1775 – The Evolving Role of Communication Agencies with Jules Herd

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the Managing Director & Founder of Five in a Boat Limited, Jules Herd.

Herd wide

Jules explained how the role of communication agencies like Five in a Boat has shifted from traditional communications to more of a business consultancy. They help scale-up companies secure funding by advising them on investment and ensuring they have a presence in important publications and platforms like Forbes and TechCrunch.

In addition to this, they also assist with reputation management, crisis communication, and product launches. Jules emphasized the importance of being proactive in managing reputation and shared an example of how they helped a client in the gaming industry navigate challenging times.

One of the key topics she discussed was the relevance of communication strategy for early-stage businesses. Jules explained that early-stage companies can become thought leaders in their industries by effectively communicating their unique offerings.

She suggested that companies should hire an agency like Five in a Boat from the start, but only if their product is ready and they are in the right headspace to utilize communication professionals effectively.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Introduction of Jules Herd, Managing Director of Five in a Boat
  • Overview of Five in a Boat's services as a strategic communications agency
  • Shift from traditional communications to business consultancy
  • Assistance with securing funding, reputation management, crisis communication, and product launches
  • Importance of proactive reputation management and a case study in the gaming industry
  • Relevance of communication strategy for early-stage businesses
  • Recommendation to hire an agency like Five in a Boat from the start
  • Meaning behind the name “Five in a Boat” representing teamwork and collaboration

About Jules Herd:

Jules Herd, a BA Hons in Public Relations graduate, boasts a 23-year career in communications, notably as the former Global VP of Communications for HTC and Deezer.

In 2018, she founded her consultancy, Five in a Boat, after diverse experiences with brands like Microsoft, AMD, Disney, Virgin, Codemasters, and KLM. Passionate about Diversity and Inclusion, Jules advocates for industry equality and addresses fertility issues based on personal experience.

A Samaritans contributor, she actively supports families and champions mental health. Beyond Five in a Boat, Jules owns Blind Swan, a globally recognized contemporary gin, co-owns EV Cables, writes for Forbes, and serves as a trustee for charity One in Four.

Jules, a married mother of an eight-year-old, balances her professional life with rowing, running, travel, karaoke, and newfound painting skills exhibited on Thortful's website post-lockdown.

About Five in a Boat Limited:

Five in a Boat is an independent London-based communications consultancy with extensive international experience, specializing in delivering impactful results for brands.

Their approach prioritizes clarity in goals, meaningful audience engagement, freedom for innovation, and building effective teams.

The consultancy challenges the status quo with an innovative and collaborative mindset, simplifying complexities and striving to understand clients' businesses thoroughly.

Founded by a former Global Vice President of Communications for HTC and Deezer, Five in a Boat draws on 18 years of expertise in developing communication strategies for leading brands.

The seasoned communications experts team aims to elevate other brands by applying their wealth of experience to push communication strategies to new heights.

With a commitment to turning challenges into opportunities, Five in a Boat is dedicated to driving strong brand awareness and engagement for successful business growth.

Tweetable Moments:

12:19 – “If it isn't going to deliver something that is absolutely aligned with whatever your core objectives are, it's a pointless exercise. Don't bother.”

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Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Five in a Boat Limited website at

Check out Five in a Boat Limited on LinkedIn at

Check out Five in a Boat Limited on Twitter at

Check out Five in a Boat Limited on Instagram at

Check out Jules Herd on LinkedIn at

Check out Jules Herd on Twitter at

Check out Jules Herd on Instagram at

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Josh (00:00:04) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now, Jules herd. Jules, you are the managing director for five in a boat you found on the web at five in a boat. Com. Jules, thank you so much for joining us.

Jules (00:01:10) - Thank you for having me. Very happy to be here today.

Josh (00:01:13) - Yeah. Give us an overview of the work that you do.

Jules (00:01:16) - So five in a boat is predominantly a comms agency, strategic communications agency. And we work with a variety of different clients across multiple spaces. The common denominator tends to be that their clients that sit within technology. So it could be any form of technology AI, robotics, gaming, music, tech, anything. And they usually sit within a funding round of between ATC. So it's scale ups more than anything else. Although saying that we do work with big brands like Universal Music, and we do work with companies that are just going through their stages of angel investment.

Josh (00:01:49) - Yeah. All right. So what sorts of services do they need on the communication side generally.

Jules (00:01:55) - So I would actually say that the communications remit has shifted over the course of the last few years. We're now really more in the business consultancy space. A lot of clients come to us, specifically those who are operating as scale ups with a view to get the next round of funding. And actually, they're struggling with investment. And part of what they need to do if they're looking for investment is to make sure that they're in front of investors.

