The challenges and beauty of working in Paris

Julie Nollet, head of international comms, Hennessy Maison, says that despite a weak economy, the city is still a major market for top comms talent.

What projects are you working on?
We are focused on our upcoming 250th anniversary later this year. To commemorate it, we have been working on a 360-degree project for a long time.

We asked several firms to work with us, whether it was developing a product, packaging a merchandising display, or helping us come up with a communications concept. We worked with specific firms, including US PR AOR Cohn & Wolfe, Ogilvy Public Relations for digital and social, and Strategic Events Group for events marketing. There’s so much we need to say to all of our 130 markets.

Is it easy to find communications talent?
The global nature of the brand means I need to find people who are internationally minded. Thankfully, this talent is readily available in Paris.

There are also a lot of emerging PR practitioners. You don’t need to go through a major agency as some smaller firms have incredible talent who are well worth investigating. Fifteen years ago, it was very rare that you would take a year off and go traveling. Today, it exists a lot more in French culture as universities often send students to another country for six months or up to one year. 

We have opened up to other cultures. When these students come back, they have experienced different ways of managing, thinking, and learning. The city also attracts a lot of foreign talent, too. There are many people who want to get that Paris experience. There is a lot of great talent out there, whether they are French with an international mindset, or immigrants.

How is the economy in France?
Not very good. The unemployment level has reached 3.5 million people, which is extremely high. Unemployment is a major concern for the French population and government. Growth is particularly slow, if not close to zero, and the country has quite a difficult employment policy.

Hiring someone in France is very complicated. It means you are committed to the person for a long time. If someone turns out not to be a good fit for the organization, it’s complicated to change direction.

How does that impact the hiring process?
A lot of young people who come out of university find it very difficult to find a job. 

There are a lot of temporary contracts and companies often get a lot of interns and students who are doing their studies to work at a company for three out of four weeks. However, only a limited number of people have access to these contracts.

How do Parisians consume news?
Social media is really booming, but the French still love their televisions for what is going on in the news.

However, mobile is now taking up a huge amount of space in people’s lives in the city. There has been so much happening lately that everyone is now connected through mobile. Previously, people used to get their news from Le Monde or other titles. Now, they leverage digital feeds on mobile devices from these media outlets.

How are citizens coping in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo on January 7?
It was extremely traumatizing for everyone. Having said that, it was followed by such an incredible movement of national unity, with chants of "We are not afraid" coming from the people who took to the streets of Paris and the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie appearing everywhere.

More than 4 million people marched throughout France to say "no" to the attack and "yes" to free speech.

It was absolute chaos when the attack happened and, at the same time, unbelievable. However, life must go on, and what is amazing is that some of us in Paris are now stronger in the aftermath. The solidarity and unity between people is what we really need to remember.

What do you love about the city?
Its beauty, especially when you drive through Paris in the evening and cross the Seine River. Sometimes, it’s a difficult city to live in, but I am always bewildered by its beauty.

Check In

1. International Chamber of Commerce
33-43 Avenue du Président Wilson
75116, Paris, France

2. Association of Communications Consultants
40 Boulevard Malesherbes
75008, Paris, France

3. Association of Media Relations and Communication Professionals
32, Rue des Volontaires
75015, Paris, France

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