Bibi is managing director of Golin’s 150-strong award-winning London office. In her four year tenure as MD, Golin has seen significant growth and won consecutive PR Week and PRCA agency of the year awards. Bibi is passionate about making Golin the most progressive employer in our industry. She has set up a returnship programme, introduced and championed flexible working and last year launched “Golin B&B” to help employees with the high cost of living in London, for which she got an invite to No.10. She has been recognised as one of the most influential women in communications by PR Week and included on Management Today’s Part-Time Power List. In January 2018, she was elected President of Women in PR where she leads the organization in its mission to increase the number and diversity of women in leadership roles in our industry.
Describe your background in 5 words max
Cambridge townie to North London luvvie
How did you get into PR and/communications?
When I graduated, I wanted to work in PR having done some work experience in a Paris agency as part of my French degree. I cold called every agency on the PR Week top consumer agency list. I managed to get an interview at the red consultancy with Mike Morgan and despite me showing him my “portfolio” of coverage (cringe), he hired me. I stayed at red for many happy years then moved to Golin where I’ve been for the last 12 years, working my way up to my current role as Golin MD.
What do you love about your job?
I love the autonomy I have to run our London office and to use the influence and resources we have as a big agency to tackle issues myself and the team feel passionately about – whether that’s developing a programme to help our people with the high cost of living in London or tackling the gender pay gap.
What are you most proud of?
Our Golin B&B programme where we pay for accommodation for our interns in an effort to get candidates from more socially, ethnically and geographically diverse backgrounds for whom the high cost of living in London is often a barrier to applying for London internships. I got invited to No.10 to talk about the initiative at a roundtable alongside big enterprises like Starbucks and Deloitte – incredibly proud moment.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
To deal with failure and learn from it. You don’t win every pitch. You don’t get every hire you want. The client doesn’t buy every idea. Sometimes none. When you have 150 people they won’t all like you or agree with you. You have to forge ahead and have conviction in your beliefs. I’m not good at this and find it one of the hardest parts of leadership.
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
Mike Morgan – CEO of the red consultancy – he is a true news man through and through and has no tolerance for PR bullsh*t which is why I love him. I owe him a great deal for giving me my first break.
Nik Govier – founder of Unity – Nik is one of THE most inspiring woman in our industry. She has built an award-winning agency from scratch and has a brain that is not only incredibly creative but also very business minded. A very rare thing. Excited to see what she does next….
Hannah Norris – founder of Nourish and the best restaurant and food PR in London. Hannah has single-handedly built an incredibly successful business and is the most fabulous woman in PR. She is my oldest PR friend and colleague and I still rely on her all the time. Not least when I need a great restaurant recommendation!
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The ability to do a very late night and turn up fresh as a daisy to pitch the next morning and to make conversation with anyone out of anything. My CEO and I also used to have a thing for horizontal document binding. Happy to pass on the knowledge to anyone who wishes.
What is your favourite social network and why?
A face to face meeting with a real person is still the best social networking in this business. J
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Mine are a bit eclectic:
Madison Marriage, Financial Times – she broke the President’s Club story and came and spoke at a Women in PR lunch. Incredibly smart, brave and inspiring woman.
Martin Frizell, executive producer at This Morning and veteran journalist (pls print that as he will hate me for saying ‘veteran’!) – the best TV man in the business, a good friend and former colleague. He gives very good lunch!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Two martinis is not enough, three is too many.” Plagiarised advice from the barman at The Ivy Club and my boss Matt Neale.
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
For ‘yay’, I thought Project 84 by CALM and ITV was very impactful and thought provoking and think Gregg’s has done some great work this year such as the Valentine’s Day café. For ‘nay’, has to be the Lush anti-spy cops campaign, which got totally lost in translation.
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
Ouch cynical. As with everything I’m sure that’s the case in some places. The very fact initiatives to tackle diversity have become core to winning awards does I think show as an industry we are becoming attune to this issue and finally starting to take steps to address it. This awareness will create real change over time. But there are lots of agencies and organisations who are genuinely serious about improving diversity. In our own case, I think improving the diversity of Golin is critical to our commercial and creative success. We can’t do great work if everyone comes from the same background. The number of people from a non-White British background at Golin has increased from 8 to 14% since 2015. Making our team fairly representative of the UK. Our ambition is to be representative of London within the next three years, where the population is about 30% non-White British. This will require significant change to achieve and we know we have a long way to go.
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)?
I’d love to have a coffee. We are actively looking for great talent.
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?
Anything Fleetwood Mac. I know. I know.