PR guru back in the game and doing what he does best

Profile: Paul Welsh, managing partner, National Public Relations

Paul Welsh, managing partner, National Public Relations | Rob Kruyt

As the old adage goes, you never quite forget your first love.

And after taking a hiatus from what was already a well-established career as a leader and innovator in the public relations sector to co-found Amicus Global Relief Solutions – a software technology platform that redefines the way donors give to non-profits and provides transparency to charities’ use of those endowments – Paul Welsh is back doing what he loves best. Last October, Welsh returned to the industry by signing on as managing partner of National Public Relations’ Vancouver office, one of nine outposts National counts in its cross-country roster. It not only marked another milestone but also represented a rebirth of sorts for the Regina-born Welsh, who arrived in Vancouver in the early ’90s and joined forces with local PR maven Patti Schom-Moffatt at Karyo Communications, the company Schom-Moffatt established in 1983.

Together, Welsh and Schom-Moffatt helped expand the consultancy from a small space in a house on Hamilton Street into Western Canada’s largest communications agency.

The firm’s success was partly due to an at-the-time novel, integrated and holistic approach to communications that blurred the lines between services such as consulting, advertising, media relations, digital and online development, research and event planning.

After the pair sold a controlling interest in Karyo to PR giant Edelman in 2007, Welsh went on to serve as co-general manager of Edelman’s Vancouver bureau, where he spearheaded Edelman Canada’s work for the Olympics in Beijing in 2008 and in Vancouver in 2010, and helped establish the company’s first Calgary office.

In 2013, Welsh was named chief commercial officer for Edelman Canada and worked to advance the company’s commercial interests across the country, overseeing the acquisition of marketing and public affairs firms in Toronto and Montreal and the opening of Edelman’s first office in Ottawa.

While his new role allowed him to lead the charge on a number of high-profile clients and projects, it also took him out of Vancouver, away from his immediate family at home on Bowen Island and what had become an extended family within the confines of the Edelman Vancouver office.

In 2016, Welsh and Edelman parted company, and he began devoting the bulk of his time to nurturing Amicus, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based tech company where he remains a director after shepherding it through the initial stages of brand and product development and capital fundraising.

His sojourn from the PR sector was brief, but Welsh is understandably excited to be back in his element, an office where he can once again help build a team, and a place where he can act on the bedrock principles that helped his former firms establish themselves as major players in the public relations sector both here and abroad.

The industry today compared with the sector he made his initial foray into more than two decades ago is a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” Welsh said.

“The pace of change, especially with technology over the last five years, has been incredible, but understanding what doesn’t change in our business is as important as what does, and what never changes is that focus on the client,” he said. “Certainly, our clients’ objectives haven’t changed. They need to build great products, services and companies that are relevant to the customers and the markets they serve. It’s that simple.

“We’re not in the PR business, or a marketing communications agency. Those are just the tools we use. We’re in the client service business, and the key to success is always having your eye firmly on the client and knowing that we don’t have a business if the client doesn’t have a problem that they think we can help them solve.”

Despite the proliferation of myriad social media platforms and programs that scour every last iota of data that could be a potential boon to any given client, Welsh’s focus – and that of his team at National – remains the same: keeping an overarching strategy in mind.

“Our clients are bombarded with complexity when it comes to the marketing tools and channels they should be using,” he said. “Our job as their partner is to help them make sense of all the noise, to simplify and make the necessary connections so they don’t have to.

“We do that most effectively by acting as consultants and not losing sight of their unique business objectives, and by making sure they have a clear, compelling story to tell and that we get that story in front of the right people at the right time.”

Beyond ensuring those unique stories are delivered to the ideal audiences, Welsh is invested in making sure he has the right team of people around him to help the business thrive.

National employs behaviour and data scientists and tech-field experts, for instance, who can develop the necessary tools and platforms for clients to more effectively identify and collaborate with influencers and stakeholders.

One of those key people on the register is Hide Ozawa, formerly an executive director of marketing and communications with the B.C. government, who recently joined National’s Vancouver office as vice-president of marketing technology.

“Part of me taking on this job,” Welsh said, “was that I wanted to meet myself at 30, and to have someone like that come on and be keen and eager and hungry to drive the business, and he is absolutely that.”

Welsh has also enlisted former TransLink executive vice-president of strategic planning and public affairs Bob Paddon as well as his own former mentor in Schom-Moffatt as senior counsels to National’s Vancouver division.

“I can’t imagine anybody who has had a better [professional] partnership than Patti and I have had, and I think the success of the company bears that out,” Welsh said.

“She is a gifted communicator and business person and I’m thrilled that she’s on board and is available, with all her knowledge and resources, to help us when we need it.” •


Inside Information: Paul Welsh

Currently reading:

The Four: The Hidden DNA of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google, by Scott Galloway

First album bought or music downloaded:

Elton John’s Greatest Hits

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up:

Greens superintendent at a golf course

Fun fact:

Commutes back and forth from his home on Bowen Island daily in a 22-foot aluminum salmon boat