Abbie has extensive experience in the private, public and charitable sectors including at the highest level of government, having worked at Downing Street as both a strategic communications adviser and chief press officer.
Abbie started her career in publishing working for Penguin Books, before moving into the civil service working in a number of Government press offices. After four and a half years in Downing Street, Abbie led the media team at the consumer group Which?, where she gained experience of a broad range of consumer issues.
Abbie Sampson joined Energy UK, the trade association for the energy sector, in January 2017 as Director of External Affairs, leading the press, public affairs, digital and events teams. Abbie is passionate about excellence in communications and believes Energy UK has a strong story to tell about the transformation underway within the energy industry – from the way we generate, distribute and use energy to the increasing competition and choice in the retail market.
Since joining Energy UK Abbie has been a strong advocate for diversity in the energy sector and has overseen the introduction of a ban on all-male panels, the establishment of a new Equality and Diversity Forum and the publication of “Diversity & Inclusion in Energy” which was launched at a roundtable with DWP Minister Alok Sharma to showcase positive initiatives in the industry.
Describe your background in 5 words max
White girl from Kent
How did you get into PR and/communications?
I’ve always loved news and current affairs and started working in comms in busy Government press offices where I loved working on Ricky issues and reputation management, as well as dealing with crisis comms situations like bird flu. I then worked in 10 Downing Street both in the press office and as a strategic comms adviser, before leaving Government to head up comms at the consumer champion Which?. I now oversee the media, public affairs, events and digital teams at Energy UK, which represents the UK energy industry.
What do you love about your job?
The thrill of seeing a well-executed PR strategy never tires – whether that’s waiting for the front pages to drop and seeing your story as the splash (in a good way!) to well-placed outreach through influencers to hit your target audience. Big or small the feeling of satisfaction when you successfully land your message with the right audience is just great.
What are you most proud of?
Being a working mum and striving to be a positive role model to my daughter.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That sometimes it’s ok for things not to be perfect. We can be really tough on ourselves and create unrealistic goals which can create a great deal of pressure. But sometimes you have to accept that circumstances outside your control means that things might not be perfect, and good will be ok. Sometimes you just have to relax about things little – and that’s really hard to do when you take a great deal of pride in your work.
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
I’m guessing I can’t say Elizabeth Bananuka but it’s true – she’s full of energy and positivity, and she makes things happen.
Also Rachel Miller, who founded All Things IC – there’s nothing about internal comms she doesn’t know, plus she’s a fabulous person, founded her own business and has three young children – a superhero in my eyes.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Diplomacy! And the courage and confidence to give the advice you think is right especially when it’s not what the client / your boss wants to hear. Plus the discipline of always aligning the objective, audience and channels.
What is your favourite social network and why?
I love Instagram and have more than one account because I’m obsessed with taking photos. I love photography – it’s how I switch off from the day and unwind.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
To keep my job I’d have to say Emily Gosden, Adam Vaughan and Jillian Ambrose of course 😉
But they’re genuinely all great journalists who sniff out their own top stories.
Outside of work, I have a lot of respect for Byrony Gordon whose openness about mental health will have benefited so many, plus her body positivity is inspiring and a breath of fresh air.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“You can’t” – it just makes me more determined.
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
On the nay, less a specific campaign but I’m still dismayed on a daily basis at the level of gender stereotyping in our advertising, particularly those targeted at young children. It feels like we’re still the 1950s.
For yay – a big yay to Mother Pukka. I love the creativity and messages of her “flex appeal” campaign which promotes the benefits of flexible working. Not only can we enable more women to achieve their potential, but it can benefit all families, employers and the UK economy.
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
I’m sure there is plenty of lip-service being paid on all aspects of diversity in the current climate but as the late, great Emmeline Pankhurst said, deeds not words. Judge people on their actions. There are some good people out there taking action and making great strides forward on diversity as a result. We just need more of them!
What advice would you give a talented BME PR Pro starting to think this sector will never give them the opportunities they deserve and are close to jacking it in to retrain as a doctor (which would make their African parents very happy)?
It’s going to take more than hard work and good luck to get to the top when you’re starting from an unequal position but with fire in your belly and a supportive network and allies, you’re unstoppable. Be the change you want to see.
Finally, on a lighter note… We can’t wait to see you at the BME PR Pros Summer Party. What can the DJ play to get you on the dancefloor?
Groove is in the heart by Deee-lite. Every time!
That and Apache by The Sugarhill Gang. Oh and “Roar” by Katie Perry which me and my daughter dance around like mad things to and sing at the top of our voices.