Julian Henry chats with us about the future of digital entertainment and always being ‘up for it’
Role: Global Head of Communications Organisation: XIX Entertainment Julian Henry was featured in the 2015 PR Week Global Power Book. As part of our #PRProSeries, Janie Emmerson, MD of Communications at Hanson Search, interviewed Julian to find out how he made it in the industry.
Why did you get into communications?
I started in communications in the early 1980s when I was writing for the weekly music papers, reviewing bands and musicians. As part of this, I came into contact with PRs, advertisers and marketers and that was my introduction into that world. I was playing music and writing about music and then I found that the easiest way to make a living was actually to promote music, so I went to work for a music management firm as a music rights holder. I spent five years there learning how to interact with journalists and broadcasters, and how to shape and create moments that attracted attention. I learned what worked and what didn’t work and that’s what started me off in my career.
What personal attributes have most helped you succeed in your career?
You need to have an entrepreneurial spirit and a can-do attitude. You also need to be able to take on what look like complicated tasks and simplify them in order to identify what ground you can win. That can be difficult because most people have a personal opinion about the marketing they’re exposed to but this is a very different thing to a professional opinion, which is something borne of experience. When you start in this field, you don’t have a professional opinion because you don’t yet have the experience. Over time you learn to qualify your judgement and leave your personal opinions to one side.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge that you’ve overcome?
Initially, it was that PR wasn’t really taken seriously. Those were the days that television advertising was dominant, and PR was the underdog. In today’s world, one of the bigger challenges is navigating corporate channels. Corporate requirements can kill creative instinct. Strategies are changed until they’re no longer strategies any more.
Who would you say has been the most inspiring person you’ve worked with?
I haven’t worked with him, but I’m very inspired by President Obama. He’s fresh, engaging, serious, qualified and underappreciated by his people.
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve been given?
When I first started, I worked for a fashion publicist called Lynne Frank and whenever I said I wasn’t sure how to do something [or how to do it], she’d say that anything is possible. She was a real believer in being positive in the way you think about things. If you carry that idea, that anything is possible, into a communications environment then you’re definitely on the right road.
In ten years’ time, what do you think will be the biggest change in the global communications industry?
I believe that advances in digital technology will dramatically change the way that we experience music, TV and film in our homes over the next 20 years and this will bring about a new set of communication challenges and opportunities. For example, instead of just listening to music via a device through a download, the technology now exists for us to see Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran performing as though they’re actually in our living room. And this will allow fans to join their favourite stars in creating new content. The power of social media is leading us to this place right now. We will be surrounded by a whole new digital world; the distance between iconic talent and their audience will reduce and new stars will emerge from unexpected corners of the world. From a comms point of view, transparency, integrity and honesty of purpose will become more valuable, so it’s critical that we protect our trades and crafts - journalism for example - to ensure that the news is not produced by robots.
What would you say are the three words that best describe you as a communicator?
Up for it
Apart from your current role, what would be your dream role within communications?
I’ve got a pretty good job. I certainly don’t dream of anywhere else!
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