UK PR consultant Rhian French’s journey to e-Residency
Rhian French is a public relations specialist serving an incredibly niche market: she generates content, strategy, and campaigns across Europe for mapping agencies and geospatial companies.
Working from her home in Andover, a market town located about 100 km southwest of London, she has developed an extensive roster of clients, including Ordnance Survey, based in the UK, and EuroGeographics, a Brussels-based nonprofit that serves national mapping authorities across Europe. She also works with global geospatial data management specialists 1Spatial, as well as UN-GGIM: Europe, a regional committee of the United Nations Committee of Experts on Global Geospatial Information Management.
According to French, helping her clients share their stories with the wider public came naturally to her, given her own interest in maps and geospatial data, as well as the fast pace of the industry, which has become rapidly digitised in the past few decades.
“It’s been easy to tell stories about because it impacts everybody’s daily lives,” says French. “Even if someone didn’t know how much it impacted them, when mobile phones were widely adopted, geospatial data was right there with them, available from all kinds of applications.”
After working directly for some clients, French eventually decided to strike out on her own, founding a company called Three Trees and a Map in the UK, and carved out a place for herself in the market. She provides strategic PR support, delivering social media campaigns, annual reports, even speech writing for clients,
“I’ve fallen quite naturally into writing about the things I love. When you love something and you have a passion about it, you can really promote it to other people in an authentic way.”
In June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union, a process that was finalised last year, with the country’s official exit. While Brexit has put pressure on many British entrepreneurs to find ways to continue to do business in Europe as European companies, and prompted many to become Estonian e-residents in the process, French was actually aware of Estonia’s e-Residency program prior to the vote, having heard the director general of the Estonian Land Board discuss it at a conference (the program itself was introduced in 2014). French reflects:
“I remember thinking at the time, ‘Wow, that is quite groundbreaking for a small country I am just getting to know. I never would have thought in a million years it would be beneficial to me. But we are where we are in the UK, we have Brexit, and that has been quite a concern for me.”
French applied for and received e-Residency last year. Her new company, called Maps and Legends PR, is officially based on Sepapaja Street in Tallinn. French chose the name to reflect her interest in science fiction, especially classic films like Clash of the Titans (1981) and Planet of the Apes (1968). “I chose the name Maps and Legends because I love maps and I love legends,” says French. “I am a huge sci-fi fan.”
According to French, she was at first sceptical about e-Residency, thinking the program was “all too good to be true,” but was reassured by the fact that the Estonian government was behind it. She also needed a way to continue to provide her services to important clients like EuroGeographics, as well as national mapping agencies associated with the organisation.
Her European clients have wholeheartedly supported her decision to be an Estonian e-resident.
“Clients have been massively positive,” says French. “Don’t forget, this is a very innovative community that likes to embrace new ways of doing things,” she says. “They were quite tickled. I had gone for it and were proud of my having been accepted and being part of the program.”
Because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions, French has not yet been able to visit her new digital homeland in person. However, she is already a member of the Estonian e-Residents International Chamber Association (EERICA), and is eager to take part in the e-Residency community:
“I like the idea of becoming part of a community. I have found e-Residency welcoming, with lots of opportunities.”
And in spite of the restrictions, she was able to stop by the Estonian embassy in London to set up her e-Residency, and relied on Xolo, a Tallinn-based company, to start invoicing customers from her new Estonian firm. “Everything was up and running within a couple of weeks,” says French. “It was a really straightforward process.”
Learn more about how easy it is to join the digital nation of Estonia by becoming an e-resident: