Michael Evans, managing partner at Madano, discusses the agency’s 15th anniversary, how Madano has evolved, and the importance of proving outcomes in comms.
Madano is celebrating its 15th anniversary, what has been the secret to the agency’s success?
We recognised clients needed more rounded, strategic support beyond simply messaging and execution. For us, that has involved robust insight, creative ideas and strategic thinking, that combines with deep sector knowledge to help our clients navigate through complex challenges, build brand awareness, manage reputation and, ultimately, win work. Over time our model has evolved in response to client needs.
The agency’s founding vision was based upon an insight-led integrated comms approach, given the industry is moving in this direction, has that vision been validated?
Definitely. The communications landscape has changed massively over the past decade but we always stuck to the position of how best to add value to our clients. Core functions like media relations and public affairs remain important levers for communicating a message and managing reputation.
But often it can be easy to become preoccupied with delivery and outputs and lose focus on what the fundamental communications challenge is faced by the client. It may require the tried and tested tactics, but it may require an entirely different mechanism to persuade or even identify key audiences. Insights for insights sake is pointless – but we focus on truly understanding a client’s challenge and figuring out the right way to solve it.
How has the vision evolved over the past 15 years?
It has had to in terms of what we emphasise – we have had so much change during that time and so have our clients.
While clients do value communications differently, we’ve retained our core philosophy to truly understand the clients’ challenge. This has led to us being more explicit about offering integrated communications, embedding insights into what we do rather than adding on.
What’s been the biggest change in your time at the agency?
People. Hiring the best and keeping them engaged – we’ve managed to introduce some innovative ways of attracting the best people into the business and built a culture that means people have wanted to stay for a long time. But as we grow, it remains our biggest challenge.
How is the agency positioning itself for the next 15 years?
Our vision for the future is to be helping clients who are solving the big global challenges of the 21st century: curing cancer; emission-free air travel; solving nuclear fusion.
Off the back of this vision, we have just launched a five year strategy which will see the business double in size. This will mean working with the clients solving these challenges through disrupting industries and markets as well as those forward-looking incumbents that know they need to change.
So we’re helping define the future. What I mean by that is our clients are solving some of the world’s biggest challenges and we’re helping them tell the clear and compelling stories that are crucial to the success of these ventures.
Solutions to these challenges are often complex, but the communications have to be simple; the timeframe for these solutions may be 15 years off, but we have to create excitement and urgency now to give these companies a license to operate. These are two things we’re really good at and will drive our growth for the next five years.
In communications we can be self-deprecating about our work, and Madano definitely has an irreverent streak and a ‘militantly down-to-earth’ approach, but we should be proud of the work we do as it is crucial to public acceptance and understanding in areas like healthcare, energy, the environment and technology.
How do you look to measure your work?
There’s no one size fits all to measurement and evaluation. But we have a few key principles. We focus on proper strategic objective setting at the outset of a programme – don’t wait until the end to decide what good looks like.
We also demand a focus on outcomes not outputs from our programmes and our clients – don’t just count what you did, demonstrate what changed as a result of what you did. And while we know we have to be pragmatic and creative given budget constraints, we want to push the whole industry on to better measurement and incentivising the right behaviours to demonstrate and deliver real value and impact – otherwise if we’re not delivering value, the existence of communications functions and budgets are rightly at stake.
Finally, what has been your most memorable moment at Madano?
We’ve had a lot of great moments but I honestly think the past year has been the most fun – we have grown 25% year on year, brought in some amazing people, seen others grow into their roles and won some pretty amazing mandates.
Being approached by organisations because they have heard of your great work is such a buzz and shows we are doing something right.