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The Communications Store: Strategic Brand Builder

BoF sits down with TCS partner Daniel Marks to discuss the company's new, funded internship programme and the importance of communication strategies in today’s world.
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  • BoF Team
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LONDON, United Kingdom — Daniel Marks joined Julietta Dexter and Tom Konig Oppenheimer at The Communications Store in 2002. Since its foundation in 1995, The Communications Store has established itself as a global leader in strategic brand development and communications strategy within the luxury goods sector. Creative thinking lies at the heart of both the agency's operations and its strategies, in addition to its focus on traditional standards of service and building long-term and trusted relationships with clients.

The company offers bespoke communications strategies to its clients — mapping a 360-degree view of customer interaction — be it through digital communication channels, retail or any other consumer touch point. As its brands' "guardians", TCS takes a leadership role in all aspects of its clients' brand communication, working across multiple industry sectors including Fashion, Beauty, Lifestyle, Travel, Consumer and Global, representing brands such as The Net-a-Porter Group, Charlotte Tilbury, Diageo, Versace, Acne Studios, Christopher Kane, Banana Republic, Ermenegildo Zegna and Erdem, among many more.

We sit down with TCS partner and director Daniel Marks to hear more.

How would you describe the role TCS plays in its clients’ businesses?

For 20 years we have been working alongside some of the world's most recognisable brands in luxury, consumer products and services. We work alongside chief executives, chief marketing officers and creative directors, understanding and listening to how they want to build their businesses, and how they want to communicate with their consumers. In the fashion division, for example, we might get involved all the way from sitting in a designer's studio, looking at how they develop a collection to bigger, global projects — such as launching Porter magazine or working with Universal Studios on the launch of the new Minions movie. Our strength lies in our partnerships with our clients, understanding their objectives and collaborating with them to build creative communications platforms. We count ourselves incredibly lucky to represent the brands that we represent and feel that we are their guardians.

It is our job to listen to the brand narrative, the brand story, the brand’s vision, and build from that a communications strategy. The key to what we do is the listening. It is our job to bring focus to communications and key brand messaging, to have the most impact possible on our brand’s target consumer. We listen, plan, often come up with creative ideas and then work together with the client to deliver those messages for a brand. Ultimately we are there to help drive consumers to engage with a brand — via both product and experience.

What about TCS sets it apart from other PR agencies?

We uphold traditional values of service and are creative strategic thinkers. Our industry is a service industry and that means taking care of our clients and their audiences. My business partners Tom Konig Oppenheimer and Julietta Dexter created a company where they saw the opportunity in letting specialists build their business within the existing structure of The Communications Store. We have a team that has amazing commitment, real passion, knowledge and experience, and they are not afraid of rolling up their sleeves either. I think that is what makes a good team an extraordinary team; their dedication and hard work can take a great brand and make it an extraordinary brand. We place enormous importance on both external and internal best practice. Looking after our colleagues as well as our clients is paramount to our success.

For some clients we work globally implementing and executing campaigns on the ground, together with local partners. Even though we are based in the UK we have a global reach. Global strategy, toolkits and communications assets are delivered from London, our local partners then execute in market and own their local media relationships — under the guidance of our strategy. We've worked with The Net-a-Porter Group for nearly ten years now and with Versace for longer — we pride ourselves on the trust those brands have in us. There is strength in those relationships. Long-term clients are the sign of extraordinarily valuable partnerships, something we take very seriously and something founded on trust — our aim is to build trust early in a client relationship.

How has the business of PR evolved in the digital age?

What we do has become increasingly important as a career, and it is at the heart of the strategies of the brands we work with. Our business is limited by the definition and understanding of the term “PR”. We are communications strategists and strategic brand builders. What is the difference? PR used to work with an end product or service, which was then handed to the PR company fully formed — now we work with our clients at the inception of products and services. We are there at the beginning of the story, we are part of the story and we deliver the story. We’ve also now got a multi-channelled media world to work in, which is much more diverse and exciting.

The digital era has allowed us to gain valuable insight into the consumer conversation around a brand and therefore how to communicate in a much more focused and targeted way. Digital informs everything that we do. Ultimately our work should bring relevant consumers to engaging content around a brand. Success doesn't always mean purchase. It could be an early adopter having their first experience of the brand in the digital sphere, creating aspiration and desire. The ability to broadcast to the consumer via multiple touch points is a real change from the way that PR used to operate. It is what defines the end of traditional PR, based on editorial, and the onset of brand development and communications.

Before we recommend anything to our clients we go out and listen to the conversation that's happening around their brand online. We are then able to tailor our communications authentically and credibly — straight into the heart of that conversation. That is really exciting for anybody who's looking to go into the communications industry. You have to be unbelievably close to your brands to understand them incredibly well. And, on the reverse side of that, you have to listen to the consumer and advise clients. We become the bridge between those two entities.

What are TCS’ goals over the next 3-5 years?

We have to be forward thinkers and never rest on our laurels. We have had the extraordinary opportunity to work with some amazing brands and I hope that continues into the future, but we don't take it for granted. The next three to five years will be about consolidating what we do, increasing our offer to our existing client base, and being open to new opportunities as they arise in whatever area they are.

Clients are coming to us for idea generation or problem solving throughout the communications process. We executed our first advertising campaign with Diageo for Ciroc — shot by Mario Testino. We have a growing creative division within TCS Studio and can oversee an advertising campaign, build a website or help a brand with its DNA. We see huge potential in the growth of our digital offer and we have a dynamic VIP team working with some of the most high profile brands and names in the world. We are also developing and growing our global and consumer teams and building our core areas of the business across beauty, fashion and lifestyle. One of our key areas of future growth is in creative content development. We are here to champion excellence in everything that our clients do and everything we do for them.  At the heart of that is producing exceptionally creative and engaging content for the consumer.

What talent are you seeking to achieve them?

We are always looking for the best talent to come and join us wherever they are, so long as they have a passion for what they do and an understanding of the communications world. When we interview people we want to see a spark of something in someone that we know will fit the culture here, but sometimes also disrupt it. We really look for individuals who can help grow and develop the business — and often teach and challenge us as business owners — the first and most important thing is that they are intelligent and service orientated, with great ideas and the commitment to execute them.

To help build an exciting future for The Communications Store we are delighted to be launching our search for the next generation of amazing talent with BoF, offering a new internship programme for four interns over the next twelve months. This includes accommodation in London underwritten by Empiric Student Property PLC.

The vision of TCS is to have extraordinary individuals and teams working with us and running different parts of the business. We want to share this business with the people who are building it today and into the future. There are members of our senior management team who have been with us from a very junior level, and have worked their way up through experience and hard work. That is incredibly rewarding and is about individual talent and dedication. I think, from our point of view, nothing really beats rolling up your sleeves and getting on with the job of delivering the best results to our clients alongside a team who respect and value each other. Furthermore, our remuneration and incentive schemes mean that those who really contribute to and drive the business are on interesting salary packages, have performance-related bonus schemes and ultimately can hold equity in the business too.

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