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John McLeod Freelance PR Consultant - An interview

John McLeod, a freelance PR consultant, started his own consultancy after the arrival of bitcoin on the Fintech Market. He decided to use his skills in PR to help young Fintech startup get media attention.

Here is the story of John McLeod, Freelance PR consultant and founder of JEA associates, a corporate communications consultancy specialised mainly in the Fintech industry.  After working in City PR ad a PR agent and driven by his interest in Bitcoin and more generally the Blockchain economy, he decided to go freelance and launch his own business to focus on the Fintech industry. He told us how he got there and shared his experience as a freelance PR. Read his story!


1. Tell us about you and your professional background

I started working in City PR in 2007 just before the financial crash, advising a large number of blue-chip companies, predominantly in the Financial Services industry. I was particularly drawn to Bitcoin and more specifically, to the potential of the underlying Blockchain to disrupt the existing financial services industry and infrastructure. In 2015, I set up on my own as I wanted to provide clients with tailored services that understood how digitalization is transforming the way in which traditional industries operate and communicate it in campaigns.


2. How did you get into PR and ultimately become a freelancer?

A number of my family members were journalists reporting on business and my father was a Stockbroker for decades before he retired so I was always surrounded in an environment where the City was discussed. As a young graduate, I was interested in how the PR industry was maturing and wanted to set up on my own and direct campaigns for clients. As Bitcoin began to enter the mainstream conscious I decided to focus my communications offerings on FinTech as a complicated and unique field that is constantly evolving.


3. What services do you generally provide your clients?

The media campaigns I have executed since I set up on my own have raised the profiles of blockchain startups, launched new products and advised a number of Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) and successful fundraisings. 

4. How do you find new clients?

For the most part, new clients come from referrals from people I have worked with in the past and recommended me to others. Industry conferences and networking events are also a great way to engage with potential new clients.


5. What’s the piece of work you’re proudest of?

I have started advising a charity project that enables people to make donations directly to the people of Venezuela to enable them to buy the essentials using Obyte’s smart contract technology. In a country suffering the most appalling economic crisis where inflation has hit 130,000 and 90% of the population live in poverty, I hope that some of the articles I placed raised awareness and helped secure more donations. 


6. What has been the biggest challenge in your freelance career so far?

FinTech is a very cyclical industry, and by definition, so is the PR underlying that industry. As a freelance, you are more vulnerable to significant shifts in the industry, compared to a large PR company with a broader portfolio of clients and industries might be.


7. What makes you keep doing it? What do you love about what you do?

It can be very rewarding seeing clients realise that their dream project and the idea they have worked on for years is now in the media and being read about by the broader public. Coming up with creative ideas and seeing them in print or discussed on broadcast is very gratifying. 


8. What are your top tips for aspiring PR consultants?

Perseverance, never give up, especially in the early days when you’re trying to establish a network of people who can refer you clients and get those initial opportunities to prove your ability and value to clients. By definition, entrepreneurs are optimists, self-confident and in my case stubborn as a mule! You have to accept there are serious costs involved in terms of the hours you will need to commit and stresses that come with being on your own, but it’s definitely worth it.  


9. What average rate do you charge your clients?

That would be telling! In all honesty, it depends on the client, the type of communications strategy developed for them, the length of time estimated for the work, and many other factors.

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