Jules (00:02:20) - And there is a range of different publications and platforms and portals that investors read and engage with that. A lot of those companies aren't even present on. So part of our role, on the one hand, is to advise them around investment, and on the other hand is to make sure that they're getting in the likes of Forbes and Entrepreneur and TechCrunch and those very important titles for them. And beyond that, we do an awful lot of stuff with reputation management. So we have a lot of companies that have come through or are facing challenging times. We've had one company that was owned by Russians, and then the Russians were sanctioned, and we had to make sure that that that was reported in in the right way. And, you know, the relevant messaging came through. We do a lot of issues and crisis communication as part of that. We do a lot of product launches. So we've launched absolutely everything you could possibly imagine. Um, but as I said, it's predominantly that nowadays for us, the business consultancy piece where we're really adding value above and beyond what would traditionally have been media relations, send out a press release, write an opinion editorial.

Jules (00:03:22) - It goes a lot further than that today.

Josh (00:03:25) - Yeah. Um, what would be some examples like, um, someone is like, okay, I'm familiar with reputation management. Um, can you maybe define that a little bit for those who are curious about typically what that might entail? It's not usually when someone says, well, look, we've had some negative reviews or we had, you know, this one social media person kind of, you know, blast us. And now we need to turn things around. Is it a little bit different than that? It's a little bit more proactive, right.

Jules (00:03:53) - Yeah. And I think you're absolutely right there. I think where a lot of people go wrong when they look for comms specialists is, is they assume that it is just that reactive piece and not the proactive piece. And actually it still plays a part. So for example, we see a lot of companies that come to us and are having real problems recruiting. And we look at their Glassdoor profiles, which is where a lot of people go to to find out information about that company.

Jules (00:04:16) - And they're absolutely atrocious. So a reactive job would be to respond to some of that criticism and make sure that their Glassdoor scores improve. But conversely, there is obviously the proactive piece. You look ahead at what the I guess the economic climate is doing, or a particular business environment in which a company is operating. And if you can foresee that there are going to be problems, your job is to put in place a plan to manage a reputation before that hits the fan for one phrase. So, for example, um, we work with a lot of companies. The games industry is a perfect example. So the games industry has taken an absolutely ginormous hit this year. There's been an awful lot of redundancies. You're seeing companies like Epic Games, riot that, you know, and others that have that are changing their businesses round because there isn't that as much money going into the industry. There was an awful lot of money that went in around Covid because more people were spending time playing games. And obviously things have changed off the back of that.

Jules (00:05:13) - And actually what we're trying to do is we're trying to manage reputations and get ahead of what might come out of that. That could potentially be negative for a games companies. So here's a prime example. We put somebody we put one of our clients on the BBC this week to talk about opportunities in the game space at a time where it can be quite challenging, and that's managing their reputation in a positive way, because it's enabling them to be that spokesperson for an industry which without us, they potentially wouldn't have had that opportunity to do that.

Josh (00:05:43) - Yeah. Would you say like for early, let's say for early early stage businesses that maybe don't necessarily have like a communication strategy plan, they're just like, well, look, we'll take any PR we can get. But other than that, we haven't really thought about it. Like if you had the opportunity to meet with someone that was pretty early stage, he said, okay, here's what I want you. Here's where I want you to start thinking today, and so that you could truly be proactive, that as you continue to grow in scale because you had the right ideas or plan in place, this was something that then has been pretty beneficial for them.

Jules (00:06:23) - So what you tend to find is that a lot of these early stage companies are bringing something new to the table, so they're doing something that's transformative. And that's a lot of the businesses that we work with. And here's a recent example where this worked well. We work for a very early stage company called turbocharge, which work which operates in the electric vehicle space. And there's been an awful lot of not necessarily negativity, but criticism around EVs based on lack of government funding, based on them being more expensive in theory than petrol cars. And actually what Kurbo charge is doing is, is creating that infrastructure to make it a lot easier for people to be able to use electric vehicles. So it's ensuring that that people can charge their cars by putting in place technology that enables them to do it from the street into their home if they don't have driveways. So very early stage. But what they're doing is something that looks incredibly interesting. So therefore they become a thought leader. And what early stage companies can do very early on in their respective industries is become mouthpieces for those industries.

Jules (00:07:26) - So with Kurbo got kurbo on Sky news and a bunch of others talking about how their technology is driving the industry forward. And as I said, they are absolutely tiny. They're doing a brilliant job and they're growing very quickly, but they're very small and actually putting them in in that place as a thought leader and, you know, providing a different perspective on the industry often starts to cement their position in that market and in that space.

Josh (00:07:51) - Yeah. Jules, when would somebody or when should somebody hire an agency like five and a boat.

