Name: Elisabeth Lewis-Jones (Lis)
Job title: CEO
Did you go to university?
I went to Swansea University and did a BSc (Econ) Hons in Politics and Russian Studies.
I agree, it’s an unusual degree for a PR person but I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I went to university, so felt that I should spend my time studying something I was interested in. An economics degree also gave me flexibility in future career choices and has been invaluable when talking to clients.
What was your first job in PR?
During the long summer holiday, after my second year at University, I went and worked in the press office at Birmingham Airport. I loved it – I wrote press releases, managed photo calls, reorganised the photo library and took journalists on tours. They invited me back at Christmas to provide holiday cover, which led them to ask me to apply for a job in the external relations department after I graduated. I joined as press assistant, becoming the press officer within months of being there.
How did you get from there to your current role?
I spent just over two years at the airport; it gave the perfect grounding of regional PR, national issues, crisis management as well as consumer activity.
I was approached and moved on to work for a travel and tourism marketing agency where my clients were the State of Nevada, the City of Las Vegas and the State of North Carolina.
After just a year there I was approached by Julia Willoughby of Willoughby PR, she had heard me on BBC Radio 4 dealing with a fatal plane crash. I joined Julia as a senior account executive in 1995 and left, after nearly 9 years, in 2004 as managing director.
I set Liquid up in a room above my mother’s garage when my sons were just 3 years and 4 months old. First clients were Sport England and Lloyds Pharmacy. Today Liquid has offices in Birmingham, Jersey, Guernsey and London and has just celebrated its 12th birthday.
At Liquid we have an attitude that everyone works together and supports each other
What do you do on a day-to-day basis?
If I’m in Birmingham, my day starts at 7am, when I get to the office, which is probably the only consistent factor. No two days are the same. Although CEO I concentrate on client work, primarily working across the food, education and crisis divisions we have at Liquid. I provide strategic support to the account teams and act as account director for our largest clients. I relish client handling. I also head up new business development at Liquid.
Being CEO means that I get called in to all areas from finance, HR, to training. At Liquid we have an attitude that everyone works together and supports each other……so, if I need to pop out and pick up some loo roll, I do. No one is above such duties!
What do you like most about working in PR?
I love my clients, I adore my work and the variety it offers but above all I relish working with the Liquid team, their energy, professionalism and creativity.
I also enjoy the flexibility our industry gives. I took Liquid across to the Channel Islands to explore corporate opportunities there, it resulted in Liquid changing its offer with a professional and financial services division, a wider marketing focus and a design function and growing its board. We moved into the education sector having identified the growth in academies as a new market. In the last two years we have established a food division and now have our own chef offering recipe development for clients, cooking demonstrations, lessons for the media and lots and lots of rich content for social media.
Due to the constant change in PR, consultancies need to adapt and the fact that you never stand still means that there’s no time for being bored or complacent.
What’s the hardest thing about working in PR?
Keeping up with new developments in technology. Plus working on crisis means that my phone is never off, in the last five months this has meant a client call at 4.20am on Easter Sunday to working on New Year’s Eve.
Who is your PR inspiration?
For people I look up to, then at the top of my list is Adrian Wheeler, who is now Liquid’s non executive director.
I’m a mentor for the Government Communications Service and find the people I meet on it and the work they do inspiring. Plus on a day to day basis I’m inspired by the Liquid team, from client or personal achievements to the development of individuals.
seize and explore every opportunity
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever been given? Who gave it to you?
My father died not knowing what I did after university but he always told me to seize and explore every opportunity – and I’ve tried to do that. He also told me to treat people the way I’d like to be treated and to think about consequences…….and that bit of advice has been invaluable.
Which PR blogs, news sites and websites do you read?
I glance at sites such as PR Moment and PR Week. I find news sites valuable, I often say to the Liquid team that it’s important we immerse ourselves in our client sectors and that we should have as wide a reading list as possible.
Work hard, be a team player and ensure you meet deadlines
What are your tips for aspiring PRs?
- Ensure you listen – not just to directions but to what is happening in your client/company sectors. Get to know the key influencers and the main writers and bloggers. This will help you speak with authority, understand trends and industry issues.
- Work hard, be a team player and ensure you meet deadlines
- When dealing with the media, don’t lie, don’t speculate and always meet deadlines.
- Be passionate about what you do. Join the PRCA and the CIPR and get involved.
- Never stand still – keep learning.