Today, I wanted to have a « career » talk with Tamara, a brilliant and kind Communications specialist who co-owns with her best friend Thijs, one of my favorite PR agencies in Belgium : Turbulence
From fashion to lifestyle, passing by design and even football (!), Turbulence is a creative and multi-skills agency who always sees up-and-coming trends before others. Masters in storytelling, they create unique univers around brands that they affectionate. And that is probably the key of succeeding in your career : do what you love, love what you do.
I’m always very curious about how people do what they are doing now, so tell me Tamara, how did you end up working in Press Relations and built your communication agency Turbulence ?
I have worked for a few years in a Belgium magazine called De Standaard where I was doing a lot of different things. It was very interesting and I had so many different responsibilities from photoshoots to journalisms and more. And besides my job, Thijs [the best friend] and I created a t-shirt collection, just as a hobby you know. We wanted to do something a little bit different from our jobs. So we knocked at the door or several shops in Flanders, selling our t-shirts and trying to commercialize our line and it did work pretty well.
Wow, how did you manage doing these two full-time jobs at that time ?
Well, I must admit it wasn’t always easy, pretty intense actually but we were so proud of it that we always found time for it. And we were also younger and full of energy ! And that’s how we kind of entered in the Fashion world and met some other brands like Sessùn. We were really doing everything for our little brand even the press relations and thanks to my job in De Standaard I already knew some of the journalists and received some press releases from other brands so I kind of « learned by doing ». And that’s how quickly our brand received some attention from magazines…
And so… how did you do to come from your ready-to-wear line to your PR agency ? What a huge jump in your professional life !
It really came naturally… Some other brands heard of us and asked us how was it possible that our little brand had so many articles in magazines and a good press coverage. The brand Sessùn was the first one to ask us to manage their PR and communications. Then Marie-Sixtine came to us and more and more and more and we ended up building Turbulence !
At the beginning it was only Thijs and you who created the agency ? How you two know each other?
Yes yes only the two of us ! We know each other since a looooooong time. We studied together, we did Erasmus in Montpellier together and lived in the same tiny studio together. We really are long time friends.
Why did you call your agency Turbulence ?
Hmmmmmmm… we thought it was a nice metaphor for what press relations are supposed to do. Like, we are here to create some turbulence around our brands and shake things up.
So you two have been working together since forever now and Turbulence has grown pretty fast. Are you still working just the two of you ? Or are you now handling a huge team of 15 people ?
No no no ! We are 4. We have Turbulence since 5 years now but we always thought that a small efficient team will do a better work than 20 people. We do hire some freelancers sometimes but only for things we can’t handle like websites or everything related to html and that stuff.
I’m impressed ! How can 4 people can run so well such a big agency ?! Because you have a lot of clients and moreover, clients from different industries. You manage fashion, design, beauty, food, lifestyle, art and even football (!), that’s something that I really like about your agency but I always wondered… What do you prefer working on ?
Ugh… that’s a tricky question because we are always very careful with who we work with. Like we would never work with a brand that we don’t feel comfortable with. That’s something very important for us to create a good relationship with our client and for that I believe that we have to like each other first. And what I like about working with different industry is that you can create some very interesting crossovers and collaborations. You can play around with the brands you represent and do something unusual and unexpected.
Since a few years now, the digital has become more and more important and it is a MUST now for brands to communicate on it. Are brands now asking to communicate only on the digital and do you think it is easier to work on it than on classic medias ?
They ask for both mostly because they have their own rules and it’s a different approach for both of them. We have different ways to talk to journalists. A paper journalist works differently than a digital one. They expect another kind of speech and it gives us also more possibilities to reach everybody. Of course the digital is always in movement, like social medias… it’s always changing and you definitely have to keep up and improve or adjust your message.
And don’t you feel like the digital ate the press ?
Mmmh I don’t really think that. Press and digital are different. Press stays very « luxurious », what I mean by that is that a photoshoot for a special product in a magazine will give more stars in their eyes than a blog post. Press puts a shiny fancy boundary between the product and the target. In magazines, there are photoshoots with a model, a great photographer a whole team behind and it creates a wonderful after product. On the other hand, digital is admirable for its way to connect with people, to bound with them easily. Bloggers wear clothes and shows how you can use it in real life. People can identify themselves more to bloggers than to models. Both of them have their pros.
Talking about bloggers… what do you think of them in a professional way ? Are they the new journalists and are they essential for a communication strategy ?
It depends… on the bloggers ! I think they are definitely something to think about when you build up a strategy but not all bloggers are journalists. Usually they aren’t but there are some who really work like journalists. There are different type of bloggers from the lifestyle one to the very business woman one, you can’t build a strategy and say « I’m going to do it with all top bloggers! ». It doesn’t really work like that, each message has its bloggers – haha ! Like us, we only work with a cutting-edge selection of bloggers that we know. And it is a bit like a relationship too, we won’t ask them something which doesn’t make sense on their website and for the brand. We make sure they are comfortable and like the product too. It is so important to write and create content about something that you appreciate.
We don’t really believe in the « paying a blog post » strategy. It doesn’t seem right and natural at all. We definitely prefer to ask to less bloggers to create something about the brand but with more honesty.
So you never pay bloggers to create content on some brands ?
Yes we do, we totally understand that when you want some quality content it takes time and energy for them, so it makes sense to pay them for that. But in that case we make sure to work together and create a concept that fits both clients and bloggers. We always adjust the initial concept with our bloggers so it fits on their website and it makes more sense to their audience too. We work with bloggers that are more likely able to love the brand we are introducing. We always believe that it has to come from the heart and be honest if you want to reach people.
Compared to Paris or New York, how do you find the Belgium fashion scene ?
It may sounds a bit chauvinist… but it feels like Belgium designers are more down to earth. But of course it is very different because Paris and New York are fashion weeks cities so it’s a whole different atmosphere.
When you were young, what was you dream job ? Did you ever though you’ll be doing PR ?
Haha not really… I didn’t know that kind of job existed when I was young ! When you read magazines you don’t really know how it has been made and everything behind so… no, never though about that. But I was definitely fascinated by Fashion, I just never could imagine I would end up working in it. It seemed like an untouchable world at that time…
Dries Van Noten or Ann Demeulemeester ?
Paris or New York ?
Waffle or Fries ?
Ughhhhhhh too hard to choose ! First some fries and then a waffle.