Stéphane Saclier - PR Boy #1
Interview of Stéphane Saclier, press agent and founder of his own agency of press relations, communication advice, and public relations in Paris.
Could you tell us about your career?
My career really began at the beginning of the 90s. I met Fifi Chachnil who offered me to be in charge of the press and business relations of her ready-to-wear and lingerie brand. Shortly after, I came across shoe designer Michel Perry, place des Victoires (Paris, France) and offered him my services for the press. My little fashion PR agency was born. I was still a beginner, but as I was passionate about it, every thing seemed possible. At the end of the 90s, in partnership with my friend Livio Facchini, I set up the fashion PR agency Public Image PR. We worked together for 11 years. In 2012, I felt the need for a fresh boost and set up my own communication advice agency, it bears my name and is located at home, in my apartment in the heart of the Marais (Paris, France)! Starting this new adventure has enabled me to explore not only fashion - that's part of my DNA - but also the worlds of beauty, well-being, and culture, the art of living and the restaurant industry. My experience in fashion was a great help in structuring my work, and I immediately understood that these different worlds complemented each other. I only needed to cross-reference data and to take up this new challenge spanning all these worlds. Besides, by working from home I have created a more intimate link with the journalists and my clients.
What is your best success as a press agent?
I managed to have Carine Roitfeld - who, at the time, was the chief editor at Vogue, Paris - come to a party Public image PR had organised at the Crillon during the Paris Fashion week for the Los Angeles-based jeans brand Rock & Republic. I had been told by the head of advertising that no one from Vogue would come. I did not chicken out and sent an email to Carine Roitfeld explaining her ho important it would be for my client and I to have her come to the party. The day after she came with all her staff! The only hitch was that the brand's director was stuck in traffic and only got to the party after Vogue had left. But that was the climax of the party, the guests and my client were impressed by the fact she had taken the trouble to come. I was going through a really tough time then, My father was suffering from leukaemia and only had a few days left to live. He died the day after the last day of the fashion week. I have been thinking that he had waited for the last moment to go, letting me accomplish my mission... All in all, this was perhaps my greatest success: to play my role and honour my commitments in such a difficult and demanding time, being professionally in charge and being there for my father, for I visited him every day.
What about your worst professional blunder?
This is not my worst blunder but it is funny and is now engraved in my memory for ever. This was back in 1986! I was working as a salesman at the Yohji Yamamoto men's shop located rue Etienne Marcel (Paris, France). I worked there for a year and saw stars from all over the world: Elton John, Tina Turner, Boy George, Jean Michel Jarre with Charlotte Rampling, Carole Bouquet, Sade, Sheila, Carole Laure with Lewis Furey, Julian Schnabel, etc. I was taking care of an adorable client, a very beautiful woman, with whom I started talking. She asked me about my name and told me “Oh, Stéphane, just like my husband. I would really like you to help me choose the clothes and would greatly appreciate your guidance for him.” So I asked her questions on his tastes, I asked her where she lived, what her husband's job was. We spent quite a long time together and when we got to the till, she handed me a cheque. As I asked her for her ID card, she replied, quite embarrassed: “I'm really sorry but I haven't got one with me.” Then I suddenly got it, I looked at the cheque and read “Her Serene Highness Princess Caroline of Monaco...” I had just spent an hour with her, she had been telling me about her life, her husband, her travels, her tastes and not even once had I realised I had embarked on a fairy tale with a real princess. The moment I realised I had made a gaffe I looked around and it dawned on me that the shop had been cordoned off, that a bodyguard was standing at the shop entrance, that three limousines were parked in the street and that hordes of paparazzi were shooting the shop and the princess. I have always wondered if the fact that she had not been recognised for a short moment in her life had been a special moment for her.
According to you, what are the essential quality and the definitely-no fault?
The essential quality: to have deductive skills. The definitely-no fault: carelessness and approximation.
What's on your desk?
