In the Hot Seat: An Expert Interview with Will Blair, VP Corporate Communications, Barclays
Why did you get into communications and PR? My father, early in his career, was a lecturer in communication studies in further and adult education. It reflected his belief in the transformational importance not just of education, but also of effective communication skills, as the means to forge a successful career. So I suppose the fact that I’ve ended up in this line of work isn’t a great surprise. But like most of my successes, it happened by accident. I had a number of jobs: working in tourism and leisure, as a researcher in Parliament, in regulatory policy, and it was only when a contact Facebooked me, tipping me off about an opportunity at a big PR agency that I finally joined the dots and began a career in PR. What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career? A sense of humour and perspective. Without both, I’d go mad. In 100 years’ time, none of us will be here, and none of what’s occupying us now will matter. What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career? I’ve been extraordinarily lucky to have had a relatively hassle-free career to date. It won’t last. So perhaps the biggest challenge has been to witness some first rate, genuine and honest people have their careers cut short or interrupted through no fault of their own, whilst witnessing others, whom some might consider less ‘deserving’, be rewarded. Gross injustice haunts all aspects of human existence, and taking it on, calling it out, and overturning it, is perhaps one of the biggest challenges we all face. Who is the most inspiring person you’ve worked with? To date, I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the biggest beasts in the PR jungle – Tim Walker, Jon McLeod, Wilf Weeks, Joe Phelan, Peter Bingle, Stephen Lotinga and Paul Farrow. I’ve been inspired by and learned so much from every one of them, in many ways. What is the best advice you’ve been given? The same advice I always give you younger folk beginning their careers: take ownership of your career and professional development, because no-one is going to do it for you. In ten years, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global PR industry? What I find remarkable is how this industry has, to date, shown itself to be ‘recession-proof’. There is much talk of a second global financial crisis on the horizon – on a much bigger scale than anything we’ve seen before. In my own self-interest, I hope the soothsayers of doom are wrong. If not, will the industry defend its recession-busting title belt? What three words best describe you as a communicator? Creative, charismatic and chillaxed. What is your dream global communications job? This will sound sickeningly sycophantic, but in my current role at Barclays, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been professionally. The combination of learning new communications skills, dealing with different challenges, and working alongside a wickedly fun and wonderfully talented bunch of colleagues really does it for me. The only job offer I couldn’t refuse, however, would be if Rick and Francis from Status Quo called me up, and asked me to manage the communications for their upcoming (and allegedly) final world tour. I’ve already got the t-shirt, stonewashed jeans and denim jacket, so I could start immediately.