In 2018 Jo-ann was promoted to CEO of Ketchum in London. She is responsible for driving growth and innovation, and has challenged everyone to be a force for good every single day. Her client responsibilities currently cover Mastercard, P&G, Whirlpool, Discovery and Kempinski. In addition, Jo-ann identifies and supports teams on some of Ketchum’s most exciting and creative pitches. Passionate about relationships, she enjoys nothing more than seeing great talent thrive at Ketchum. Formerly Managing Director of the Corporate & Public Affairs Team at Weber Shandwick, Jo-ann has a background in journalism and politics. She lives in North London with her husband and gorgeous baby boy, Keir. She enjoys nothing more than a good afternoon of shopping followed by a glass of red wine, and sometimes a good dose of Karaoke!
Describe your background in 5 words max
Scottish, working class, Jewish, twirler.
How did you get into PR and/communications?
I was the first in my family to go to University and I studied politics. Ever the people person I got involved in the student union. I was social convenor, education convenor, and also had a paid sabbatical year as president of the union. Everything I learned in that time pointed me to a career in public affairs and communications.
What do you love about your job?
The people! I get my energy and inspiration from the people around me. Working in an agency, and with difference clients, I get to experience a wide variety of personalities. I make it my mission to find something I like about everyone. I’m mostly successful.
What are you most proud of?
Becoming CEO of one of the UK’s largest agencies at 37 having come from a working class background.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
I’m still coming to terms with the fact that I can’t control everything.
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
I absolutely love Sarah Hall. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks, and she has a strong vision for the future of our industry bodies. She is also a lot of fun!
I also have a huge amount of respect, admiration, and love for the man I will always call ‘boss’, Colin Byrne. He was one of the biggest personalities in the business and a real champion of diversity. He will be missed day-to-day, but I am sure we will still feel his influence from afar. He gave me my first few big breaks and has never stopped believing in me. I can’t wait to read his first book!
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Writing! It is often forgotten, but so incredibly important. Good grammar, a flexible tone, and a flair to pull people in will help you really stand out.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram stories. I get so much joy from the variety of stories I see from major celebs, to my favourite publications, to my best mates getting creative and having a laugh.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Dan Hodges. His ability to cause a fight in an empty house is a sight to behold.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don’t lose who you are, but be flexible enough to adapt your style to different people and different situations.
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
I loved the honesty and simplicity of FCK, I hated how patronising Johnny Walker was with their ‘Jane Walker’ on International Women’s Day.
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
I think this is unfair. Most of the PR agency leaders I know genuinely want a more diverse community. They understand that diversity drives creativity and creativity drives growth. The challenge is that succeeding in diversity is hard, and so it is too easy to give up and/or not make progress as quickly as we should. Now is the time to move from words to action, and to persevere when the going gets tough.
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)?
This is your time. The industry needs you, more than you need PR. So be bold, be demanding, and help agency leaders like me to deliver on the ambition I have to create an even more diverse workforce where you can stand out, not fit in, and where you truly feel you belong.
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?
I think we’re alone now, Tiffany