PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Lydia Willgress, Lexington Communications

We hear from Lydia Willgress (28), senior consultant, Lexington Communications.

Equipped with an unconquerable work ethic, sound judgement and maturity beyond her years, Willgress' career has "always been on fast-forward", as Lexington puts it. To give just two examples, she singlehandedly led a pitch that secured the agency a place on two major procurement frameworks, worth up to £15m each over four years; and developed a comms plan for a global healthcare firm that led to the client's most successful UK media launch to date.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Lydia has achieved a lot in a short space of time and has showcased real expertise in a range of communications practices. Her support of young women through the Girls Network is very inspiring."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

I moved to Lexington from the news desk at The Daily Telegraph, so I’d already had exposure to PR. In some ways, it’s exactly what I expected. Ultimately, a good story is a good story and knowing how (and when) to approach journalists is key. But in reality, every day is different and there are always new challenges to confront. I have a much more well-rounded understanding of PR now.

Describe your experience of working in PR during the COVID-19 crisis.

It’s tough but extremely rewarding. Clear communication is critical at this time so my focus is on determining the most effective ways for clients to deliver their message and cut through the noise in the media, and with Government and customers.

In particular, I’m providing ongoing PR support to a healthcare firm playing a leading role in the global response to the pandemic. While it is the busiest time of my career, involving plenty of late evenings and early mornings dealing with journalists, it’s also a fascinating insight into how the enormous challenges posed by COVID-19 are being overcome.

How (if at all) will the COVID-19 crisis change the PR industry?

Now more than ever, effective PR is not just about delivering a big book of coverage; it also needs to help companies meet their business objectives. With company budgets being squeezed, there will be a greater need to prove how communications can help to drive growth.

The result could be an increased emphasis on ROI, and less of a focus on mass communication, which is not always the best way to shift the needle. Instead, targeted PR will be increasingly important to help businesses reach the people they need.

In the long term, COVID-19 will also have an impact on corporate reputation. The relationship between journalists and businesses is evolving, and firms should be transparent about changes to plans.

What one thing above all would you change about the PR industry?

As an industry, we need to attract a more diverse workforce – whether that’s people from different backgrounds, ethnicities or experiences. We all have a part to play in this.

What is your 'side hustle'?

I write about health and fitness for The Independent and Women’s Running. I also mentor with The Girls’ Network, helping to inspire and empower girls from disadvantaged communities.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I have overseen a refresh of Lexington’s profile-raising offer, so I’m excited to take this to the next stage. My focus is on developing targeted strategies that build on brand objectives, reach companies’ target markets and deliver ROI.

I would also like to develop my skills in paid-for social strategy, as well as continuing to help others learn about the media and how to pitch.

How do you switch off from work?

I run a lot as I’m hoping to do my first ultramarathon, although trying to recreate the Devon coastline in London for training is proving tricky…

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