Tom Manners | The Innovator 25 EMEA 2017
Charting the future of public relations

Innovator 25 EMEA - Tom MannersThe Innovator 25:

Tom Manners

MD

Clockwork Media 
Johannesburg

“We had no concept of what model or approach to apply, so we made our own up”

Launched just four years ago, South Africa's Clockwork Media has already reached $2m in fee income, with 75 staffers working for a consultancy that is focused on three key components — asking the right questions (research and strategy), creating great content (production) and sharing it with the world (PR, digital and influencer marketing). Led by 29-year-old founder and former tech journalist Tom Manners, the firm brings a refreshingly agile approach to its business, investing in such areas as as influencer marketing, video production and data analytics, helping it to already become one of the largest consultancies in the country. Manners, meanwhile, is not your typical agency entrepreneur, which may explain why he has been able to build a business that focuses as much on international markets as on South Africa. 

How do you define innovation?
It's a bit of an overwrought term these days. I suppose innovation is, at its heart, doing something differently. Innovation is about boiling complex problems down to their basic human truths, and then rebuilding the solution in a way that makes sense for today's world. It's a cyclical process. Constantly moving.   

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you’ve seen in the last 12 months?
Sanlam's Conspicuous Saving's Campaign.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
Netflix, KingJames.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider ‘innovative.’
Deciding to branch out into the UK without forgetting that we were — at our heart, a South African agency. Fusing the two has produced some really interesting results and solutions for clients such as Microsoft and has also enabled us to start working on global accounts. 

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Content & creative.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry’s level of innovation?
Lagging other disciplines.

Where do you see the greatest opportunity for marketing & PR to become more innovative?
Digital & ecommerce platforms.

Who most influences how innovative a brand’s marketing/PR is?
CEO. 

Who is your mentor and why?
My father — he is an entrepreneur and taught me the value of critical thinking. 

How do you find inspiration?
Travelling. I travel constantly for work. I find getting out of your 'natural habitat' has a tendency to highlight the parallels and differences between home and wherever I am. It's often in those moments that I find inspiration.  

What is your advice for people seeking to bring new ideas, ways of doing things to their organizations?
Build without preconception. We started our business as two journalists who had barely set foot in a PR agency, let alone worked in the world of advertising. We had no concept of what model or approach to apply, so we made our own up. I'd offer the same advice to anyone starting out. 

In your opinion, what’s the most innovative place in the world?
Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa.

What’s your favourite time of day and why?
5:30am — it's quiet, peaceful and full of promise. 

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