Richard Kanareck, Director of Communications at Ebay, talks to PRmoment about Public Relations

As the recession tightens spending, when consumers do go shopping they want to grab a bargain. One shopping channel keen to benefit from this demand is Ebay. Communications director Richard Kanareck wishes to ensure that the company is no longer just seen as an online auction house, but as a “trusted, dynamic shopping site”

Ebay may have reported its second quarterly decline in profits in April, but its share rose as its performance had beaten analyst estimates. As a whole, e-commerce spending is slumping in the recession, but Kanareck, who has been with Ebay since 2006, believes that the current economy presents an opportunity to energise Ebay – in particular the communications team that he heads. Part of this means co-ordinating PR efforts across Europe, and Kanareck describes the main challenges of this as making sure strategies are consistent whilst maintaining local flavours and colours. He adds: “It’s a new approach for us and could have been very diplomatically demanding, but teams on the ground are strong and open to new ways of working, so we’ve built the plan collaboratively and everyone has a stake in it.”

Before Kanareck joined Ebay he worked for ten years at international public relations company The Red Consultancy, where he says he gained “fantastic” professional and commercial grounding. Moving to Ebay allowed him to use his knowledge of business strategy by planning all-round communications for a large company that could genuinely influence the whole organisation. As he puts it: “Once I moved in-house to Ebay I felt better positioned to genuinely drive the business goals, not just concentrate on gaining nice media coverage”.

Like many professionals in communications roles, Kanareck had no great plan to work in, PR when he was younger, as his first love as a student was music. Although he says that he always had a strong interest in business as well as a longing to do something creative. He was playing in a band after completing an English degree at Birmingham University when a friend offered him a couple of weeks at public relations firm Cohn and Wolfe. He says “I was hooked from there and thankfully decided to stay on. I think the band are still working on their debut album!”. Working in the communications means that Kanareck is able to combine his interest and creative endeavours in a structured way.

As Kanareck gained his experience on the frontline, he believes this is key for young PR professionals rather than just studying communications as a discipline: “There’s no substitute for hands on, frontline experience – writing a press release, calling up journalists, scoring some coverage. The rest can be learned along the way.”

The piece of advice that has stood Kanareck in good stead over the years is to “work on your shortcomings, but play to your strengths”. He himself offers this advice to anyone considering going into a communications role in a large organisation: “Just be confident in what you know and clear about the value you’re bringing. You might be the point person for all communications needs in the organisation – make that an asset.”

 

Career summary
1997-2006: Assistant Account Exec to Divisional Board Director, The RED Consultancy

2006-08: Head of PR, Ebay UK

2008-present: Communications Director, Ebay