Jules (00:07:58) - So first of all, a company has to have their product right first. And I've had a number of companies come to me and try to engage us. And I've looked at the product and said, you're not ready, because the last thing we want to do is to have a company spending their money on us when it's not, when the product's not viable, it's a waste of money, and then you just end up having to defend them from a reputation management perspective because they haven't got their stuff together.

Jules (00:08:21) - If their product is ready, however, I would suggest right from the start, because one of the things that we do incredibly well and good communications practitioners should do is put in place those messaging frameworks that are really important when you start out as a business, if you don't have those in place, you will find that you don't have any strategy in terms of how you get your information out there, and that could be a product launch, or it could be an investment round, or it could be a new CEO. Everything sort of done in a little bit of a hit and miss fashion. So I put my teeth back in, um, and uh, and if. You have that strategic communications framework in place which effectively talks to every single part of your business. Then when you do start communicating externally, you will find there that your messages start to resonate. And that's really important because that helps build your brand. It helps ensure that your tone of voice is right. It makes sure that your share of voice is there.

Jules (00:09:13) - So arguably I would say right from the start, but the product has to be ready and you have to be in the right headspace to do it, because using communications professionals in not the right way will not be advantageous to anyone.

Josh (00:09:29) - Yeah. So I'm on your website, by the way. Five in a boat? Yes. What does that mean?

Jules (00:09:35) - So I'm a former rower and I rode for a number of years, and it's extremely competitive and very hard work. And the particular boat that I would row in that I found it very difficult was a coxed four. And each of the rowers have their own place in the boat, and they have their own role in the boat. But if they're not pulling together as a team, they're not going to win the race. And it's exactly the same in business. I have my job, my number two has his job, the rest of their team have their jobs, and they're all important individually. But if they don't pull together, if we don't pull together as a team, we're not going to succeed as a company.

Jules (00:10:08) - So that's the analogy. And that's why it's called five and a boat. And there aren't five of us. There's more than five of us. But there you go.

Josh (00:10:17) - Well that's quite a team. So when you begin or like let's say someone reaches out and oftentimes I think this is pretty common. My background is in PR, you know, folks may come in or a client maybe referred to you, and usually they are looking for something like they might come in and just say, well, we want PR, we want visibility or we want media, right? And usually they don't know why. They usually don't have a lot of thought necessarily behind why they just want visibility. What are those initial conversations typically like? And I think this is really informative by the way, if someone's just saying, well, listen, um, you know, we want to grow scale, we want to improve our sales. So therefore we need PR. Um, what did the, you know, as an example? And not everyone says this, but, you know, for those who do and others, what do those initial conversations usually sound like?

Jules (00:11:14) - Well, that's an interesting one because actually, a lot of the time we we find ourselves convincing people that they need communications.

Jules (00:11:21) - So we do a lot of cold outreach. And what generally happens is we spot something in the media or we read something, or we see a customer comment and we think, God, they're not doing this very well. Let's approach them and tell them how they could do it better. That's kind of the route we usually go. But back to your point. When it comes to people that decided that they want PR, it's usually because someone's told them that they need it. They don't really understand what it is. You tend to find. You've got a group of people that sit within an executive team that one is very good at marketing, has no clue about PR, one hasn't got a clue about anything that's outside of technology. One's going along for the ride. So you've got this whole different team of people that are coming from different points, that the thing that they all have in common is they want their business to succeed. So it's about getting them on the page, the same page, and communicating and demonstrating to them how communications can help deliver them success only if it's aligned with their business objectives, though.

Jules (00:12:19) - So if somebody was to call me up and say, I'm going to put, I want you to put a press release out about X, Y, and Z. My first question is, okay, y. My second question is how does it align with your business objectives? Because if it isn't going to deliver sales and PR doesn't really deliver sales, it delivers brand awareness, but on occasion it has. But if it isn't going to deliver something that is absolutely aligned with whatever your core objectives are, it's a pointless exercise. Don't bother. And I think in an ideal world, you know, I'd see more comms professionals sitting around the board table because actually they bring a lot of business value. And I think with communications and, you know, in PR, it isn't just about that one magical thing that's going to change the world overnight. Because the reality is, is the media landscape influences bloggers, customers, partners are fickle. So you have to do something that's meaningful. And if it isn't meaningful, it's pointless.

Jules (00:13:10) - You're wasting their money and they're wasting your time.

Josh (00:13:14) - And I wanted to point something out. So I'm on your website. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a painter and I think I'm looking at some of your work. Right?

Speaker 3 (00:13:23) - Uh.

Jules (00:13:24) - No. On my on the five and a boat website.

Josh (00:13:27) - Oh, okay. That's not.

