Kristian Hoareau Foged is a Senior Consultant and a founding member of Text100’s Global Insights & Analytics team, and is passionate about infusing creative marketing and comms strategies with data and human insights. However, prior to helping launch this team, he played a bit of ‘jack of all trades’ during his career.
After completing a law degree in the UK and military service in Denmark, he made his start to the industry through Text100’s graduate scheme. Here, his PR chops were honed through managing press offices, writing executive content, running social channels, and executing campaigns for some of the biggest names in tech. Eventually moving into the Social & Content team, he’s also lead social and digital campaigns, run corporate blogs, developed brand messaging narratives, and managed website relaunches and film projects.
Since the December 2017, he’s been crucial in shaping the Global Insights & Analytics function at Text100 – developing best-practice methodologies on digital audience insights and auditing, whitespace analysis, and influencer identification and evaluation – and selling these services in across the agency’s global client portfolio and supporting new business.
Having grown up in four different countries – Uganda, Denmark, Greenland and finally studying in England – and having roots from a fifth (Seychelles), Kristian is a proud Third Culture Kid and passionate about meeting and working with people from all walks of life.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
Five countries + two races
How did you get into PR?
By stumbling into it! I originally studied law at university and was planning on being a Barrister, however, I first had to complete my military service in Denmark.
For many years, I’d been fixated on a career in law (perhaps my Seychellois/Ugandan was an influence here…), but was surprised by the incredible learning experience the army was. My six months there opened my mind to exploring other careers and I ended up applying to graduate schemes in all kinds of areas, including PR.
When I applied to Text100, I actually thought I’d go back to law after a year or two. And, to be honest, it was probably more the company and culture that attracted me (many of my friends that went into law were jealous when I told them about ‘duvet days’ and Thursday bar), but I wasn’t even sure what PR was at the time and on the train to the assessment day, I had to Google what the difference was between PR and advertising / marketing.
What do you love about your job?
Now working in an Insights & Analytics function and naturally being closely aligned with the strategic side of PR and comms, I really love that “eureka!” moment. It’s after reading all the reports, running countless searches and analyses on your tools, cutting and dissecting the survey data, and then finally, when you’ve pull it all together, you get to that nugget of an insight that you can build a whole creative strategy on. It’s not usually a single moment, but a painstakingly gradual process of rereading, tweaking and realigning till you finally nail it, but boy is it great when you do. And then presenting those insight nuggets to a client as part of their campaign strategy or in a new biz pitch, is just the icing on the cake.
What are you most proud of?
While I’m proud of a lot of things I’ve been party to in my comms career, the thing I’m actually most proud of has nothing to do with PR.
Between finishing my bachelors and starting my military service, I worked with refugee charity as a legal research for half a year. One of the cases I worked on was for a Ugandan asylum seeker who had been in legal limbo for nearly a decade due to retrials and court appeals. While working there, I happened to have a holiday planned to visit my family in Uganda.
This meant we had a rare chance as a small charity to track down witnesses in the country of origin and interview them in person to corroborate his testimony and provide additional evidence. By some strokes of luck in having the connections to get in contact with the right people, and having a great legal team to pull it all together, we were able to pull together a strong case ahead of his final appeal hearing. Few things will compare to the feeling I got when, a few months after we had appeared in court and I’d just started in PR, I got a WhatsApp from our asylum seeker client himself with pictures of the judgement granting him asylum status and thanking me for everything we’d done for him and his case.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That it’s really hard to be truly courageous in communications. You can work your butt off on a campaign idea and think it’s absolutely brilliant, but getting the buy-in and sign-off from all the client’s internal stakeholders to do something bold in its tone and creative, or that provides a genuine opinion / take a stand on an issue, is not easy. But it’s also one of the reasons I enjoy working with insights and data; you can really inform and back-up your ideas with more than gut and subjective experience, and reassure clients and reduce the feeling of risk.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
From an industry perspective, I’ve really been impressed by the role that Sue Garrard had at Unilever – driving not just the comms of a major brand, but actually being the lead of the sustainability initiatives they’ve been championing in their sector. Will be interesting to see what she does next.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Understanding the bigger picture of a client’s business needs, their internal pressures and the ability to get to this when dissecting a brief. Have seen many PR pros at the junior end that struggle to make the jump from being great at media relations, content creation and generally bossing execution – to being strategic advisers that clients trust to advise on achieving business goals through comms.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Hands down Twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I spend too much time scrolling through Instagram, but Twitter is a news source and breaker, has the most interesting engagement functionalities for brands to experiment with and, from an insights perspective, is by far the best for researching and measurement because it’s an open platform. Besides, who doesn’t love the underdog, especially of social media?
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Kate Bevan – she’s just brilliant and geeky, unabashed about giving her honest opinion on an issue and generally hilarious on Twitter. Also have to give my admiration to Alex Wood, Oliver Smith and the original team at The Memo that built a start-up title to eventually becoming the European arm of Forbes. If it’s meeting for a pint though, I’ll always have a great laugh when catching up with Aatif Sulleyman (though he owes me a call).
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
When I was considering doing something less than admirable but with a short-term pay-off, an old mentor of mine told me “Remember, you only get one reputation. Rebuilding it after ruining without good cause isn’t easy.” This advice has helped me not just ensure that when struggling with a tough choice, that I make a decision I can stand behind with my head held high, but also that I’m thinking long-term. Life is a marathon, not a sprint.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2018?
On the fail side, GBK’s Curry Burger stunt was like a really bad joke. Still not sure why they thought it would be a good idea.
I’m not going to be the only one that says this on the “yay” side, but damn it, it’s true: Nike’s Dream Crazy with Colin Kaepernick was just perfect. It hit every single note. They took a stand on a controversial issue, it was perfectly aligned with their brand’s long-standing empowerment and Just Do It position, and they knew there’d be a backlash, but the campaign put a flag in the ground to perfectly target their most important audience.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I’ll have to admit that my answer to this is constantly evolving and I don’t have the perfect answer (yet ), but think one truth is that we need to start looking at this problem holistically – it’s not just a recruitment issue, it’s a retention, representation, development and cultural inclusion one as well.
And the first step to tackling any problem has to be acknowledging that there is a problem. And I don’t just mean reporting on diversity stats and trying to set a box ticking quota, but actually having some tough conversations, and being proactive in trying to fix it. Shirking responsibility and allowing the status qou is what will ultimately be the most harmful thing to our industry, and we’ll miss out on the great talents who will go to the sectors and companies that are taking a stand and are pulling ahead in this space.
Kristian is one of 18 mentors for the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme 2019.