Industry Interviews

Naomi Parry
Founder of Black Communications

November 20, 2014

Namoi Parry is at the forefront of luxury public relations, as she heads up her own PR agency in Sydney called BLACK Communications. She currently works with internationally renowned organisations to the likes of Hermès, but Namoi is no stranger to such sophistication. By working as the marketing director for Louis Vuitton for nearly ten years, Naomi came to realise that the PR aspects of her role was her favourite part. Additionally, the opportunity to be immersed in French culture proved beneficial to Naomi’s perspective of self-critique and the importance of trust between employees and their institution. Read below where Naomi details who inspires her and a glimpse of how she views the future of the Australian fashion industry.

What is your title and how long have you been in your current position?

I am the Director of BLACK Communications, a PR company that specialises in luxury brands. We work with amazing clients such as Veuve Clicquot, Paspaley, Jaguar Land Rover, Hermès and Taj Hotels and we’ve been going for over ten years.

Describe your role?

I oversee a team of incredible PR consultants and steer the business, hopefully in the right direction. We’re only a small team, there are just eight of us, 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 of magazines, TV producers, journalists and blogger to create stories and editorial opportunities for our brands.

How did you begin your career in PR and did you know that this is what you wanted to do?

Oh god, no! I always find people who had their life mapped out when they were in nappies slightly terrifying. I suppose, at some level, always knew that I wanted to work in the communications area, and so that was where I looked for a job when I left university. I’ve arrived in the PR world by a fairly circuitous route. 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 a 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. Then there’s talented fellow PRs like Emma Van Haandel who make me work harder! 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 to 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?

Making a success of BLACK, no question. I’m not a natural entrepreneur, but I’m someone who built a business around what I love, and I’m proof that what it takes is a good idea and a lot of hard work. If I can create a business, I promise you, anyone can do it.

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. And because the business is adaptable, it’s been less vulnerable to the fast-changing media landscape. PR companies have, in general, fared better than many other communications and media businesses in this millennium.

Would you recommend the PR industry today to young people considering their career options?

Absolutely, but I think, interestingly, it’s becoming quite a crowded, competitive space. I always joke with the team and say that I would not get a job at BLACK if I applied today. But it’s actually true. 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. It doesn’t have to be a PR degree, but I think that most top agencies these days are looking for tertiary qualifications that demonstrate intelligence, commitment and focus.

What online sites and blogs do you read?

I read blogs far and wide for my job, but my ‘go-to’ blogs are: Eva’s blog on Parlour X of course, global culture blog Nowness, Lucy Faegin’s The Design Files,  and Mumbrella to keep me in touch with the communications industry. I’m also a Twitter fiend, as it has a great search engine that suggests topics and people to follow.

What is your view on social media?

Life was simpler before social media, but I love the way that it opens up communication. You can curate your own networks with the people you follow. It’s fertile territory for the luxury lifestyle space that BLACK operates in. Our business is about influencers and it’s a way to connect with them all over the world.

In your opinion, how has social media changed the PR industry?

On the one hand, it has made the job more complex; on the other, it has almost overnight created a whole new world of possible communication channels. It’s exhausting but fun.

Has this change been a positive one? What do you feel are the pros and cons?

Initially, I was distressed by the impact of online and social platforms on my journalist and editor friends, a great many of whom lost their jobs as the media landscape fragmented. However, as the changes have unfolded there have been new opportunities and new ways of working that have opened up, and we’ve all come to understand and we hope, harness the power of social media.

Whilst the new media landscape is exciting, I suspect we are all spending too much time online. That’s the ‘con’.

How do you foresee the future of the luxury industry in Australia?

In my view, the industry has a robust future. Australians are incredibly well-travelled and knowledgeable about luxury brands; we want quality and we are discerning luxury consumers. As our knowledge about the brands increases, as our access increases via online shopping sites, so does our taste for the lesser known, artisan houses and bespoke luxury labels. I also think that there is an exciting emergence of local brands such as Paspaley Pearls, Aēsop and Dinosaur Designs taking Australian luxury to the world. Luxury juggernaut LVMH is investing in Australian companies such as RM Williams, which tells you everything.

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 find Naomi on Twitter @Naomiparry

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