Tim Percival on carving time out for thinking

Tim Percival on carving time out for thinking
Tim Percival, director of marketing and communications at Northampton Saints, and was Head of Communications for The British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa earlier this year, joins us to share his take on the importance of unstructured thinking time.

Why did you choose to pursue a role in communications? For example, has it always been your passion or was it pure happenstance?

From a young age I always enjoyed current affairs, watching the news and reading newspapers. I also enjoyed writing too. It just felt like a career I would be interested in. At the time of my graduation, sport as an entertainment industry was really growing fast so I focussed in on combining those two industries. After a bit of work experience, I got my foot on the ladder with a job at a PR agency which specialised in sport and entertainment.

What personal skills or attributes do you think are most important in the communications sphere? Why these skills/attributes in particular?

There are lots, but I suppose good verbal and written skills are crucial. The ability to build an argument. Listening is key. Attention to detail. Being able to build strong relationships. And hard work.

What sort of challenges do you face in your role? Is there a particular challenge that you experienced in the past that stood out?

Issues management is always challenging in sport. For instance, in the last 11 months I’ve dealt with issues like, fat shaming, racism, covid outbreaks, prank calls, biting…  

What one thing would make your working life easier?

More thinking time. I’m aware that might sound a bit indulgent, but sometimes the cut and thrust of the day isn’t necessarily conducive to thinking strategically. You can get lost in a list of tasks and meetings, so I find I have to carve out specific time in my diary to think and write down ideas and thoughts. It can be really beneficial.

How is the role of communications perceived in your organisation?

I think it’s seen as one of the key functions for our organisation to be successful.

What do you think the secret of success is when working in communications?

Hard work.

At React & Share, we’re obsessed with helping our clients measure and report their efforts - what measurements do you think comms teams should be presenting to internal stakeholders?

It depends on the project, campaign, etc. Other than engagements, impressions, views, I think sentiment can be really useful at times. Historically, I don’t think comms teams have answered ‘value’ as a metric very well.

Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big thing in communications?

I think sustainability will be something that every industry will have to focus much more on, and effective communications will need to be at the heart of that.