Paul Davies of firstlight PR talks to us about empathy, the future of PR, and life lessons from his mum
Following the success of our Global Power Book #PRProSeries, we continue the series exploring the careers of the most powerful communications pros around the world today. Grant Somerville, Consultant at Hanson Search, sits down with Paul Davies, Founder and MD of firstlight PR, to find out how he made it in the industry.
Why did you get into PR?
More by luck than judgement. I was really interested in the world of advertising - it was 1995 after all – until a chance meeting with someone led to an opportunity to join Edelman. I was interested in the influence that good communications can deliver but of course I didn’t think of it like that at the time. It was like ‘right, I can pay the rent until these guys find me out”.
What personal attribute has most helped you succeed in your career?
Empathy. I think if you really understand the person you’re talking to or want to influence you stand a much better chance of making a connection. It has also helped me understand the pressures clients are under.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Looking back, I think founding firstlight from my spare room was a challenge, but it really didn’t feel like it at the time. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done and I didn’t have time to see the hurdles. Apart from that, I think I’ve been incredibly lucky and I feel fortunate to have worked with amazing people every step of the way.
Who is the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
I can’t name one person as I’ve worked with some incredible people in my career. But I always get ‘something in my eye’ when I look at the group of amazing people who I get to work with at firstlight. It’s humbling and inspiring in equal measure.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
There’s an unprintable one that Red’s Mike Morgan and I share but perhaps not appropriate for here… My mum always told me to work hard, try to do your best and be kind to people. It doesn’t translate into Latin so well but they’re qualities I admire and aspire to.
In 10 years, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global PR industry?
The flip side of the ongoing fragmentation of channels will be more noise and a conflict between trusted content and the authenticity and immediacy of social. I don’t think the fundamentals of good communication will change – but the ways it will be devolved and delivered will. I just hope we don’t ever see programmatic PR although I’m sure it’ll be in the mix because it sounds cheap and clever. But I’ll bet you a fiver we’ll all still be watching News at Ten in 2026.
What three words best describe you as a communicator?
Provocative. Irreverent. Honest.
What’s your dream global PR/Comms/PA job?
PR for the Shropshire Ambassador to Necker Island.