Leadership Lessons with… Rhiannon Evans-Young, Founder and Managing Director of Crest Communications

Asking the important questions at work, removing gendered words from job descriptions, and why the key to better sustainability in communications could start with eradicating PR support for fossil fuel companies. We recently sat down with Rhiannon Evans-Young, Founder and Managing Director of Crest Communications to ask the big Qs we're all thinking about.

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What do you think are the key qualities needed from leaders right now?

I also say to the team, "take the work seriously and wear the job lightly."

The work is incredibly important. We're custodians of clients, brands, and reputations, and we're having conversations every day that could really move the dial. But stressing over the smaller things can kill creativity and dull flexibility and nimbleness. It's the role of a leader to offer perspective, and take stress on board so that the team can focus on doing a great job. 

Also, fostering a culture of genuine collaboration across teams is becoming more important. There's no value in enabling or allowing animosity or intercompany competition. We're all on the same side.

What challenges are you facing right now in the comms industry?

Recruitment's a big one. Finding and retaining talent is extremely difficult. Oftentimes, the best candidates don't stay forever because they're ambitious and gifted, and want to try new experiences. We've been lucky at Crest where some of our biggest talents have been a part of the company for a really long time, but it's not always a given.

Also, changing media markets, and how rapidly they're influencing change. The way people consume information is totally different compared to even a few years ago, and it’s evolving all the time. Staying relevant is always something we need to think about.

What are your thoughts on the future of office working? And how can leaders develop a company culture in a remote or hybrid environment.

I think the debate is a bit stuck. Publicly, it centres on work from home vs. work from the office. Whereas most companies are figuring out something in the middle. I think the office  is still really important, particularly for junior members of staff. It's really hard to develop soft skills independently. Being able to sit and listen to someone else' call and quickly ask them a question, that osmosis learning is really invaluable.

The days of working five days in the office were knackering - but it was also really fun. So being aware of the benefits of that is important as you aim to strike a balance between the two.

What skills do you think businesses will be looking for from talent in the years to come?

Client relations and relationship building. Not just delivering on the SoW but offering a strategic level of service that's going to allow clients and their agencies to build trust and offer added value on different levels.

Flexibility is another one. Being able to upskill quickly and offer insights on everything from how key media channels and public sentiment are changing, to the role of personal branding, and so on. These are already becoming increasingly important in comms and PR.

What do you think leaders can do to drive diversity and inclusion in PR?

Evolving our hiring strategies is absolutely essential. We all need to ensure we’re sourcing talent in a way that reduces the risk of bias being introduced and also being aware of our own prejudices, both conscious and unconscious. 

Taking gendered words out of job ads and descriptions is a really easy way to take a step towards this, as is not always asking for things like degree specifications. How you present an opportunity is going to change the types of professionals you gather in your talent pool.

There's an increasing expectation on companies and CEOs to lead on sustainability practices, so what ESG strategies could leaders adopt now and in the future?

Not taking money from fossil fuel companies would be a good start, unless it’s to promote genuine green energy initiatives (as opposed to supporting greenwashing). If all agencies refused to work for oil and gas producers, it would be a powerful signal of intent from the industry. 

But we also need to be realistic about where climate impact is coming from. Some software organisations use a lot of data and processing power, for example. This involves huge amounts of water and energy usage. And that’s something we as an agency have to be mindful of - everything has an impact. 

At the moment, we're making conscious moves to partner with more climate and carbon technology clients at Crest. It’s brilliant to be able to help facilitate positive conversations between innovators and media. 

Posted on 21.08.2023

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