Memory Lane: mapping the psychogeography of a life in PR

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My daily life in PR hasn’t changed much for the past two years at Nielsen McAllister – but recently, I’ve been noticing something new on my daily commute.

My route into the centre of Derby always takes me past one of the properties owned by serviced apartment provider The Stay Company, and the offices of Derby’s Business Improvement Districts. Both (or all three) organisations are clients of Nielsen McAllister.

In recent weeks, they’ve been joined by more landmarks: the Cubo building, home to Work Wallet, and a smattering of hoardings that mark properties being leased by cope&co. If you hadn’t figured out the link, we’ve recently started working both with Work Wallet and cope&co.

There are two takeaways from this. The first, and most obvious, is that we’re growing our profile – and therefore our client portfolio – on our own doorstep In Derby. Great news, of course, but not what this blog is about.

My second takeaway is a reminder that agency life is also a matter of geography – or, to be more precise, the principle of psychogeography.  This concept is best described as the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behaviours of individuals.

In my case, it’s the psychogeography of my life in PR.

I can’t go anywhere in the United Kingdom (and, occasionally, beyond it) without seeing traces of work I’m doing or have done in the past. There’s a corridor of the A38 where, within five minutes, I pass the premises of three companies I’ve been involved with in a past life (as well as one of my current clients!).

I can take similar trips down memory lane on the M40 or along the A14; the latter memories are so indelible that I still get confused at the new road layout. For some reason, nearly every client I’ve ever had in central London has their base near London Bridge. And, when I worked for an agency that specialised in the glazing sector, half my working week could be spent traipsing up the M6 to Lancashire.

To some extent, a road-based life in PR is being replaced by conference calls on Teams, Zoom or the like. There are benefits to this: it’s better for the environment, plus it makes for more efficient time management. Yet there are also downsides, notably the reduction in face-to-face meetings, so important for building relationships.

To this I’d add the loss of psychogeography. While it’s easy enough to measure career success by recalling the performance of specific campaigns or content, there’s a particular frisson I get when I pass a particular building, which brings the entire relationship back into sharp focus. Not only the people, but the layout of a production line or (very important this) the quality of the victuals they offer to visitors.

This isn’t just about offices or factories, by the way. One game I like to play on the road is to spot the branded van or lorry of a past or current client, although this is something that’s going to become much easier since we began working with a logistics specialist. Likewise, when we work with Britain’s biggest manufacturer of tree shelters, there aren’t many corners of the U.K. I can go without seeing their tell-tale, cylindrical profile.

So far, this blog has taken the ‘geography’ side of things rather literally, but it’s difficult to go anywhere without a psychogeographical haunting. When I first worked at Nielsen McAllister, our main client manufactured packaging for some of the world’s biggest brands. Often they would stamp their distinctive logo (a series of concentric squares) onto the underside of a soup pot or paint can. For years, I couldn’t walk around a supermarket or DIY store without suddenly lurching to the shelves to check if… yes, it’s one of ours.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I’m a nightmare to be around at such times: a one-man memoir of B2B marketing, droning on about his life in PR. So, I’d like to dedicate this blog to my wife, who has heard the “I work(ed) with them” line so often it’s a wonder she’s not ripped out my tongue.

But until that happens, you can find me on my commute, looking at the various brands I pass and wondering if I should find out if they need any PR support.

If you’d like to add to Simon’s memories by becoming a client, please email hello@nmpr.co.uk

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