Hot Tin Roof’s all grown up! Wednesday 3 June 2020 is our 18th birthday, traditionally a time to pop open the bubbly and eat cake. We’re very excited to have reached agency adulthood but hitting such a milestone has also sparked nostalgia for times gone by. There have been big successes and big challenges over the years, and as we’ve grown we’ve learnt more than a thing or two about catching the headlines, talking tech and building a brilliant team.
We sat down with top cat Sarah, HTR’s Founder and MD, for a look back on the twists and turns of the past 18 years. Throwback to 2002, Avril Lavigne was in the charts, Harry Potter was battling a giant snake in the Chamber of Secrets, and the very first camera phone was hitting UK shelves…
What was the inspiration behind the Hot Tin Roof name?
It is the Tennessee Williams play – Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – and I adore Elizabeth Taylor in the iconic film version. When I was looking for a name, I got a Halliwell’s Film Guide out and brainstormed ideas. This one stood out – it had pace, urgency and a hint of danger!
There’s a line in the play where Maggie the Cat says ‘What is the victory of a cat on a hot tin roof? Just staying on it, I guess, as long as she can’. It’s a powerful image of the roof being an uncomfortable place, really hot. I think of the roof as the media, and we help the cat – the client – to stay up on that hot tin roof as long as they can.
I love that image. And that tenacity, with everything we do, we have to be tenacious. We have to stay at it, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Do you remember the first big Hot Tin win?
It was a company called Ambergreen and I was brought in to help the company grow. They were a start-up search marketing agency, and at that time no one had heard of ‘SEO’. So, I was basically educating the marketing press about this whole new ‘thing’. We were really breaking new ground, it was very exciting.
How has the agency adapted to changes in PR over the past 18 years?
I think we’ve been ahead of the curve a lot of the time. We were very early to start doing social media. That came from having an eye on digital. We had one of the first digital PR offerings in Scotland. We called it ‘Hot Wire’, offering social media, SEO and inbound content marketing. I think we’ve always really understood technology and how it impacts, so we’ve always tried to adapt and not get left behind.
But our core strength remains media relations and hard news. Despite the huge changes in the media landscape; mass media and the power of earned editorial is still the most important communication channel open to a company. We have stayed true to that core belief and it is what drives all our work.
Team spirit is at the heart of HTR’s ethos, what have been some of your favourite team moments?
So many! We’ve had weddings. We’ve had babies. We’ve had engagements.
And we’ve had some brilliant parties in the office. My husband Lee always DJs them, and because they are usually around about summertime, and the office is small, everyone spills out onto the lane. Good music, good people and good chat.
In 18 years working in PR for tech, what has surprised you most about innovation in the sector?
I think how quickly things become the norm. Take social media as a prime example, when I first started out no one had heard of it, Twitter didn’t exist. How quickly things move and then it just becomes the normal way of working. You look back and you can’t imagine how it was before. I suppose that’s what surprises me, how quickly innovation becomes old!
After 18 years, what are you most proud of?
Seeing how far the agency has come. In the beginning it was just me at a kitchen table. To be honest, I never planned any of this. I’m proud that it isn’t just me anymore and the fact that I’ve created something that people believe in and are loyal to. Together we’ve created a good place to work.
I wanted to do things my way, I wanted to be proud of the work that I did and I really wanted to earn the respect of my clients, and the media. And I did it. I’m really proud of Hot Tin Roof’s reputation.
Another thing I’m proud of is so many clients have become friends. That’s a really nice one and that’s genuine. And they all turn up for parties!
What does the future look like for HTR?
I’m looking forward to seeing new people arriving into the team, new faces, new clients, new stories - I want the team to grow. I love being part of a bigger team and seeing everyone growing as people, learning the craft. And, perhaps more parties?
If you would like a chat with any of the cats at Hot Tin Roof, get in touch for a natter here.