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Paul Russell from the Luxury Academy on luxurious brands, training and marketing

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 08 July 2016

Cofounder and managing director Paul Russell on training and how to market for luxury brands

Luxury Academy logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your and what do you do there for the Luxury Academy?

Paul Russell (PR): Iím Paul Russell, the co-founder and managing director.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about the Luxury Academy

PR: Luxury Academy offer specialised soft skills training for the luxury market through workshops and masterclasses in aspects such as business etiquette, communication skills, leadership, customer service and business development.

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

PR: We work with luxury brands, blue chip companies, retailers, hospitality companies and luxury service providers, with training courses designed for staff at every level in the organisation.

Photograph of Cofounder and managing director Paul RussellSMP: When was the company founded, how many people work there and what are the regions it serves?

PR: Luxury Academy was founded in London in 2012, we opened our first overseas office in Gurgaon near Delhi in 2014 followed by a second office in Visakhapatnam in 2015.  We train across Europe, the Middle East, China, the US and India with 26 full time staff and 18 freelancers.

SMP: Briefly, what does your job entail and what does a typical day look like?

PR: My job has three distinct areas. The first is determining the strategic and tactical direction of the company, looking at potential new markets and services both internationally and in the UK.

The second entails working with my business partner Shanine to manage the daily operation of the offices. The individual skills and strengths that Shanine and I have complement each other incredibly well, Shanine is in charge of the smooth running of the offices and our staff whilst I look after the training and trainers.  Delivering worldwide training is the final (and most time-consuming) aspect of my job.

SMP: What are the challenges that youíve encountered and how are you overcoming them in what you have been doing so far at Luxury Academy?

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we have encountered is not being able to shout the names of the clients we work with from the rooftops. We have to convince companies that we are the best choice for their staff training without divulging details of current or past clients and the difference we have made for them. Thankfully, word of mouth referral is very strong in the luxury industry and this helps us a lot, but when that isnít the case, we rely very much on our knowledge of the luxury segment to build relationships with potential clients.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

PR: I think one of the most exciting moments was at the very beginning, we had been in business for about 6 months when we were asked to deliver a training to a client in Manhattan; that was incredibly exciting. Having grown up in India, opening our first office there comes a very close second.  

SMP: What are the main social channels are you using?

PR: In the main, we focus our social media presence around Twitter
and Facebook. Twitter is where we get most of our news and keep abreast of the latest developments pertinent to the industry. From a curation perspective, Facebook and Twitter enable us to find and share the content that is most relevant to our audience and to deliver a social media service that keeps our followers engaged and interested, and our brand at the forefront of their minds.

Luxury Academy website image

SMP: What sort of activity / engagement are you receiving across the social channels that you use and how do you create / sustain this?

PR: Ensuring/achieving engagement is a constant challenge for all businesses and, in this regard, weíre no different. We like to use Twitter to chat with important and interesting individuals and organisations from the industries pertinent to ourselves and, given the restrictions and the amount we put into it, we receive reasonable engagement in regard to discussion, debate and content being shared. On Facebook, we have enjoyed great success using boosted posts and the advertising platform, and have found that using such methods for selected posts has increased our engagement greatly.

SMP: What is the most challenging part of building upon your brand presence in digital environments?

PR: We are working daily in exotic locations with renowned brands and businesses but, because a key value of Luxury Academy is our discretion, we cannot divulge the details that make our work so interesting and unique in digital environments or indeed any other environment. The challenge is to keep the specifics under wraps whilst also communicating the magic and mystique that makes life in the luxury sector so captivating.

SMP:  Digital and social media touches so many areas of business and communications Ė how do you bring this into your training?

PR: Two key areas of training that Luxury Academy offer centre on etiquette and communication. In the digital age, etiquette is as important as ever. Whereby it once may have stood for prescribed, rigid codes and practices, we now consider etiquette as norms of behaviour that are socially acceptable- be they face to face or digitally. Many customer-facing roles now demand that staff communicate with customers through a variety of means. Our training is about equipping people with the skills to communicate effectively, with grace and confidence, no matter which method they are utilising.

SMP: How is the luxury sector different in the way it uses digital and social media Ė and why?

PR: Luxury has its own language and so too does social media. What works for one isnít always suitable for the other and vice versa, the result being a compromise that is effective and appropriate on both fronts.

SMP: What do you think is going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media, social networks and/or technology for the next 12 to 18-months and why?

PR: The continuing development of live streaming technology and real-time engagement is fascinating. Brands and businesses need to consign the static and the scheduled to the past and to focus on the here and, perhaps more importantly, the now. Like never before users demand an instant response and to be able to see/experience things whilst theyíre still unfolding.

SMP: What are your top predictions for digital / social media for the next 12 to 18-months as it pertains to the luxury sector and why?

PR replies with:

  • The continued development of video, live-streaming and real-time content.
  • The increasing emphasis on ensuring that content is tailored for mobile first and foremost.
  • Social media gaining greater importance as a customer service tool.
  • Fast-emerging/developing platforms increasing the pressure on those long established (look out for Snapchat).
  • Businesses increasing their reliance (and their advertising budget) on Facebook.

SMP: What are your top overall five social media tips and why?

PR replies with:

  • Do not underestimate its importance. Social media is here to stay. Embrace it and never take it lightly.
  • Be consistent. This is your brand and business and social media must be used to communicate what you are all about, using your voice.
  • Be professional. Poor social media can do great damage to a brand or business so be sure to select the right people to run it and ensure everyone is on the same page.
  • Be thorough and accurate as posts do reflect on a brand or business. Do the links work? Is everything spelt correctly? Is the information accurate? Made a mistake? Delete the post and start again.
  • Never be afraid to share content from third parties. Think about what is important to your audience, regardless of its origins, and never fill your feed with an overabundance of links.

SMP: Best way to contact you and Luxury Academy?

PR: +44 20 3603 9085. Email

Luxury Academy website image

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

PR: For breakfast; smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a cup of black coffee.

SMP: Whatís the last good thing that you did for someone?

PR: I removed a spider from my business partners office, sheís deathly afraid of

SMP: If you werenít working at Luxury Academy what would you be doing?

PR: Iíd probably be either a workplace psychologist or a hotel manager.

SMP: When / where did you go on your last holiday and why?

PR: My last holiday was in January, I was training in Malta and took five days off to
enjoy the island.

SMP: Whatís the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

PR: Thatís difficult because I travel so much that it isnít normal for me to be in the office more than one or two days a week. When I am in London though, I donít go into the office until 10am because I hate traffic and rush hour on the tube, so I check emails, reports at home. When I get in, the first thing I normally do is speak to the director of our India offices who updates me on what is going on there.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

PR: Iíd like to be able to travel back and forth through time, firstly because Iíd love to be able to experience what the past was like and secondly Iíd like to be able to go into the future to see whether Iím making the right decisions in the present!

Have you got an interesting story? Get in touch.

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