PROFILE: Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau, Freelance Consultant - Van Oranje-Nassau leaves WS corp role

Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau won't capitalise on her royal connections

Former Weber Shandwick European corporate PR chief Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau is perhaps unique in having to juggle twin roles as a communications consultant and as a member of the Dutch royal family.

While those in the industry know her simply as Laurentien, to the Dutch public, she is Princess Laurentien van Oranje-Nassau, wife of Prince Constantijn, and she is adamant about the need to keep the two roles separate.

Inevitably, comparisons will be made between van Oranje-Nassau and her British counterpart and friend, Sophie Wessex, who was accused in a News of the World sting of using her royal connections to gain clients for RJH, the agency she co-founded. But when it comes to Wessex's travails, van Oranje-Nassau refuses to comment, steadfastly insisting that, despite both being royals, Wessex's situation has no relevance to her circumstances.

Speaking only of her own situation, she says it has not been difficult to maintain a clear divide between her career and royal status. 'It's about integrity and sensitivity,' she says after careful consideration.

'If you marry into special circumstances then, in terms of work, you still want to be recognised for your own skills. I don't want anybody to buy my services because I married into the royal family. I want them to buy my services because I'm a good communicator.'

While van Oranje-Nassau is a relative newcomer to royalty, she grew up in a high-profile political household: her father is the former leader of Dutch liberal democrat party D66 and ex-minister of agriculture, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst.

Born in Leiden, van Oranje-Nassau lived, studied and worked in a number of countries before finally settling in London two years ago.

She spent two years in Tokyo while her father was chief delegate of the European Union in Japan, briefly returning to the Netherlands before undertaking a history and politics degree course at Queen Mary University, London.

In pursuit of an early interest in journalism, van Oranje-Nassau then made her way to the US to do a masters degree in the field, securing her first big break working as a video journalist with CNN Headline News in Atlanta.

She says the gruelling graveyard shifts made her realise there is more to life than constant deadlines, prompting a return to her family in Europe: 'I've always wanted to have a balance in my life and have never been solely career-oriented. Family and friends are very important to me.'

Van Oranje-Nassau soon found work with Brussels-based think tank the Belmont European Policy Centre. Director and founding chairman Stanley Crossick says she has always made the most of every opportunity. 'She may have got to the starting post through her father, but she used the introduction with confidence when she was there,' he says.

Three years later, van Oranje-Nassau made the move into PR as manager of government relations at tobacco giant Philip Morris - her first and only in-house PR role. She says she became uncomfortable working for a cigarette company and was lured away by a former colleague at Belmont, Constance Kann (now head of corporate relations and vice-president of public affairs at Unilever in Rotterdam), to help her run Edelman's Brussels office.

From Edelman, van Oranje-Nassau moved to the then Adamson BSMG Worldwide in Brussels, before being appointed director of the 30-strong corporate practice in London. BSMG's merger with Weber Shandwick later the same year, which followed Interpublic Group's takeover of BSMG parent True North Communications, catapulted van Oranje-Nassau into the top corporate PR post in Europe.

With more than six years' experience handling strategic communications at the world's largest PR agency, van Oranje-Nassau is quitting to go freelance - a brave step in the current market, but she says it will better suit her lifestyle, now that she has a young daughter: 'I want to spend time with Eloise, but I don't want to work less or give anything up. I just want to have some freedom.'

Van Oranje-Nassau already has a number of projects under her belt - with former employer WS, corporate PR boutique Portland and a Netherlands-based initiative that aims to re-invigorate Africa's rundown national parks.

She feels she has now achieved the balance she craved and says she is 'incredibly happy with her life'. So much so that, when asked if there are further dreams she wishes to pursue, she is at a loss to name any.

HIGHLIGHTS

1992: Executive director, Belmond European Policy Centre

1997: Deputy MD, Edelman Brussels

2002: Chair, European corporate practice, Weber Shandwick

2003: Freelance corporate communications consultant

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