Jules (00:13:28) - Yours. That's not mine. But funnily enough, I do happen to have a point where you can see that it's a camel. Um, I am a painter. Yes, but I'm an amateur painter. Um, and I have a website called The Cookie Creator. Or. It's actually, it's not a website. It's an Instagram page. And I have been painting in my spare time since lockdown and I've had commission. So really.

Josh (00:13:52) - So this is a newer hobby for you?

Jules (00:13:54) - Yes, it is a new hobby. Yeah. And it's I do it because it's a bit of gives me a bit of downtime, but um, but yeah, for some bizarre reason people seem to like my stuff.

Jules (00:14:04) - So I get, I get asked to paint all sorts of random things and I love it.

Josh (00:14:09) - Oh my gosh, that's. Did you do you find, um, that that was a skill that you were able to get good at? Um, over time? Like when did you start noticing a progression of your abilities?

Jules (00:14:23) - Well, there's this phrase, isn't there, that you have to spend 10,000 hours to be accomplished at some really accomplished at something, be a musical instrument or whatever it might be. And and actually, the truth is, is that the more you practice, the better you get. There's obviously a bass talent there. I'm not necessarily saying I'm hugely talented because I'm really not. But I you know, I've been doing a couple of paintings a week now for more or less for the last sort of 2 or 3 years. Anything between three hours or I painted a, uh, I can't remember what it's called, but it's basically three paintings that you put together that make a full painting, or you can have each of them separately.

Jules (00:14:59) - That took me about 20 hours. So you do have to invest quite a lot of time. But, uh, yeah, it's progressive and I think it's getting better. My dad seems to tell me it is. So there we are and I love it. That's the main thing. I think everyone should have something outside of work.

Josh (00:15:15) - Yeah. And the brain is so remarkable when we think about new skills, talents or, you know, in business, right. In, in leadership, you know, if we're malleable and we're willing to be, you know, I think in learning something. Right? I've been so this summer I started learning the bass guitar for the first time ever. And it's remarkable how much I've improved in just four months time. And it really is just a testimony to how amazing our brains are, if we're willing to, you know, kind of do this thing over and over and over again. And, you know, I see applications of this in business. Certainly, you know, when you find something you love and you just have a, you know, just a real dogged personality to, you know, to really excel at that one thing, whatever your role is in business.

Josh (00:16:04) - But, you know, there's something to be said for time invested.

Jules (00:16:08) - I think also that you benefit more as a business person when you are doing something that is out of your comfort zone, because you become more focused in what you're doing within your comfort zone. And B it brings a sort of different perspective onto things because you're actually having to retrain the way that you look at things, because it's not something that you're used to doing. So I can see the benefits outside of business. And also, you know, as a person that runs a business.

Josh (00:16:34) - You know what I love about these hobbies? Sorry, I didn't mean to, like, I just I'm geeking out with you here on this.

Speaker 4 (00:16:38) - Because this has been.

Josh (00:16:38) - Something that I've been processing a lot lately, too. You know, they talk about the benefits of meditation and that sort of thing. And for me, you know, when I am playing or trying to learn something, you know, in music, like I'm not thinking about the stresses of work.

Josh (00:16:55) - I'm not thinking about, you know, that one, um, unfortunate incident that that I may be replaying in my brain. You know, too many times when I'm engaged in something like that, I'm. That's all I'm thinking about. I'm 100% focused, so I. I feel like I'm getting the same benefit of meditation. Yeah.

Jules (00:17:16) - Absolutely.

Josh (00:17:18) - All right, so getting back to the subject du jour, five in a When somebody goes there, Jules, what would you recommend they do?

Jules (00:17:27) - Well, first of all, have a look to see what services we offer. We're quite prevalent on LinkedIn and Twitter as well as as a company, but look at what services we offer. I genuinely think that as a business, we're in a very strong position that we can support companies of any size. Um, we tend to stay away from kind of big consumer branded stuff. As I said, we very much sit within the technology space because that's where our level of expertise sits. But go and have a look because guaranteed, there'll be something on there that will be of benefit for you for a company that's looking for some common support.

Jules (00:17:58) - But as I said, it has to be aligned with business objectives and growth. Otherwise, especially when we're looking at smaller companies and scale ups that they have to answer to people that have invested, you know, or they're bootstrapped or, you know, they've got so much more pressure on where they put their money. They need to make sure that it's being spent in the right place. So as I said, go and have a look on on the website. There'll be something on there for you. But it's largely dependent on your business objectives in terms of what's actually right for your particular company, because one size doesn't fit all.

Josh (00:18:29) - Yeah. Jules heard again, managing director of five. And about your website five and a Thank you so much, Jules, for joining us.

Jules (00:18:38) - It's a pleasure. A lovely to meet you and have a great day.

Josh (00:18:47) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my influence common Guest.

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