Updated: May 4
For our second article in our girlboss series I had the chance of meeting Pascale Venot, PR Guru and founder of the Pascale Venot Press Office.
Pascale Venot created her own press and public relations office specialized in luxury consumer goods and has been a driving force in the PR world for over 20 years.
The Pascale Venot Press Office handles many prestigious French and international clients within the tourism, sport, fashion, beauty, gastronomy, media & decoration sectors.
In other words in the complete universe of Luxury Lifestyle.
Pascale Venot welcomed me in her gorgeous Paris office with Natalie, one of her established press officers, and with Fatiha, a young and promising recruit.
Pascale Venot completely embodies the image of an influential, powerful and respectable business executive ; speaking with such enthusiasm and warmth about her team and clients, you can feel how much she cares and how deeply she relates to the world of communication.
Can you tell us about your career path ?
My path is quite atypical...I didn’t like school so much when I was a kid. When I look back, I often think - I don’t really know what else I could have done... apart from perhaps working on a farm surrounded by animals I would have saved ! I love animals, but I love humans too and their stories are something I’m truly passionate about ; this is how ‘PR’ came to me, more so than I came to it.
Especially now, in the light of this global pandemic that forces us to isolate,we really realize that even if distance is a solution, the human aspect stays at the heart of everything.
We need to regroup, to gather and have real contact to mutually enrich each other. In this job, we precisely have the chance to discover people of all backgrounds and even more in this agency, as we do not specialize in a particular field, which allows us to work within a huge variety of industries : from ice-cream to luxurious hotels for example !
In a few words, how were the agency’s early days ? Starting your own business is a real challenge...who did you ask for help and who could you rely on in these moments ?
I had two big experiences that shaped me and allowed me to start my career : first was my first experience at Printemps Paris Haussmann, where I started as an intern which then evolved to the press and public relations assistant position. What was particularly interesting was the diversity of the lines of business I worked on: fashion, beauty, decoration, huge exhibitions in the events industry, etc. it's mostly thanks to this experience that I was able to create my address book !
After that, I integrated the luxury specialized press agency in the eighties, the Carole Bracq Press Office and it was during this time that I really learned about luxury culture. Carole Bracq truly was a pioneer in this field and was the first to find inspiration in the American codes. With her, I learned discipline and structure, because there has always been something a little rebellious about me… Furthermore, I already had pretty nice budgets, hotels and champagne for example, which was the early stages of lifestyle, a concept that didn’t exist at that time. Yet, if the agencies were targeting fashion, today they all have to trend towards lifestyle.
Today's lifestyle can be a dance class, a fitness retreat, hotels, restaurants, culture, it can touch everything about joys of life ! So, the luck that I had was to immerse in it before everybody and by pure affinity. In fact, when I started my agency, with an ex-colleague and friend, around the lifestyle notion, not only were they sectors I was passionate about, but also I was ahead of time for this trend ! We grew slowly, starting notably with the Michelin-starred chef, Alain Senderens who was also very “avant-garde”, because he was one of the first to give back his stars.
Can you describe the evolution of your job, that has inevitably changed a lot since 1995, with the beginning of social media ?
Indeed, we took this job evolution with full force ! Fortunately, the agency had already been launched, and we had the benefit of already having big clients such as Reebok, Asos or Airbnb on board. They were the ones to help us evolve in this transition of social media and becoming more digital.
The pr aspect really just multiplied itself with social media's appearance ... Not only does it allow more creativity, but also it’s an easier budget to deal with. I find that this immediacy allowed by digitalization is a good thing, because it makes things more spontaneous, it creates more opportunities and less constraints : there is no format, you don’t have three months of editorial copy’s submission, you can do more modern things and if you make a mistake, you can rectify it... the tools integrated by the social medias, like lives or podcasts, are more opportunities for us, press officers, to propel our clients to center stage !
In fact, social media has become a real new communication lever and if you understand it you can really utilise it to your advantage; we just came on board at the right time !
Knowing your agency is in extremely high demand , how do you choose your clients ?
