“The most important thing in life is to do everything in good spirit!”
Those were Catherine Cervoni’s final words when we met, and that sentiment was immediately apparent throughout our conversation: cheerful, enthusiastic and enthralling, the Corsican from Lyon lights up the world of media relations and her Twitterverse with good humour that she conveys with lots of smiles. The outline of her profile takes shape with this first quote, but it says nothing of her professional career, which is not only human but visionary.
From traditional PR to 360-degree PR
When we talk about her blog “Onlycath.com”, Catherine humbly admits that she first set it up to understand the constraints faced by bloggers. She was lucky to meet several of those she admires, pioneers such as Eric Dupin with his blog Presse-Citron created in 2005, Christophe Ramel with Kriisiis launched in 2005… rising stars who have become safe bets such as Arnaud Verchère and Valentin Blanchot, founders of the Siècle Digital. Setting up her own blog enabled her to discover the technical limits (SEO, key words, tags…) as well as the temporal aspects (writing during one’s free time, optimising publication times) and she quickly caught on, talking about her expertise in PR, a sector which has been continuously evolving since the beginning of the 2000s and which she mastered with her “left nostril strategy” – by “sniffing out trends” – and her curiosity with the arrival of social networks.
“Cath” rapidly gives the impression of being a native to the world of communications, who understood the impact that social networks would have on the way we communicate before others. After studying at ESCOM, she worked for advertisers as a marketing manager alongside men who (all too often) considered her “a funny little thing of no real utility”; so, while such jokes went beyond bad taste but were never actually nasty, she chose to hang on in and prove, ceaselessly, day after day, that communication “is not useless” and that it’s an important business tool. In 2008, the world economy was hit by the crisis, but she used it as a trigger to set herself up as self-employed and she joined a friend in events management providing “freelance PR”. From that followed encounters with bloggers, a healthy addiction to social networks and the pertinent feeling that her profession was evolving, that it was becoming digital and that she needed to catch the train if she didn’t want to be left on the platform.
It is indeed becoming more and more difficult to get visibility through traditional media, in which language is increasingly standardised and which are not followed by a section of the population; in contrast, bloggers are creating a new world, their world, where conventions are overturned, where information is processed from a different perspective and they are attracting a new and often more qualified audience. In parallel, social networks are exploding; they enable contact to be made more rapidly with these new targets, which operate differently but also facilitate “monitoring”. Some press officers don’t believe in it and refuse training. Catherine had her “left nostril” wide open and got to grip with the new conventions until she became an expert, creating 360-degree PR strategies, including both traditional and digital media. This dual capacity gave her an edge and paved the way to recognition 2.0!
A woman of her time!
Today, as a seasoned consultant and an exacting trainer, she still has her blog and an attractive Twitter account which bring in “newcomers”; a boon for someone who describes herself as a poor saleswoman – hard to believe! – and who now wants to develop alongside other enthusiasts…
Her office, at home, is where she develops her strategies from A to Z, almost always long-term rather than “one shot” strategies because “it’s at the start that you have to invest the most”. As the initiator of the Cision study, “Journalists and social networks”, she continues to evangelise a profession which is very much in need of it, through articles and studies on marketing and PR, a symbol of the digital transformation of an evolving sector.
She hasn’t forgotten the years spent working for advertisers, which gave her the urge to get involved in supporting women in the workplace. Don’t talk to her about feminism; she supports actions related to gender equality in business simply because “she strongly believes in female potential but isn’t in favour of parity if a man is more competent for the job…”.
Does she use her influence for the cause? “I’ll be an influencer the day my daughter listens to me; then I’ll know that I have influence!”. That’s clear then! Too bad for the “worldmarket” and welcome to those with passion, less complicated in some cases – product influencers – and requiring greater expertise in others – specialists/ consultants/ bloggers! At their common core: talent. One difference: the reward mechanisms.
When we address this issue, she can’t help talking about fooding, her “pastime”, which she shares via her Instagram account or her beloved native Corsica.
While Twitter and LinkedIn are used for her professional activities and Instagram and Facebook enable her to retain a link with another kind of influencer, she pursues her interest in the Other, others, reading them, encouraging them, with the same curiosity and passion… It is difficult to sum-up Catherine Cervoni, but where she lives might tell us something; digital Lyon… dynamic Lyon… entrepreneurial Lyon… Could the city be the spitting image of its inhabitant?
From actions to words!
Did I also have a quivering “left nostril”? It seems so, as it was through her tweets, exchanging via RTs and likes on branded content articles that we met each other. Through a DM we decided to meet and the content of our future exchange bears witness to this encounter. We found her in the same way that she found her voice, partly thanks to a little blue bird, a drop of curiosity and heaps of good humour! See you soon “Cath”!