The Ri5 interview: Peter Rice

The Ri5 interview: Peter Rice


Penna has undergone a number of operational and structural changes in the past 18 months or so, resulting in a shift of strategy and a new direction for the business.

Many of those changes have taken place within Penna’s recruitment solutions arm, into which Peter Rice was brought as head of brand in July 2013. Rice’s arrival at Penna coincided with the introduction of a new approach to its creative work, so we spoke to him to find out how the business has moved forward, as well as how his first 18 months at Penna have gone.

Looking back to 2013, Rice describes how Penna was looking to install a new creative structure. A new ‘creative consultant’ role was established, putting them at the heart of client relationships and enabling members of the creative team to play a much more active role with clients and projects.

But in practical terms, what is meant by the title of ‘creative consultant’, and how do they differ from other creatives in the industry?

“A creative consultant is a strategic figure who has a portfolio of clients – they’re part planner, part client partner, all creative”, says Rice. “There’s only a small percentage of people who are able to carry out this varied and complex role - there’s no mould for them.”

The move was a successful one. Rice describes how the new structure not only brought an extra level of dynamism and creativity to the bespoke solutions on offer, it allowed Penna to attract some of the best creatives in the industry. As 2015 kicks off, the agency is now in a position where it is looking to bring in more creative consultants, as well as a middleweight copywriter and art director.

In addition to the new creative structure, Rice was given responsibility for growing the areas of digital and research. And again, changes were made that helped team members to work to the best of their ability.

He says: “Over the past 12 months we’ve created a model where insight, strategy and creativity is the nucleus of what we do. We bring people in these roles together – they’re not in their own departments; they all sit together and work in a collaborative way – and that’s where the magic happens.”

In addition to these developments, Tristan Moakes was brought in from Work to oversee the digital side of things, and the team are currently looking for a head of insight. In Rice’s opinion, “Now is the time to look at how we can use data in a better way. There’s so much data in the business – Penna is obviously far more than just an attraction specialist – and that offers a great opportunity.”

Rice is adamant that Penna is now in a stronger position to target new clients, and this has been borne out in its work with organisations such as Aldi, HM Treasury, Haringey Council and Santander, among others.

“I think we’re certainly more confident,” he says. “We’re looking at doing things in the right way, and we’re also looking at producing our own proprietary tool for this kind of work. It’s not completed yet but it’s nearly there - we anticipate it’ll be launched at the end of March. It’s concerned with the whole EVP and employer brand side of our work and how we can achieve more for clients in the work we do.”

“Most agencies can only carry out work that relates to a part of the EVP. But the nature of Penna’s structure and divisions means we can help with all aspects of it – from attraction all the way through to exit. The Haringey project is a fantastic example of this. We did a piece of work for them, around leadership change, that’s been nominated for a number of awards. This is a great indication of the direction we’re heading in.”

As for the future, a recent company conference outlined the theme of ‘carrying on together’, a philosophy Rice is passionate about. In his view it underlines the existing efforts to work collaboratively and effectively, sharing knowledge in order to help people to do their best work.

Perhaps an unexpected embodiment of Penna’s new collaborative approach is ‘Fleet Place Mac’, a ten-piece band made up of colleagues from all corners of the Penna business, which was set up in late 2014 to play the company conference but subsequently went on to headline Penna’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Rice, who plays bass, says: “It’s been embraced by everyone around Penna. We’ve even had future bookings and there’s talk of us doing the odd corporate event or two. It’s bringing Penna people together, and potentially other people too.”

In Rice’s view, the band reflects the breaking down of the internal boundaries within the organisation, with a roster of musicians made up of people from disparate parts of the business who might previously not have shared a great deal of time together.

Looking further ahead, Rice anticipates more great work. As he says: “One thing I wanted to achieve when I joined was to make Penna a fantastically creative business. It’s not just about pure creativity, it’s about how we use the rest of the resources within Penna to do the best work.

“I’ve got big ambitions, but the ambitions of Penna are bigger than mine – the momentum I’ve felt since joining has been incredible; everyone is working so hard and the figures have been amazing. It’s been a phenomenal time – we’re working hard but we’re having fun.”

He concludes: “People actively contact us asking what’s going on here, because they’ve heard good things about Penna and they want to know why we’re all so happy! People are contacting us to open conversations with us, and that’s priceless – it’s exactly what we set out to achieve.”

Thursday, 22 January 2015

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(Showing 1 - 3 of 3)

Paul Cernicharo-Terol Date: Jan 22, 2015

Always loving your work Pete, think developing Create Amok with you and Tom was one of the most professionally satisfying projects I have ever worked.

David Thompson Date: Jan 23, 2015

Pete Brand - Head of Rice, we salute you!

Sinead Bunting Date: Jan 28, 2015

Always lovely to see a top bloke doing great things. Congratulations Pete!

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