Interview: Howard de Souza

The chief executive and head of public relations at Transforming a Generation talks to Anita Boniface about how to rehabilitate the image of young people

Howard de Souza
Howard de Souza

- How did you become involved in communications?

I was a PR boy from the start, working for some major global PR firms and then became self-employed and moved into marketing and communications, and into business. I developed my focus from what you want to say and who you want to say it to, to how you want to say it, the look and feel of your brand and understanding what brands are.

- What are the advantages and challenges of being a chief executive and leading communications?

The advantages include the ability to think "brand". Whether you are in the public, private or third sector, selling your brand is important - what makes you different and why people want to buy into you. As a chief executive I can help to promote and to defend the brand. The challenges are to ensure that I don't get caught up in the detail, and leave day-to-day operations to the team.

- How do you use PR to improve the image of young people after the summer riots?

I was horrified at the language used by politicians referring to the young people involved. Our job is to make sure you cannot tar all young people with the same brush. Our blog is a key way of informally addressing issues raised by the riots. We are also meeting politicians behind closed doors to help them develop a deeper understanding of causes.

- Which other charities' PR do you admire?

On an emotional level, it has to be Save the Children. Its sophisticated PR strategy works internationally but begins internally with employees subscribing to its vision and values. This is crucial to successful PR.

- How can PR help young people without work and qualifications?

It can persuade people to share the organisation's point of view. You can motivate young people - find out what they want to achieve and show how you can help them do so.

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