To introduce some of our fantastic partners within the Brands2Life Global Network we are profiling each founder. Today we are interviewing Deborah Gray of Canela PR in Spain & Portugal to find out what drives her and the team.
What led you to set up your own agency? I moved to Spain with about ten years of PR experience and no one here would employ me. So, setting up my own company was pretty much the only option I had. That or be an English teacher.
What inspires you each day? The need to do it better than I did it yesterday.
What are the common misconceptions around doing comms in your market? That what works in other markets is exportable here. Clients sometimes forget that, although we live in a global economy, the media exist on a regional and a national level. The news must be relevant locally. If it’s not local and it’s not relevant, then it’s not news and it won’t get published.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in PR since you founded your company? The rise of influencers. PR derives its value from using 3rd party “objective” endorsement. There was a time when only journalists were the 3rd party endorsers. Now brands can use both influencers and journalists.
What would you say is your biggest learning from adapting to working during a global pandemic? How important the non-work time together is. The small moments of the day. The water cooler, coffee break, lunchtime moments. These can be recreated to a certain extent while people are working from home through informal Hangouts, chats, drinks, exercise classes etc and they are essential for the company’s well-being.
Which campaign are you most proud of having been involved in? My favourite campaign was the Erasmus Babies campaign which we did for the European Commission to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the Erasmus student exchange programme. We organised a party in Madrid for the families that had been created by students meeting each other during the Erasmus programme. It was really personal for me as a Brit living in Spain post Brexit vote with a French partner and two Catalan children. The campaign illustrated how amazing the concept of Europe and European Citizenship is and how life changing an experience like Erasmus can be. We made every single TV News channel in Spain with that campaign.
After 25 years in the industry, what is your #1 priority right now? Keeping my team motivated and happy. The rest will follow.
Where is your company headed over the next five to 15 years? I think we need to explore new ways of working with flexible contracts and flexible working hours and more of a hybrid model between full time staff and freelancers. Much more Digital and therefore much more visual communication.
Moreover, where is the entire PR industry headed? I think brands are entering a phase of Corporate activism where they will be expected to take a stance on societal issues. As can be seen by Ben & Jerry’s and Verizon pulling their ad spend in Facebook. I think PR’s job is to make sure these actions are authentic and long term and not just a knee jerk reaction. The same with SDGs. I think the BlackRock CEO’s letter was so important this year because its shows that making money is not the only measure by which corporations will be judged. Our role is to help brands adjust to this new reality and to create story telling moments to communicate it to their target audiences.
What are the three biggest things you’ve learned since founding your agency? Trust your instincts and ACT on them: if it doesn’t feel good don’t do it. If a client is disrespectful at the start of the relationship it won’t get any better. If a team member is under-performing, it’s unlikely that they will improve over time.
Invite opinions from everywhere in the organisation. Someone on your team has usually got the solution you’re looking for.
Experiment. Fail. Experiment again. Let yourself and your team learn from their mistakes.
Why is it important to be part of a global network? It’s important for me to be part of a network so I can learn from other agencies in the network. It is really important for me to be able to reach out to fellow independent agency heads to ask for their input, opinion and expertise.
Name one profile that you follow on social media that really inspires you in your everyday work: Tom Goodwin. He makes me think about why I am doing what I am doing and why I’m not doing better. Everybody needs someone like that in their life.