Clara Vuille-dit-Bille, Junior Consultant, und Emanuel Schmid, Junior Consultant
How do chemistry and communication go together? We wanted to know this and more, so we put three questions to Dr. Marcel Trachsel, founder and partner at int/ext Communications. The Bernese has successfully managed the PR agency int/ext in Basel for 27 years and to this day has no regrets about choosing an interdisciplinary generalist path.
As a chemist with a doctorate, how did you come to found a communications agency?
Even during my studies at the University of Bern, I worked as a freelance journalist and realized that I also liked the view of the whole - the generalist perspective. This was in contrast to studying chemistry: as a researcher, you specialize in a narrow subfield and delve into it. After my postdoc in Toronto, I had to make a decision: I was offered the opportunity to stay in research by the University of Toronto, and at the same time, the then Sandoz offered me a job in corporate communications. At this fork in the road, I chose communications and thus the interdisciplinary generalist path, which I have not regretted to this day. The decision to start my own company followed a few years later and opened the door to a wide range of assignments from various business areas. However, I took a lot with me from my science studies - including analytical thinking and a deeper understanding of how to communicate technical topics to a lay audience.
"Being able to provide advice and support to my customers, my partners and my employees still fulfills me every day."
What were the biggest challenges and lessons learned in starting a business?
Starting a business initially means working a lot without much income. Having an environment that supports you and pulls you along is an important basic requirement. You also need a certain amount of confidence, because you are confronted with great uncertainties in the start-up phase. The fact that I was already able to start with certain orders helped me, of course. But having a plan B is certainly not wrong. Then it's a matter of enjoying the small advances and not expecting giant leaps right away - otherwise you're usually disappointed. In addition, you have to know your competencies and focus on them. It is therefore not reprehensible to seek help from external specialists if your own expertise is not sufficient. In general, however, the right mindset is crucial: Being an entrepreneur is a matter of the heart for me. The joy of my work and a certain basic trust that everything will turn out well have always encouraged me and still do after 27 years. Being there for my customers, my partners and my employees with advice and support still fulfills me every day.
Now the company is already 27 years old. How has the professional field of communications changed over these years?
The entire environment has changed enormously over the years. When I founded int/ext, the Internet and mobile telephony were in their infancy, smartphones and tablets did not exist, nor did social media or chat functions. Over the years, the number and availability of communication channels has increased dramatically. As a result, our work has become more rapid and hectic. But also more interesting, because there are correspondingly more opportunities in analysis, monitoring and the placement of core messages. For me, however, the focus is still on determining your goals, your target groups and your communications strategy, as well as defining your messages, i.e. the content. The choice of channels is then based on this. Not much has changed in that respect.