Louie St Claire, managing director at Harvard, talks to Gorkana about tech specialism, hiring the right people and what it takes to be successful in the PR industry.
What led you to specialise in technology?
I had a serendipitous start in tech. I worked at a one-man band straight out of University for a guy that ran the global press tour after the moon landing. To say it was old school is an understatement. We won a little bit of business with HP and they wanted to talk to us via email, not fax, so I set up their first computer and connected it to the internet. I’ve been in technology ever since, although technology is everything and anything these days.
What’s new or exciting in the sector?
The fantastic thing about the tech sector is that it constantly re-invents itself. According to Market Realist, in 2009 there were 750 technology acquisitions globally, valued at around $30bn, by 2015 those figures had risen to just over 3,000 with a combined value of $140bn. I think it’s fair to say that the sector has enjoyed a boom in the last few years with more to come. Fintech is a great example, growing out of the financial meltdown in 2008. Elsewhere, augmented reality is about to rocket, Pokemon Go is just the start and I think that when Apple starts to hire automotive engineers we’ll see something exciting in the car tech space!
What would you say are the primary issues or opportunities affecting the PR industry in 2016?
I get very frustrated with the constant narrative around the demise of the PR industry. The starting point for any communications is the ability to link what a business does to the story it wants to tell through some kind of audience insight. Advertising does this from a pure brand perspective and PR from the outside-in, neither are going anywhere and everything else just sits in-between.
The only thing that has changed is that the internet has increased the number of ways we can reach people and the ability to measure that more effectively. That is to be embraced, not feared.
What are Harvard’s challenges and how do you address them?
The single biggest challenge that will affect our growth is the ability to bring strong people into the business. We will need 10 new people in 2017 from creatives to content editors, account managers to SEO specialists. With the right people, in the right roles, everything else tends to fall into place.
What do you enjoy most about agency life?
For me it’s all about working with like-minded people, brilliant teams and the variety day-to-day. I also get a massive kick out of the commercial day-to-day cut and thrust of running an agency.
How do you become a successful PR professional?
You need drive, enthusiasm and a genuine passion for the area that you choose to work in as a starter for 10. After that it’s about strong decision-making and a curiosity to keep learning.
Does your PR career affect your life outside of work? How?
It can be a tough balancing act, the PR job is never over and family life with three young children is pretty busy, so any pinch points are usually around lack of time. That said, I’m very lucky and have the best of both worlds and I love what I do.
- Louie St Claire has been an MD at Harvard since 2011. Prior to that, he worked as director at Octopus Communications and business PR manager for Microsoft and O2.