Hello! What’s your background and what services you or your agency provide?
I graduated from journalism school many years ago. I worked as a journalist for some years but then joined an in-house PR team at a reputed international business school. After almost a decade working for them, I decided to move on and – why not – start my own business.
I was lucky when the business school I used to work with suggested we continued working together, this time with them as my first client. Thanks to that agreement, I had the confidence and financial support to start growing.
First with more clients, then with more team members. Many of whom I met during my years at the business school.
Our agency focuses, chiefly, on media relations. Though we also offer services in: multimedia content creation, media training, media events management and strategic communications and team management.
Our agency is small but with an incredible reach (both in regards to our clients, as well as our media links). We are experts in the academic and career development sectors and we work with top universities, colleges, business schools, and other academic institutions from around the world. We have strong media links in Europe and the UK, the US and Latin America.
Communicas delivers its services through a team of experienced professionals based in Europe (Spain and the UK), Latin America (Peru, Colombia and Mexico) and the US.
We believe that communications can be a force for good so we are very keen on using it to its full strength and potential. For this reason, at Communicas we will support projects, causes and institutions who have a strong sense of mission but might lack the resources for a good communications campaign.
What motivated you to work in the PR profession? What’s your typical work week like?
While studying for my undergraduate degree I almost only say myself as a journalist in the most traditional sense (at a desk in a newsroom writing about breaking news). However, life does take you places you didn’t envision in the first place but, after a while, you realize, are perfect for you.
This was the case for me and PR. I started my first PR job without knowing what it really entailed. Soon and because it was an academic organization, I realized it was pretty much like journalism but with a little more time to file stories. I guess I incorporated my journalism knowledge and “ways” into PR by really looking for an angle, for the story and that made it exciting.
Working in the academic world, promoting research stories, or stories from students, means you really do have to do an investigative job. Like journalism, you have to dig deep. And fortunately, it also means, every day is different. I have organized interviews between journalists and a world-class football player, while at the same time pitching an academic paper about financial stability after the financial crisis. My job also took me to share a story about a business school which despite the start of a civil war in their home country, continued delivering their sessions because “business as usual” was crucial at the time of crisis.
At Communicas we believe PR should be a force of good. As a team, we think we have a duty to find the right stories and also, to tell our clients, when they should not push for something just because it is commercially needed. Journalists have to be selective in what they report, and we want to help with quality over quantity. We feel that pitching the right type of stories not only helps journalists, but also helps your clients shine in the best possible light.
How have you attracted new clients and grown your business?
We have been very fortunate to work in a sector where a lot of people already know each other. So far, [all] of our clients have come to us as a result of word of mouth.
We are currently exploring venturing into new services but we want to make sure we master those services to be able to offer the best to our clients.
As for continue our growth path, we want to explore working with more international clients at countries, perhaps less likely to appear in university rankings. The academic sector is much more than an economic sector, it is key to driving change and development in society and we want to be able to tell those stories of organizations who might not be famous but who, through their work, are having a huge impact on their communities.
What are some of the big challenges doing PR for academic institutions and organizations?
Budget is always an issue! Academic institutions are facing huge budget cuts and having to decide whether to spend on students or research, or comms or marketing, they might not choose the latte and we completely understand. However, communications is key and also a possible driver of change. For example, by sharing research insights with general audiences, we are helping inform and potentially, drive change in those communities affected by the research discoveries. This is true for any field, from economics to medicine.
Academic organizations are also facing increasing competition from other organizations around the world, and from completely new players like online education providers. This has made the education sector a very competitive and tough market.
Finally, technology has been a major disruptor. Universities and other academic institutions are having to adapt, change and evaluate their overall “existence”.
However, as with everything, technology or competition pose new opportunities for growth and innovation which some organizations are already mastering.
What are your favorite PR tools that you cannot live without?
Reading the paper!
Some media databases.
Some media monitoring platforms and their assessment tools.
What are some of the best things about living or doing PR in London, UK?
London is one of the world’s most global cities and loads of international media are present in the city. As a PR representative you have the opportunity to meet journalists from many places and to talk about stories of global relevance.
When I first arrived in London, I felt so excited and thankful to be able to make my visits to the BBC or the Financial Times part of my every-day job. This is the stuff you dream of when you are studying journalism.
Also, things happen all the time. There are stories everywhere you look. From local stuff, to international events like the Olympics in 2012. You can be part of them very easily. If you are hungry for stories, London is a wonderful city to be in.
What’s a client story that you’re most proud of?
I briefly mentioned it before. A business school from Ivory Coast asked us to talk about an executive education programme they were launching. As we worked on the pitch, a civil war started in the country. Having already committed with students, the business school did not halt the start of the programme but continued, with some adjustments. For example, they delivered the classes from a hotel in the city centre, because it was safer.
Speaking to the executive team there, we asked if we should continue to talk about this programme. Their answer was as shocking as important: this crisis only shows how education, business education in this case, is absolutely essential to a country’s prosperity. We have a duty to train the future leaders of this country to be better than our current ones, that’s why the programme goes ahead. “
We pitched the story to different outlets with stories appearing in The Economist and the Financial Times.
You could feel the excitement of the people working at the business school when we sent the links to their articles. They would have never dreamed of appearing in such publications but they did. Beyond helping them promote their programme, we felt those articles would mean a lot for the country. At the time, the media was only focusing on the civil war and corruption in their governments. But our story was positive and it talked about hope, and about people who wanted to change the country for good.
What’s your advice for PR pros who are just starting out or entrepreneurs doing PR on their own?
For PR pros who are just starting I would say, be selective with your stories. Not everything your client tells you will work. It does pay off. If your client does not understand, then maybe, he is not the right client for you (or for PR and should try advertising). Also, be patient, you are the middleman and will often get caught in between; try to think of how both sides will do better after your intervention.
For entrepreneurs I would say, dream big but spend little. The good thing about PR is that you don’t need to buy things, you don’t need stock so don’t spend on those things. In fact, don’t spend on anything but people. After a while, when you have some savings, you can start investing in nice and fancy databases, offices, etc…
Do spend your money on great people, passionate about what they are doing. People who are driven by their dreams to help, and build something meaningful (not just to build a “big agency”). The idea of a big agency like in the 90s is gone, and it’s good. You can deliver excellent services and quality, even if you are working from home. People who think like this will help you dream big but will also help you spend a little less.
Another one for entrepreneurs: we all suffer from imposter syndrome. If you are in a room full of important people, or you are working with the number one in your sector, it is not because of chance but because you were supposed to be there all along.