I don't really have an office, nor a desk. I don't like the idea of having a fixed place. I'm always on the move, from the moment I get up, I run, jump, dance, I keep moving. I work from home, I have tried to separate the work part from the home part to then decide that I would work wherever I am, be it in the living room, in a café, at the restaurant, or at a client's. Depending on the place, on my mood, there will be a cup of coffee, a slice of a cake, a vinyl disk, a magazine or a book, a glass of wine or a cocktail, my smartphone connected to Instagram and, always with me, a messenger bag from the Swiss brand Freitag, for whom I work as their press agent in France, and in which I carry all my (professional and personal) things.
Your clients span very different worlds, from fashion to the restaurant industry for instance, do you work differently from one to the other?
My clients' needs vary according to various criteria, such as the size of the company, its fame, their services or products, but not according to their type of activity. The base remains the same: to establish a strategy, to set up communication tools and to broadcast them among journalists likely to spread the information. Freitag, for instance, provides me with a planning comprising broadcast dates, ready to use press releases, high definition photographs and new products constantly renewed. As for Seymour +, a Parisian space dedicated to inner well-being, Melissa Unger (the founder) and I worked closely together on the press releases and the communication strategy during brainstorming sessions. Hughes Piketty, the owner of the restaurant/bar “Le club du cercle”, gives me carte blanche to take most initiatives and the work develops organically, as we go along and discuss, and as the events occur in the place. As far as fashion is concerned, I just need to follow the tracks of seasons: two collections a year, autumn-winter and spring-summer, fashion shows (I have stopped organising shows because I exclusively represent brands of accessories), press days for journalists to become familiar with the new collections, then press, news, and look-books releases, then follow up emails and calls, then sample traffic management of the collections entrusted to us. Then it's all a matter of feelings, of networks, of moments, of trends, of luck, of caught opportunities. It's like trying to bake a cake with ever-changing ingredients! One day the cake will be perfect, some other time inedible, or too sweet, or it won't have risen. Press relations are not exact science. By the way, I make really good cakes, and I am not afraid to change the ingredients or measures to see what happens...
It is often said that a job as a press agent is based on relation skills more than anything, so, “just friends” or true friendship with journalists?
Relation skills and a good address book are the two basic ingredients to work as a press agent. The relationship I have with each of the journalists I work with is a strong relationship based on mutual respect and trust. I believe that's my strength, it's my choice of the projects I defend which forms a coherent whole with my life, my tastes, and my passions. I'm going to say something intimate: journalists like me, respect me , and support me in my choices. I am very lucky to arouse such sympathy.
Is being a man in this job an advantage or a handicap?
Neither an advantage nor a handicap. I've always considered men as equal to women.
Do press agents work in the shadow or under the spotlights?
It is mostly the designers and the projects that are under the spotlights. The press agent is by turns a scriptwriter, a conductor, a stage director, a director of photography, his role is to sublime his client and to bring him towards the light. I do not consider myself as a man of the shadow either, I have a lot of visibility thanks to social networks, where I express myself via photographs or personal comments. I have managed to keep both my personality and my integrity.
At last, what pieces of advice would you give someone starting in Press relations?
I don't have any guidance to give except: “Think by yourself”. The new generations were born with the Internet and use perfectly well the codes of communication from their earliest age and master new technologies and social networks - which I learned older with more or less ease - into the bargain. I pay extra attention to what they can bring me and am open to the pieces of advice they might give me. I'm rather waiting for their guidance, I think they might prove very helpful to me.
Here is Nathalie Croquet's question for you: “Stéphane, could we reveal the little surprise you have in store for journalists for your next press-day yet?”
No, I can't bring it to light, this would kill the effect of surprise, but I can guarantee you won't be disappointed! Appointment early November!
Who would you nominate for the next interview?
I wish to nominate Céline Perruche, Chief editor of LUI magazine: “Céline, if you were to create a feminine version of LUI magazine, how would you call it? Would you feel like displaying naked men or men in underwear?”
Photo credit: Matthieu Laurette
PR, “It's like trying to bake a cake with ever-changing ingredients!”