At the forefront of the PR industry in Australia, Naomi Parry heads up luxury communications agency BLACK Communications. Representing such internationally renowned brands as Christian Louboutin, Bottega Venetta and Céline, BLACK isAustralia’s go-to agency for luxury expertise. Naomi has spent most of her career working with luxury brands, having worked for best part of a decade as Marketing Director of Louis Vuitton for Australia and New Zealand before she founded BLACK. Read the X-FILES as Naomi details who inspires her and for a glimpse of how she views the future of the industry.
What is your title and how long have you been in your current position?
I am the founder and director of BLACK, a communications company that specialises in luxury brands. We work with amazing clients such as Veuve Clicquot, Range Rover, Hermès and Bottega Veneta and we’ve been going for fifteen years.
Describe your role?
I oversee a team of incredible PR consultants and steer the business. We’re a small team, so I also spend a lot of time with clients making sure that we are delivering what their business needs. I’m also lucky enough to work hand-in-hand with editors, journalists, influencers, photographers, filmmakers and designers to create stories, beautiful content and editorial opportunities for our brands. The business evolves rapidly, so a lot of what I do is ensuring that we are resourced and equipped to deliver what brands need now.
How did you begin your career in PR and did you know that this is what you wanted to do?
I started my career in advertising and truly loved that industry, but always had a vague sense that there were people in it who were much, much better at it than me. I then jumped the fence and went to work client-side for Louis Vuitton as marketing director. I had a glorious decade there, but two things became very clear to me: firstly, that I loved the PR part of the job best and secondly, that I was a consultant at heart. That’s how the idea for BLACK came about…I started the business so that I could have my dream job.
Who has been your greatest vocational inspiration?
That’s a hard call. I’ve worked with so many incredible people, from Deeta Colvin who invented luxury goods PR in this country to Hermès boss Karin Upton-Baker who inspires me with her style and vision. If I have to choose though, the one who has really had the greatest influence on my career is Julia King, who was the boss of Louis Vuitton in Australia for the decade that I was there. She was a powerhouse; bursting with ideas, a perfectionist, endlessly questioning how we did things to see if there was a better way, a risk-taker and a passionate advocate of continuous learning.
What was the most important thing you learned working for Louis Vuitton?
The culture of Louis Vuitton was one where the excellence was a given. Everything had to be, not just perfect, but amazing. The French team taught me a great deal about never accepting ‘good enough’. They would constantly evolve things; good could be great, great could be better. They were sophisticated, self-critical and trusted their intuition, and I’ve tried to take those learnings into the things that I do in my business today.
What was the premise for starting BLACK?
One of the things that you need to be crystal clear about when you start a business is that there is a space for it, an opportunity. I saw a gap in the market for a luxury goods specialist agency, and I had access to LVMH contacts to give me a foot in the door. I also had a clear picture of what BLACK needed to be; we only do luxury brands, so we truly stand for something. There are many times when I’m tempted (usually by money) to take a big, chunky mainstream brand or project, but we never do. It takes intestinal fortitude, trust me.
What has been your greatest career achievement to date?
No question. It’s the culture we’ve built at BLACK, so it’s not just my achievement, it’s one I share with everyone who’s ever worked with us. We’re unique and we do things differently. It’s never about just money or growth, it’s about doing things with integrity and creativity and passion, and working with people who share that. After fifteen years, we’re living proof that you can maintain standards in a constantly changing world. I’m proud of that.
What is the best thing about working in the PR industry?
The best thing about the business is its dynamism and flexibility. Once you’ve established that core skill set, a PR career can take you anywhere; in-house or agency, lifestyle or corporate, here or overseas. It’s also an incredible door opener. I’m privileged to be on the board of directors of the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), which is a role that has come about directly as a result of my communications experience and pro bono work with the museum.
Would you recommend the PR industry today to young people considering their career options?
Absolutely, however I think it helps to have a sense of what part of the industry you want to work in. Corporate affairs is very different and requires different qualifications to fashion PR. However I would say that across the board, if you want to get a good job in PR these days, you will need to amass some solid work experience, be impressive in an interview and have a high calibre degree. A PR role is also a great springboard to other careers; we have ex BLACK team members all over the world, doing everything from in-house communications to management in top tier PR agencies to running their own businesses.
How do you foresee the future of the luxury industry in Australia?
The luxury industry has a robust future, however it is evolving constantly, so brands need to adapt to stay ahead of the curve. Clever businesses like Parlour X that are attuned to the changes – connecting with consumers online, introducing platforms like WeChat, being at the forefront of new brands – will thrive, but others may get left behind. There is also a general shift from the acquisition of luxury goods to investment in experiences, so the luxury travel industry, for example, is particularly buoyant. On the whole though, Australians are discerning luxury consumers; we increasingly shop at home not just when we travel, we are interested in exciting new artisan brands as well as the established houses, and in spite of what the pundits have said, we still love to visit a luxury store.
If you could go back in time and start your career again, would you do anything differently?
No, I don’t think so. The things that I have loathed along the way taught me as much, if not more, than the things I’ve loved. They’ve all been part of the journey.
What is your best advice to offer point of difference?
I know it’s a hideous cliché, but ‘passion’. If you really want something, it shines like a beacon. If you want to work in a particular area, research it to the end of the universe. Be an expert. Try to build a career that is as closely aligned with what you love or love doing; then work never feels like work.
What does style mean to you?
I think that style is about expressing your individuality and understanding what works for you. It’s your signature. The most stylish women I know have a look that is theirs and theirs alone.
What is next? Where do you hope to be in 10 years from now and what will you be doing?
I’ve got an incredible young team at BLACK and the next phase of the business is definitely about them. Who knows though, maybe I’ll open up another office. We joke about opening ‘Noir’ in Paris. Never say never!
You can follow BLACK on Instagram.