Lucinda Kemeny, who recently (19 July) joined British American Tobacco as head of communications of Next Generation Products (NGP), talks about her decision to move in-house and the challenges she anticipates in her new role.
What was behind your decision to move in-house?
Agency life was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed juggling different accounts and the chasing down of new business, but after nine years I felt it was time for me to move into the third phase of my career and come in-house to learn new skills.
What are the major differences between agency and in-house?
In an agency, new business generation is very important, as is the execution of PR plans, being the eyes and ears for your client in terms of what the media is following and also recommending best practice.
But, in-house you are much closer to understanding the corporate goals of the business and structuring a plan that delivers both externally but also internally. The stakeholder audience handled by one person is typically much broader.
This is the first time that Next Generation Products (NGP) has had this role. The ambition is quite simply to lead the category, and PR will support that goal. It is fascinating, given the speed of development of new devices, the rapid geographic expansion of the business while also formulating a message that can reach a corporate, policy and consumer audience all at the same time.
What challenges do you anticipate?
This category is not without challenges. As a brand new sector there are a lot of people who don’t understand the products, and may be nervous of them as a result. There is also a lot of research out there that makes claims and counter claims about the relative health benefits of using e-cigarettes compared to smoking tobacco. And all this is going on at the same time as many regulators decide how to approach the sector. But then again, I always did enjoy a challenge!
What interests you in the wider PR industry at present?
The move towards consolidation interests me, particularly around agencies wishing to provide strategy, financial, corporate, public affairs, and internal advice all from one place. Specialisation will always have a role to play, particularly around complex client needs, but I can imagine larger firms continuing to merge and consolidate as big clients push for their agencies to provide more services under one roof.
What has been the highlight of your career, so far?
I am fortunate enough to have fitted three careers into 20 years, so this is not an easy question as there have been so many. Moving in-house has certainly been a highlight as, for the first time, I can really see everything that goes on within companies around the communications spectrum.
Winning an award last year for crisis communications was another highlight I should mention. But it is hard to forget the huge rush I got in my 20s when I landed a big scoop. Dancing around my desk somehow seemed like the right thing to do!
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