Member news | October 09, 2020
In our latest Meet the Member feature, we chatted with Guilaine Depis, CEO of Balustrade, her very own press and public relations agency. Guilaine works to introduce her clients to her strong network of journalists and important figures built upon 16+ years of professional experience in the exclusive Saint-Germain des Prés neighborhood in Paris.
Read more to gain insight from Guilaine on working in the PR & media industries, working between French and American cultures and more…
FACC-NY: What led you to becoming a PR and media relations professional ?
I have always loved human encounters. They give life meaning and a future. I have always loved discovering the hidden treasures in each of us. I am said to be a generous person ; it’s actually in my character to open my heart and my address book to others. I believe that since my teens, without my being aware of it, I’ve been a good professional of press and public relations, because I have always behaved like this – go seek the light in others and raise it high so that everyone can enjoy it ! My company is called Balustrade, it means a railing, or a launching pad, that protects from the outside world, and on which one can rely in confidence and rise to be seeen. This is what I do for a living.
Working in press and public relations in fourteen different sectors (from AI to literature) allow me to connect them to each other, to initiate unexpected and fruitful encounters, for example between an entrepreneur in real estate and a famous writer, or between a scientist and an artist.
Balustrade is responsible for communication and part of the programming of national and international events. I always try to dovetail my other clients with the organization of events on which I work – Salon international des mathématiques, Marché de la poésie, Festival de la photo animalière, Fête de la philo, among others. This puts the spotlight on them. I would say that I promote my clients’ expected encounters but that I also often provoke quite unexpected encounters by crossing my networks, by weaving the most unlikely, the most magical, links. I help bring about positive synergies.
FACC-NY: If you can share, what was the most extraordinary client you have worked with? What was your biggest takeaway?
I’m proud to have a lot of contacts with journalists and prominent personalities. As an example, I’m on very good terms with famous French-speaking authors such as Amélie Nothomb and Sylvain Tesson whom I regularly interview to consolidate and retain friendship. I’m also a friend of the most famous French journalists Patrick Poivre d’Arvor and Eric Zemmour. Like the Louvre, this address book of mine, which is the envy of many, was not built in a day. My address book has been patiently built throughout sixteen years spent in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the mythical Parisian district where many celebrities live. For example, to get closer to them, I invite journalists to lunch. This allows to establish friendly links that go beyond the strictly professional stage and favors their benevolent attention for the customers of Balustrade that I then suggest they might interview.
My fondest memories as a press secretary ? Pretty difficult to say… Right now, I just love being the press secretary for innovative entrepreneurs like Eric Jeux, Emeric Lebreton, who are leaders in the AI field, but I also have a strong memory of my work for the late Antoinette Fouque who passed away in 2014, and a co-founder of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I gave her the media exposure she had never had in her life before I took charge of things in 2007. This month, I’m also delighted to promote Pierre Ménat’s book on the post-Covid European Union. Pierre Ménat is a former advisor to Jacques Chirac. This is his third contract with Balustrade !
FACC-NY: You have previously stated that by choosing your company Balustrade, you are choosing a « chic and shock » communication, can you elaborate on this?
I am known in Paris for my elegance, both in my dress and in my writing, my way of being. I do not go unnoticed, either on the streets, on social networks, or with my long texts published on internet magazines that earn me a flood of rave reviews. I feel good in my body as a woman, I claim my femininity and in a country like France that invented the art of ‘courtly love’ (‘amour courtois’), I have never been reluctant to put forward this charm to ‘fit’ my clients with journalists apt to be sensitive to my image, my kind words, my feminine gentleness, or my wit. I have an iron hand in a velvet glove. I never give up a goal once I have it in mind. I am extremely persevering.
FACC-NY: What are the biggest cultural differences you see in your work between France and the U.S.? Good or bad?
In France, many of my professional successes take place in restaurants ! Journalists love eating and drinking champagne. Sharing a good meal, a great wine, brings people together ! It then becomes easier to convince them to do articles, TV shows, interviews with my clients. That is why having a go-between like Balustrade, in the flesh in Paris (and with a smile!), is in my opinion an indispensable asset for any company or private person wishing to gain recognition in France. Virtual reality is a good thing, but human contacts are better, warmer and therefore more efficient. Complicity, and therefore the desire to be pleasant, to help me by taking an interest in Balustrade’s customers, will be stronger with a journalist after an excellent lunch, shared laughter than if I deluge him/her with endless, yawn-inducing emails.
FACC-NY:Why did you choose to join the FACC-NY?
With a passion for opera, and especially for Richard Wagner, I took the opportunity of a superb Ring, given at the MET in 2019, to discover New York. I immediately fell in love with it, it felt so strange… There was so much energy everything seemed possible, at hand. This city I’ve been dreaming of since I was a little girl looks a lot like me – same ferment of ideas, same sense of excess ! I feel like I’m magnetized by the Big Apple.
I have a French lawyer friend – from Yellaw – who found for herself on LinkedIn working partnerships with law firms located in New York. She is convinced that it is possible for me, as it is for her, to achieve in my sector of activity (press, PR) similar partnerships with companies or individuals in New York looking for representation in Paris as well as visibility in the French media.
On my return from New York, on the advice of this lawyer friend, I decided to create a second website, in English, for my company Balustrade : http://french-press-agent.com During the 2020 Covid lockdown, I made a 2:30-minute live video and wrote a 30-page PDF document introducing Balustrade to potential foreign customers.
The final move to reach my objective – the globalization of Balustrade which already has Chinese, Canadian, Korean, Israeli, Paraguyan customers – will be of course to join the French American Chamber of Commerce in New York. I am looking forward to finding new professional opportunities which will allow me to go back there.
Interested in connecting with Guilaine? Log into the FACC Member Directory to send her a message.