First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Nicky Rudd: We’re all good – thank you! We’re no longer homeschooling, so things have got a bit easier.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Padua Communications.
Nicky Rudd: After 15 years of agency experience in PR and content marketing communications, I set up Padua Communications in 2009 to offer PR, marketing, content, and event management services for businesses who wanted to create a conversation with the media, existing customers, and new target audiences. I wanted to set up an agency that would be able to offer clients real value for money, especially as we were in the 2009 recession. From my previous experience in agencies, I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into one type of service. You can’t do PR without an understanding of marketing, and content for social and online needs to reflect those marketing and PR messages. I wanted to provide a service that saved clients time and money. Our content can be tailored for on or offline, and whenever we can, we write and place stories in publications that best suits a client’s target customer. That’s one of our USPs.
The business started really quickly! I started from home, used a variety of face to face and online marketing and PR methods, and then built the business from there. We now have offices in Surrey and Hampshire. Most of our work comes from recommendations, and this happened right from the setup. Also, I think we came to the market just as people were looking for affordable help with their content and communications.
How does Padua Communications innovate?
Nicky Rudd: We are always looking for new ways to assist businesses. In response to the pandemic, we have set up a new flexible range of products called the Dolce Vita range of marketing support services. The idea is that businesses are in charge of their marketing spend, so if they want a couple of hours helping with strategy, they can do that with the Duo package. If they then need some help with content, they can upgrade to the Otto package, but they can do this to suit their business needs. There’s no tie-in, and there’s complete flexibility and transparency.
We were looking to provide even more scope in the services we offer, and since launch, they have gone down really well. I guess one of the best ways to innovate is to listen and respond quickly – I think the way that our business is set up means we can remain agile and respond to customer needs quickly. Both Jason (my husband and business partner) and I both love technology. He loves looking for apps and time savers. I’m more interested in big tech trends – AI, machine learning, neuroscience in marketing. It’s a good mix of interests and a blend of ideas that feed into what we offer clients and how we run the business.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Nicky Rudd: We are based in the UK, and the first lockdown was hard because we were running the business and homeschooling our 6-year-old. There were some very long days and nights! We have been lucky as the pandemic has had an impact, but because of our set up, we were able to cope fairly easily. We gave up the office and moved it to our home, which has actually worked out better for us for now. We were already cloud-based, so used to meetings online. All of our systems are online, so we’ve been able to work from wherever since we started. Our model is based on outsourcing to a team that we’ve known for years, so that was already in place too. Also, we work with some brilliant people (colleagues and clients) and have great relationships with them. I think most people who work with us know how important delivering exceptional customer service is to us. We are extremely pro-active, we listen, we flex, and we’re creative. All of these qualities came to the fore in 2020, and I think clients respected that honesty and that we were absolutely there for them.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Nicky Rudd: I think one of the hardest lessons was the ‘back to basics’ nature that the pandemic has forced on everyone. For a creative entrepreneur, this is a great opportunity, but it is also frustrating to have to switch your longer-term plans with products and services. Covid feels like one of many major changing obstacles since we set up – there has been a recession, Brexit, and now the pandemic and more Brexit! I think the lesson about remaining agile and lean that we learned right at the start of setting Padua Communications up has been key. It’s something that we know a lot about and are used to sharing with clients who don’t know where to start when change hits them. This might be moving from more traditional marketing to doing more digital work or evolving a brand’s story – we’re used to doing lots of questioning and hand-holding.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Nicky Rudd: I live in an amazing part of the country, so I am blessed with the sea and a forest nearby to go for walks. I also do Pilates twice a week, and I carve out time every week for me to do something creative. At the moment, I’m doing an illustration course. I count myself very lucky – I have a brilliant, supportive family, amazing friends, and a superb network of collaborators and colleagues around me.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Nicky Rudd: There are hundreds of agencies but none with our experience or approach. And one of our target markets is agencies, where we provide content support. We did look at automated marketing a few years back, thinking that might be the competition, but we have worked with clients who have gone down that route, and ultimately, they need more content. I think we think differently about the content we create. We’re all ex-journalists, so we have a really good understanding of what makes a good story; we use a blend of B2C and B2B techniques, so our tone and language work really well for our clients. And with our marketing know-how, we try to blend creativity with strategy so that businesses who use us can see our results.
Your final thoughts?
Nicky Rudd: We’re living through changing times. If you are struggling, speak to a colleague. If you’re stuck for ideas, buy me a virtual tea, and I’ll see what I can do to unlock your potential and find your real story. And come and find me on LinkedIn.
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