The latest addition to my Interview Series is Lars Voedisch, currently the Principal Consultant at PRecious Communications. Lars has over 15 years experience working in the communications industry, working extensively in both in-house and agency. He talks about the evolution of the PR industry, the difference between agency and in-house and provides some great insight for students looking to develop a long and fulfilling career.
Having worked for a radio station in the past and with a Masters in Economics, corporate communications seemed to be a natural fit of bringing media and business perspectives together.
Since that start it’s the people, the exciting brands I’m working with and the constant change that keeps me on my toes and constantly wanting to learn more. Imagine: Until social media came to play, PR hardly changed for decades. So being part of and to a certain extent even defining the ‘New PR’ is awesome!
2. With your experience in public relations, marketing and journalism, how do you think these 3 industries overlap in regards to common skills, platforms and tools?
Traditionally these three trades are looking after owned (journalism), earned (PR) and paid (marketing) media –and that’s what defined their respective platforms, but in today’s world. While these three areas have their own distinct heritage, objective and merits, you can see that this clear differentiation fades away especially with regards to platforms or tools used.
Basically, these three areas are about reaching out to defined audiences through communication matters with the attempt to influence them; this could mean to educate, entertain, entice or simply inform. So key skills across these disciplines are empathetic communication skills through different means. Especially for PR, this change requires that on top of writing, experts have to get versed in visual story telling through pictures and video.
3. You’ve worked in-house with DHL for many years as well on the agency side with Fleishman-Hillard or Hill+Knowlton Strategies. How did these roles differ in terms of agency vs. in-house?
The main difference is that in-house communications departments are cost centres and constantly have to justify the scope of their existence to the business funding their activities. Agencies are profit centres – so there’s a natural conflict of defining what’s best for the client versus the agencies profitability ambitions
4. Do you prefer one over the other?
Not really as they are actually more alike than most people think: How can your (PR) efforts contribute to business growth. In both roles you have to deal with multiple clients (internal stakeholders, e.g. different business units or geographies – vs. your external clients).
Obviously, when you work in-house you develop deeper domain and company insights vs. rather broad industry knowledge on the consulting side. So if you are thinking about moving from agency to in-house, better be very sure it’s the right industry and company! On the other hand – not everybody can handle the constant commercial pressure on the agency side.
5. At the moment, with the PR industry evolving alongside communication platforms and the online world, how do you manage to stay up-to-date with technology and industry trends?
The basics of PR don’t really change: While the latest hypes, platforms or channels do change, it is still about how to convey a message to selected, targeted audiences.
Some of the key sources I look at are Mashable, Wired, HBR, Social Media Today, PR Daily and a couple of PR and business blogs and of course quite a few people on Twitter and selected groups on LinkedIn.
6. What skills do you think will become increasingly more important for PR professionals?
Technical capabilities to leverage the new possibilities are certainly more and more needed. But what’s even more crucial is a sound understanding of the economy, politics and how businesses actually function in a changing environment. Especially as a strategic consultant (this actually includes in-house communicators!) you have to first and foremost understand how you can contribute to your company’s or clients’ business objectives – and how to measure your success beyond counting clips or ‘likes’. Therefore analysis and statistics skills are becoming more important.
However, never underestimate the basics of writing and connecting to people. These are the two main skills that will prevail.
7. And lastly, what advice would you give to a PR student looking to develop a long and successful career in the industry?
Read a lot and on diverse topics. Constantly challenge yourself to diversify and learn new things and expand your network. Stay up-to-date on what news and topics are on people’s minds – both as your potential clients or employers as well as the audiences you are targeting.
Last but not least, the most important thing for me is to enjoy what you are doing: look for and actively build an environment where you have fun, spend time with inspiring people and brands you are excited about. At the end of the day, PR is also a creative trade – and for creativity to flourish, you need passion and energy to thrive.
***To get in touch with Lars, say hello on Twitter @larsv***