Last night’s masterclass speaker, Patrick Keogh, claimed to be unbelievably daunted by the prospect of talking to large groups. Yet he had an air of calm as he perched before more than 50 students and discussed the state of publishing today, his habit of working within ‘cults’ and the business of extending your brand. All without the aid of notes, PowerPoint or any other props.
Keogh, who set up the Faber Academy in 2008, has recently moved to the Guardian newspaper. There he is developing his very own masterclasses in a range of areas. Keogh describes the transition with dry wit:
“I was always a member of a cult before. I feel like I’ve joined an even bigger one now.”
Whether you subscribe to the Faber or Guardian cults, there’s no doubt both media organisations have strong brands. Faber is the independent literary publishing house that once boasted TS Eliot as an editor; the Guardian has been described as the person at a party huddling “in the corner wearing a Greenpeace T shirt, dourly complaining about University politics”. And with strong brands – especially when your core business model is under pressure – come new business opportunities.
Keogh’s recipe for extending the cultish brands he feels at home with is short but smart. Just ask yourself three questions:
- What are your core values?
- What are you known for?
- How can you move that into an adjacent space?
The emphasis on adjacent is Keogh’s own. He points to BMW launching a high performance driving school and Sotheby’s entering the Fine Art education space as examples, but draws the line at Faber becoming a fashion brand. Mont Blanc on the other hand…
This approach appears to have worked. Though Keogh won’t say how successful his efforts have been, Faber already offers courses in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Toronto and Sydney. And tickets for the newly launched Guardian Masterclasses are selling quickly. However, it’s not all about making money: Keogh views these enterprises as opportunities to:
“Form meaningful relationships with customers who share your core values – in a non-digital way.”
In a backlash against the growing ‘press one to speak to an operator’ culture, Keogh is personally keen to sell face-to-face experiences supported by great customer service. It’s no surprise then to find his email address offered to potential course participants on the Guardian website. Admirable. Although given he’s currently running the operation as a one-man show some might say foolish.
So what might a man who’s all about the brand say about himself? When offering advice about job-seeking in the publishing industry and interview technique, ‘brand Keogh’ became clear. Once asked “what do your colleagues think of you”, Keogh replied:
“Why don’t you f***ing ask them?”
A surprise admission from someone daunted by public speaking, and not the most charming response, but one that got Keogh the job. He wouldn’t recommend everyone to follow suit, though. Instead, perhaps the most powerful thing Keogh said all night was that you should be yourself.
“If you walk out the door having been yourself you will feel good even if you don’t get the job.”
By the end of the session it was clear that Keogh, vulnerable or not, shares two core values with both Faber and the Guardian: independence and integrity. And those two values are sure to impact the career moves he makes in the future.