Media: CV - Neil Reading Founder, Neil Reading PR

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The Independent Online
I wanted to go to drama school: I was always in school productions, and took classes at evening and weekends. I got two O-levels, and then went into the sixth form, but after a couple of months I felt I left.

I thought about going straight into drama school, but I was just 17, and they like you to have "seen a bit of life" first. So I decided to get a job for a year. At the time I had a Saturday job working at Underwoods the chemist, and I rang them to say I was giving it up to go and work for Lloyds Bank in London. But Underwoods' personnel people said they would get me a job at head office, as marketing assistant - doing PR, marketing and in-store promotions, which sounded far more interesting. Nine months into it, though, I was made redundant.

But that turned out to be a great blessing in disguise. I thought I'd like to do entertainment PR. I'd edited my school magazine - which had had a big entertainment section in it - so I knew some entertainment PRs, and went to see people like the directors of publicity of Twentieth Century Fox and Rank, and the head of press at CBS. They were all were really good to me, giving me advice and passing me on to other people. Eventually I was due to see Mark Borkowski. But he was in the middle of doing PR for Ian Botham's walk, and I was told he was so busy he couldn't see me for a month. I got back to him and said: "If you're that busy, there must be something I can do for you." He said he couldn't offer me anything over the phone, but the next day one of the partners of Beer Davies Publicity phoned, saying that Mark had told him about me and that he had a job going. I went in that afternoon at two o'clock, and started work at three.

At Beer Davies, I looked after clients like Viz Magazine, Hello!, Victoria Wood, Rory Bremner, Virgin Video and Channel 4 programmes like The Word. But my first project was looking after Pete Townsend, who had a video out, and I put a schedule of interviews together for him to promote it. It was all due to start on a Monday, but on the Friday evening his PA rang up and cancelled the whole week of interviews. And I had to ring up all the people whose shows he'd agreed to go on and cancel.

Beer Davies was great, but after a while my style of PR and theirs were moving away from each other. In 1992 I resigned, and the next day, I was offered three jobs, but I knew other agencies wanted me because of the clients I had. The equations didn't work out: they were offering me pounds 25,000 to work for them, yet I would be bringing in double that in business - so, at the age of 22, I decided to set up on my own.

I wasn't nervous about it; I just did it. One of my friends had an independent production company, and I rented an office within their office to begin with, before getting my own space. The client base began to grow - in particular, the list of personalities - and then, three years ago, I set up another company to do consumer PR, looking after clients such as BT.

The entertainment side went through the roof. I'm one of the only people who specialises in doing personal PR: in the States, everybody has a publicist as well as their agent and their manager, but over here, that's only come to be the case in more recent years. Most in-house PR departments are so overworked that they sometimes don't do an amazing job, and agents are not generally experienced at managing the media, and so more and more personalities want someone looking after them all year round. Now, we also look after people like Jonathan Ross, Michael Flatley, Jack Dee, Lee Evans, and Ben Elton.

We were also just asked by Greenpeace to be its PR consultant. I never thought we would have a client like that, but I've now become almost obsessive about it. And we've just set up another company called Arcadia Management, to manage Melinda Messenger, whom we've done PR for in the past. But PR is still my first love. If I was to take on another two or three people to manage, that would be enough for me. I don't want to diversify from PR that much.