The agency is in demand, but you can’ get complacent ! It’s especially important to me to take care of small brands as well as the big ones. Therefore, we always try to curate and balance our service depending on the brand’s expectations ; furthermore, within the agency, we always try to find a balance so that every press office is affiliated to a sector : decoration, beauty, travels, etcThis way the teams can really develop the opportunity to become experts in their specific field. Of course, it can happen that one of us has to handle a client in a sector totally unexpected, but it is also one of the exciting aspects of this job ! This is what allows you to discover new people, with new projects, in a field that initially may have been totally unknown and that we can then become an expert of ; because it is a job you cannot improvise and some fields require an in-depth knowledge !
Furthermore, I lead, but I delegate a lot too : I love people and I trust them ! It is more or less based on this criteria that I recruited my team ; so I have quite a good capacity to take a step back from certain situations, which allows me, I think, to be fair, clear and to keep a global vision.
What does it take to be a woman in a business world that has been dominated by men ?
To be honest, PR is often seen as more ‘female led’ , so no, I didn’t suffer so much from that. Besides, I really like to work and collaborate with women ! Even if I think that it is more difficult to lead women than men - the women I work with have incredible qualities , they’re thoughtful, caring, they're not rash and make decisions with a lot of consciousness. Yet, some of these qualities can sometimes cause anxiety and a tendency to overthink so, as a boss, I have to be capable of leading them through these doubts. I also have three daughters… So we form kind of a tribe !
Furthermore, we all were hit by life at some point, and this is what makes us stronger ! We go through life’s challenges, we learn from our mistakes, and then, we bounce back ! Bouncing back after a hard time, I think that’s really what made me become who I am today.
Luck factor exists too… And when this chance appears, you have to be brave enough to embrace it. And of course, work ! I work all the time and I love it… So, I give the constraints to myself too. There isn’t any night I am not working, but it doesn’t bother me, it’s my life balance ; and on top of that, I have the chance today to be extremely well surrounded.
Do you still have a specialized school in press relations’ project in your mind ?
The period we are living in now is extremely disturbing,but I feel strongly that we have to try our best to embrace it with positivity and move forward. Even if, at this time, businesses and artisans don’t necessarily earn money, they keep on developing themselves and I am happily surprised by their creativity and inventiveness even under these circumstances! All of them find ways to reinvent themselves or new concepts. But yes, one day,I think it would be an amazing project to create a press relations and digital school ! I’ve definitely spoken to several of the women who have been working with me for a long time, like Nathalie, Barbara, or Virginie! I don’t think there will be a rise in unemployment in communication and luckily it is a sector that will stay spared from these types of crises, because we will always communicate...we need communication...no matter what.
Can you tell us how to best manage life as a woman, a mum and a CEO?
You have to try to be excellent wherever and whenever, and that’s the hardest part ! What is certain, is that with the richness of my human encounters and the maturity I developed, I understood that you only have to live for the best ; even if we have this need within us, as women, to take care of our entourage, we also have to learn not to forget ourselves and work on enjoying and embracing happy moments.
Of course, today my daughters are older and have left, or are close to leaving home, but when they were still little girls, it was very hard… So I had great nannies ! And even more, I always took care of having quality moments with my daughters and to communicate as best as I could with them, by explaining to them why I had to go away sometimes. But I was there for important moments, and I tell them I love them, often, all the time !
We all have something we can't resist, especially when every day’s tension gets too high. Could you tell us what’s yours ?
Sugar… (she laughs, with a longer silhouette than a dancer !) To tell you the truth, I always look at the dessert menu first and I literally construct my meal around what dessert I pick ! I love what everything that makes people gain weight : Saint-Honoré, café Liégeois, religieuses au chocolat, pudding, chocolate meringues, mille-feuilles, and over all, “glands à la crème pâtissière” !
But besides that, I have to say I love animals… I feel like I have a deeper sensibility and empathy towards them over the years, especially with dogs. I have one myself, but you can see here in the office we have dogs too, they are free to go and get cuddles from all of us, they have regular times to get some walks outside, etc.
To complete this inspiring interview we have a question for Nathalie : what makes Pascale a great boss ?
To be honest, there are so many things ! I would start by the fact that she gives us a lot of freedom; she doesn’t give her trust easily, but once you have it, she lets us work with a lot of autonomy.
We are not in a competitive climate, where we constantly need to prove ourselves for any contract we get, because that’s not what she’s looking for : she knows when her teams work correctly, because if it’s not the case, clients call her directly straight away !
Our clients are our priority, we adapt ourselves to their needs and Pascale really keeps her “ship's captain’s role”, by giving us the opportunity to prove to her we’re worth it.