowned musician (of which I had dreamt) to sound appealing anymore.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Simples. Victoria Harrison-Cook MBE and Sarah Gasson – my top team for whom I have total respect, love and trust. Aside from that, I’m a big fan of Alex Myers at Manifest and Joe Mackay-Sinclair at the Romans, who are both brilliant at what they do and also had my back when I tried to fight the UKIP press guy for using the N-word in my presence twice at a PR event.
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The first rule of PR: Do your own PR!
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Whatsapp. Because you get to communicate with people you both like and actually genuinely know, without being bombarded with ads for garden sheds or dolls’ houses.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
I don’t listen to a lot of them to be honest – I mainly multi-task listening to highly obscure music and reading newspapers, non-fiction or highly obscure novels.
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
The late Marie Colvin, who died showing the world the crimes of Assad’s Syria.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When you’re on your way up, treat people like you would want to be treated when you’re on your way down.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
Fail? Well, if the Home Office had anyone at hand who had read Akala’s seminal ‘Natives’ they probably would have avoided the disastrous chicken shop anti-knife crime campaign.
Yay? Everything involving Stormzy and his work to give better opportunities to BAME talent and everything involving single use plastic. Also, the brilliant campaign by German Rail to encourage people to Staycation.
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Join forces. There is brilliant and creative work going on in many different places, and at different organisations. For me the trick is to come together, share our experiences and try to work together to make change happen more quickly.
Matt is one of 18 mentors for the 2020 BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. Applications for mentees are now open – click here to find out more. The closing date for applications is Friday 14 February 2020.
Connect with Matt on LinkedIn.