PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Hélène Legay, APCO Worldwide

We hear from Hélène Legay (27), consultant, APCO Worldwide.

PRWeek UK 30 Under 30: Hélène Legay, APCO Worldwide

A rising star at APCO's London office, Legay has quickly emerged as an expert in media relations and high-level stakeholder engagement in the Global Solutions practice. Legay has become a trusted advisor to political and business leaders, and APCO praised her for consistently delivering across some of the consultancy's most challenging and meaningful projects and clients.

Meet the PRWeek 30 Under 30 2020

Judge's comment: "Hélène is a real force to be reckoned with and she has achieved more than most already."

How does working in PR differ from your expectations?

I find my work extremely varied and intellectually stimulating. I work in a team, Global Solutions, that advises high-profile political, business, financial and social leaders on how to navigate complex geopolitical issues. Before joining this team, I had no idea that I would work on issues ranging from international arbitration to south-east Asian politics. It is never boring!

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

I am healthy, my close ones are safe and I have been able to work from home easily, so I feel privileged. Professionally, this crisis has given me a fresh perspective about my work and the importance of effective communications. I have learned a lot from watching the strategies, messages and tools employed by governments and companies, and comparing results. One thing that struck me is how powerful empathy and kindness have been in government communications, which I’m sure will be the object of academic studies in the months and years to come.

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

While it will have a financial impact on our industry, this crisis is also an opportunity. Business and political leaders need strategic advice and insights to proactively respond in a meaningful and constructive way to crises and complex societal changes such as social movements and the climate emergency. PR professionals are equipped to help organisations engage with their audiences on difficult issues and plan for potential future crises. We must also be able to have an honest conversation with our clients about the limits of communication; it cannot replace action. How credible are companies advocating for equality and diversity if they have no women and people of colour on their boards?

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

The PR industry must reflect the diversity of the society and communities it aims to speak to. The PRCA census for 2019 shows that an astonishing 89 per cent of the PR workforce in the UK is white. One way of changing this would be lowering the barriers to entry and paying entry-level salaries that enable young professionals to live decently without the support of parents. Another one would be more diversity in leadership positions. About 66 per cent of PR professionals in the UK identify as female but only a minority manage large agencies.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

In a senior communications or policy role, either in an agency or in-house.

How do you switch off from work?

I play guitar and write songs. It always a humbling experience because there is no proven way of writing good songs – sometimes inspiration strikes immediately, sometimes nothing comes for months. Or maybe I’m just bad at it!

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