Continuing with our industry decision maker interviews, we caught up recently with PRCo Germany’s Managing Director Claudia Dressler. Since 2008 Claudia has led the expert team of this Munich PR firm which specializes in luxury travel, luxury hotels, destinations and tourist real estate developments.
Claudia’s Germany branch of parent PRCO LTD / London, was founded back in 1992 in Munich, and PRCo Group for those unfamiliar, is one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality serving communications companies.
We connected initially with Claudia via our work in Europe travel news, investigating for the readership luxury hotels and travel on the continent. To be frank, the client base Claudia’s efforts are focused upon, are quite compelling, as impressive as her staff is professional.
Communications Done Germanically
In keeping with our previous format, we wanted to gain insight into not only the mindset of success key decision makers so often possess, but to gather in how PR in a regional set may differ from its broader based cousin. Here is the dialogue with Claudia Dressler.
EPR – Claudia, your firm is very niche oriented your client base extraordinary actually. Why did your company take aim at the luxury hospitality sector, if you don’t mind saying?
Claudia Dressler – To me the luxury hospitality sector is the most challenging one. It is fragile because if you promise to deliver the best product, best services – the bar is high. The same goes for the PR consultant. We aim to be among the best in the world, this unifies PRCo and its clients.
EPR – Obviously your focus on being THE luxury hospitality PR company demands you know luxury consumers as well. Given this fact, what is the biggest communicative challenge your company faces overall?
Claudia Dressler – The perception of what is considered to be luxury or luxurious has changed during global financial crisis and we need to understand consumer tastes well in order to advise our clients on the right strategy and positioning. As PRCo we need to keep an eye on trends and how the markets and consumers change to incorporate this into our consultancy.
EPR – PRCo, I am discovering, is quite literally years ahead of many global firms where digital engagement is concerned. Can you elaborate as to when and how you initiative the company’s “wiredness” Claudia?
Claudia Dressler – Robert Lyle, Chairman of PRCo, was the driving force behind PRCo’s digital engagement some 10 years ago. Reason being, we needed to be ready before our clients started to ask us about digital marketing services. In the UK and the USA digital arrived much earlier than in Germany or any other market where we have offices, but it was obvious that digital will change communication dramatically. With our digital division, which trades under the name JohnHenry, we have a powerful source of knowledge available in our headquarter in London which supports all our offices around the world and enables us to deliver the best services for our customers.
EPR – Your various blogs, PRCo UK or Russia etc. to PRCo JohnHenry.com, are very good. How important are these to delivering your messages?
Claudia Dressler – We call it the “PRCo community” and it has an extensive and growing outreach worldwide, which we put to good use for our clients. Our PRCo blogs are an important part of the integrated on-and offline public relations campaigns we are running for our clients. The blogs we post on each of our offices’ microsite are authentic– we write them based on our own personal experience from a trip to a client and we augment them with photos or videos we took. Blogs also do not necessarily need to be focused on a specific client, but can be related for example to travel and tourism trends, which then underlines our expertise in this field. Our teams love to write those blogs, we have become story tellers. Actually they made our work even more interesting and diversified.
EPR – PRCo Germany handles PR for many of the most exclusive hospitality brands in the region and the world. Are there regional issues that differentiate your job from other PRCo decision makers’?
Claudia Dressler – Of course there are. What differentiates Germany is the fact that the media is not located centrally like for example in France where Paris is where everyone is based. And PRCo Germany covers three markets: Germany, Austria and the German speaking part of Switzerland. We have one language in common but all three markets have their characteristics which need to be reflected in our communication strategies.
EPR – I ask every interview subject about their role models Claudia, can you share with the readers the people who most inspired you?
Claudia Dressler – My father definitely was the one who inspired me the most. He taught me to be open minded, broad minded and show responsibility for everything I do. He laid the foundation for my love for travel and interaction with people when I was a little child.
EPR – Shifting gears a bit, the economy is a topic on everyone’s mind these days. What special hurdles do you this long lasting recession has created? How can PR and other communicators help businesses and customers overcome these?
Claudia Dressler – It is especially important that we understand the impact of the global financial crisis on the travel and purchasing habits of the luxury consumer, so that we can help our clients develop their messages appropriately and communicate them in the right tone. Effective communication is not a one way street; we need to develop a dialogue and build trust. Especially in the digital world our clients can communicate with their customers directly and build a strong relationship. Our digital division does a lot training with our clients how to handle social media tools such as facebook or twitter.
EPR – Along these same lines, are you seeing significant growth in the luxury travel market sector Claudia? Does this indicate an upturn or a downturn in your view?
Claudia Dressler – There are not only negative aspects of crisis. In the luxury travel sector we note a shift towards old values, the uniqueness of an experience and the emotional impact a travel experience should have. A good example is the growing number of Experience Designers. People who create special travel experiences like one of our clients does: Michael Poliza.
Michael has an amazing CV, he was an actor when he was a teenager, became a successful business man, sold his businessand started to travel around the world to focus on endangered species and our ecosystem. Back from his three years trip, he became a famous photographer and discovered his love for Africa. Today he offers trips to various African countries (www.mp-experiences.de) which are unique, something you will never forget in your life. Luxury for Michael is not expressed through caviar and champagne, but to visit places hardly anyone has ever visited or to interact with people whose language we do not even speak, just to give you two examples.
Those trips are expensive, but people who have been traveling a lot and have been to many beautiful places nowadays seek for the unforgettable experience which touches their souls. I joined Michael on a trip to Kenya this year and on this journey I saw grown- up men with tears in their eyes while having a sundowner on the top of a crater or when we were sitting around the fireplace. I would say, yes, there is room for growth in the luxury travel market sector, only we need to think differently about luxury.
EPR – Can you relate the immediate and long term goals of PRCo as a leader in global hospitality PR?
Claudia Dressler – We will never stop the dialogue between our offices around the world. Knowledge management and knowledge sharing within the PRCo group is essential to the quality of our services, which differentiates PRCo from others. We set value on the training of staff, of the young people; they are the future of our business.
EPR – Every decision maker at this level is asked their best advice for budding professionals in the suggested fields. Can you offer young PR professionals any best advice?
Claudia Dressler – I think this goes for all professions: Whatever you do, you need to do with passion and with the highest degree of responsibility. PR offers such a great variety of clients and tasks, a person can never get bored in the job. I cannot imagine doing anything else.
Caviar On A Zerbra’s Back
As you can glean from Claudia’s answers, while regional PR does have its points of differentiation such as language etc., the same expertness in communication and knowledge, passion for excellence, dictates any executive’s course or tone. I have interviewed by now, a good many top PR execs and the same characteristics shine through in all. For Claudia it is appropriate to note she is well studied in what makes up the luxury hospitality game. One thing she said in speaking about growth in the luxury market betrays a keen understanding of PRCo’s niche;
“In the luxury travel sector we note a shift towards old values, the uniqueness of an experience and the emotional impact a travel experience should have.”
For me the story about the Kenya trip up there reveals a level beyond convention is where exclusivity now resides. A boutique hotel experience in Paris, or caviar on a terrace overlooking the Thames, lots of perceptions make up what the luxury market really is. However, when all is said and done luxury is about being different and being very good at it. Actually, way beyond very good. I wrote a couple of reviews of PRCo hotel clients, and guess what? Both were way past very good. This speaks for PRCo’s leadership too.
Thanks very much for taking the time Claudia.