In Conversation – Alan Vandermolen

RT: In March 2016, you joined WE Communications to oversee global expansion. It was reported: “Former Edelman executive resurfaces in  newly-created international leadership role, as WE’s global revenue drops below $100m”. How has the story rolled out?

AV: So far, so good. I’m six months into the job and we are on the path of growth. One of our big objectives was to grow business outside US and we are on track. We are moving ahead with a focus on what I call our power sectors technology and health and also understanding how those sectors intersect with other sectors. We have expanded our network and have also been increasing insights in analytics so that our creative product can be much more effective across integrated media platforms.

RT: You joined  WE  after  spending  13  years  at Edelman where one of your roles was to lead the Asia-Pacific growth. What is the future for the Asia-Pacific region?

AV: In general, Asia remains the fastest growing region in the world! I don’t see anything getting in the way of that in the near future. In particular, China and India continue to be real engines and I have optimism that Korea’s growth will increase. South East Asia will emerge as third big economic region behind China and India, and will continue to grow.

At WE, I think our focus on sectors is perfect for this region. You have tremendous growth and penetration through the mobile web, and that leads to greater media consumption, which is good for our business.

RT: How would you compare the PR scene in the US and in Asia-Pacific?

AV: The business is growing much more quickly in Asia Pacific than it is in the US. It’s a mature business in the US, where PR has to fight much harder to work across paid, social and owned media. In Asia Pacific, there are fewer barriers for entry of PR to play across the media ecosystem. This creates faster growth environment and a more welcoming environment for PR.

With clients today, they want great ideas to help their business, and increasingly they do not care if it comes from the Ad agency, Creative agency or Digital. They just want the best ideas to positively impact their business.

RT: Do you think the profession is attracting the right talent?

AV: I think a bit more broadly in terms of marketing services. You need talent on the consultancies’ side, who understand the client’s service and how to integrate it and how the ecosystem works, that places equal value on insights and creativity as with editorial product. It’s an equal balance between content and creation of content.

It’s a big shift for us. Any consultancy is capable of attracting good talent if they are modern and have great clients.

We don’t run into problems at the entry level, but it’s the middle, which is difficult. The challenge is less of attracting talent and more of retaining talent. If millennials want to make an impact, they make sure what they are doing is impacting themselves, the companies and the clients they are working on. Their definition of impact is – social first and commercial second!

RT: The secret formula for success?

AV: I want people in our business to have “R-POP” – Relentless Pursuit of the Possible i.e. doing things that will make an impact for clients, your consultancy and for yourself! And, millennials are well suited to that.

RT: What is your take on the PR business scene in India?

AV: India is going through a period of consolidation and great growth. I think that it’s difficult to be a small consultancy here because the bigger PR consultancies, particularly those backed by global network is where the growth is.

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