What I have learned: MD Jo Patterson on her journey so far

From not sweating the small stuff to creating a thriving company culture

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PR and communications group 3 Monkeys Zeno are part of the wider global PR company the Zeno Group. We sat down with 3 Monkey’s managing director Jo Patterson to find out what it’s really like to manage a successful and bustling communications company, her hopes for the future of 3 Monkeys, as well as a run through of her busy day-to-day. See what Jo had to say right here!  

Tell us a little bit about your role at 3 Monkeys Zeno?
Being an MD is a bit like being an air traffic controller, there are always things coming in and out of the agency and it’s my job to try to orchestrate them. Incoming might be things like pitching and new business, bringing in new ideas for training and supporting our people, or finding new folks to join the agency. Stuff that goes out includes campaigns and work for clients, our marketing and social content, and working with industry partners like trade titles and networking groups. My job is to (try to!) keep everything in the air and help to control the flow.

What does your day-to-day look like? 
It’s cheesy to say it, but every day is different. What is consistent is the fact they usually involve spending lots of time talking. To clients, teams, colleagues around the world. Often we’re problem-solving and figuring things out – is this a creative idea for a campaign, how can we innovate, how can we make sure we’re helping people get the most from work? My brain is stretched in all sorts of ways every day and I never stop learning.

What has been your highlight so far working at the company?
Most of my time here has been spent during lockdown so I’m STILL getting to meet everyone IRL. They are always taller or shorter than I imagine! And getting to know people better. People make great PR agencies, their energy, humour, smarts and sass. I’m still a relative newbie so love finding out about the quirks and qualities of some of our folks. For example, one of our associate directors is a burlesque dancer… Oh, and winning an award for Best International Campaign at our annual industry gongs. That was pretty special. 

If you could give your younger self one bit of career advice, what would it be? 
I’d remind myself that 95% of the things you worry about don’t happen. I heard this a few years ago and it stayed with me. I don’t know if it's a scientific ‘fact’, but I go back to it when I’m overthinking or fretting unnecessarily, it’s such wasted energy. One of the things I say to people now, a lot, is don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s taken me 30 odd years to figure it out but it’s good advice. Channel your passion and time on the things that will make you proud, content and a better human being. And don’t worry about what anyone else might think.

What are your hopes for the future of 3 Monkeys Zeno?
That we grow and prosper culturally as well as commercially. Like most industries, PR and comms took a bit of a beating during Covid but exciting briefs and opportunities are heading back. I want 3MZ to be a place where we deliver ambitious work that makes a difference, where our people are stretched and satisfied, and most importantly to continue to create an environment where everyone – regardless of where they come from and what they look and sound like - can contribute and express themselves freely and equally.

How would you describe the company culture? 
Fun, supportive and honest. It’s been tough keeping spirits high over the last couple of years and we’ve really had to be imaginative to keep everyone feeling connected. From team portraits on tea towels to socially distanced softball and finally our delayed summer party – Boatchella, we work hard to keep our energy levels high. We’re also an honest bunch and everyone’s opinion matters, so we’re constantly asking our folks to tell us what they think – about how we support people, how we recruit, even where we move to next (a new office is on the cards). Everyone is in it together at 3MZ, so it’s important we decide who we want to be and how we show up in the world collectively. 

What’s your favourite part of the job? 
I still get very, very excited by great ideas. PR is about connecting brands with people. To try or buy that brand, or think differently or positively about it. That’s a wide remit and it means we’re able to do amazing things. That might be working with talent to create an irresistible piece of content, it might be campaigning to change something that needs improving. Often we work with senior business leaders and organisations who are unsure how to show up in a complex and increasingly fraught world. We help them communicate positive change, through what they say but more importantly what they do. Sometimes the ideas are joyful, others are more serious. But getting to them is the thing I love the most about my job, and then seeing them happen. 

What’s something about your role that people might not know?
I think there’s an expectation that to be an MD or a CEO you have to be brilliant at everything. That is absolutely not the case and leads to unrealistic pressure, especially for women - the ‘superwoman’ myth. There are many things I am completely rubbish at, the trick is finding people who are great at them and then working side by side. No one is brilliant at everything (and if they tell you that, they are lying). So make the most of your strengths, acknowledge your weaknesses and find people you trust to get in harness with you. We are so much better together.

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