Industry Interviews

Emma Van Haandel
Founder of EVH agency

May 04, 2015

What is your current position?

I am the founder and Managing Director of EVH, an integrated communications agency for lifestyle, luxury and fashion brands.

Can you provide an overview of your role?

It changes day-to-day depending on what is happening with our clients but most of the time is spent time on client strategy, working with my team to ensure we meet our clients business and communications objectives, on time and on budget.

What inspired you to forge a career in marketing and PR?

I fell into it actually. I was destined to have a career in hospitality but worked from a really young age in my family businesses before I literally burnt out. I was a barista at 9 years old and managing a restaurant at 19. Not sure if that’s even legal now!

After a stint in London in my 20s, my friend and long-term mentor Sener Besim from Scanlan Theodore took a chance on me and hired me for a sales & PR manager role in house. I was already strong on event management, but had no other relevant experience.  He hired me on instinct and I now like to apply the same instinctive judgment when hiring people myself.

What motivated you to start EVH?

I moved to Sydney from Melbourne ten years ago, I needed a sea change so I took a chance. I had watched both my parents start several businesses while I was growing up so I must have inherited that confidence from them.

After more than a decade running one of Australia’s leading PR agencies, what is the most important lesson you have learnt?

I subscribe to the old clichés of going with your gut and honesty is always the best policy.

What advice can you offer women looking to combine work and raise a family?

Do it! I feel blessed to have the best of both worlds. I received two greats pieces of advice from my parents. Dad said lose the guilt, which I have almost done. Mum said the amount of hours you spend with your family is not as important as being ‘present’ and ‘in the moment’ when you are there. It’s quality over quantity. I have a similar motto with the work we do for our clients. We do quality work at EVH.

How do you measure success and what has been your greatest achievement to date?

My family is my greatest achievement. I am incredibly proud of my husband Joel and our two beautiful children, Peggy and Woody. From a work perspective, it would be our fantastic client list. We are very selective about who we work with and I respect each and every client we are fortunate to partner with.

What does the future hold for the PR industry in Australia?

Our work can best be described as Communications, rather than traditional PR. The industry is evolving and EVH restructured a while back to meet the needs of our clients. We have a digital team, and have been training our PR professionals on social, digital and CRM strategies and tactics. These capabilities were not around when I started the agency ten years ago.

Would you recommend the industry to young people today?

Definitely. I love what I do and there is never a dull moment. It can be stressful. You have to be a multi tasker but if you thrive in a fast paced environment then go for it.

Do you look for a ‘point of difference’ when hiring new people?

It depends on the role. For juniors I am looking for tenacity and work ethic. We have a strong training program, opening up a graduate position every year to our brightest star work-experience student from the previous year. I am a big believer in work experience whilst studying; the only way you will get noticed is to be present and prove yourself. No one hands you a job or promotion, you need to go after it yourself. Put in the hard yards and earn it.

What role does social media play in the marketing strategy of EVH?

Social media for EVH allows us to showcase the brilliant work that we do for our clients, share snippets of the EVH culture, and keep our brand (and by extension our clients) top of mind for key contacts in our industry. LinkedIn and Instagram are two platforms that are pivotal to our marketing strategy. The former allows us to disseminate weekly industry news and analysis via our Digital Digest newsletter and keep an eye on emerging talent. The latter is used to showcase excellent pieces of press, behind-the-scenes images at shoots or the latest happenings in the EVH office. All of my team is encouraged to have a LinkedIn profile as it provides excellent networking opportunities; plus, it’s not unusual to hear “we need to Insta that!” As strategic advisors to our clients on social strategy, it’s important that the agency understands and uses the platforms in both a personal and professional capacity.

How would you describe your personal style?

Refined and modern. I wear a lot of black to work; much of my wardrobe is structured or tailored. On holidays and weekends my style is much more relaxed – I even wear colour and print!

How important is supporting the local fashion talent and industry to you?

Very. It’s been a tough time for the Australian fashion industry in the past two years – so many talents have lost their businesses.

I am a big supporter of local events like MBFWA and VAMFF, and I am always looking for up-coming design talent to mentor.

If you began your career again, would you do anything differently?

No not really. I feel very fortunate to have a growing business, to love what I do, to work with amazing clients and a brilliant team of professionals here at EVH.

What do you hope to be doing in 10 years from now?

I would like to have completely nailed the work-life balance by then!

You can find EVH on Instagram @evhpr

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