Ruth started her career as a media buyer with McCann-Erickson and worked in Australia and Hong Kong before returning to the UK. She spent 12 years at Kindred where she was Managing Partner and three years as Deputy MD at Lexis prior to Cirkle.
Ruth has 20+ years consumer and corporate brand reputation experience including leading integrated communications campaigns for clients including Pizza Hut, Burton’s Biscuit Company, Miele, Caffè Nero, Costa Coffee, Harley-Davidson, Open University, The National Lottery and Whitbread.
Describe your background in 5 words max
Home counties, grammar school girl.
How did you get into PR and/communications?
I fell into PR because my dad thought my propensity to ‘chat’ was a shoo-in for a career in public relations. To a degree he was correct. My career began after Uni with a press officer position at a technology analyst firm in the mid-nineties when we were still photocopying and faxing information to the media!
What do you love about your job?
The fact that I can put into practise the mantra I constantly bark at my kids ‘use your words!’. The pen is indeed mightier than the sword and in this industry we can wield great power with the choice of our words.
What are you most proud of?
Demonstrating that you don’t to need to be a complete ball-breaker to get on in this industry.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That you can’t be all things to all people!
Who are your favourite people in PR/communications and why?
Stephen Woodford, CEO of the Advertising Association – who I worked with during my time at Lexis – is one of the genuinely funniest and more gentlemanly men in the industry.
Perveen Akhtar, Senior PR Manager at Dolby. We cut our teeth agency side together and I respect her professionally and adore her personally. She’s always refreshingly, brutally honest.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Understanding of a client’s commercial objectives and how we can support them – it’s all very well creating a fantastic story or activation, but they don’t pay us for coverage.
What is your favourite social network and why?
I’m not sure I’ve got a favoured network. I have a slight love/hate relationship with social media and the proliferation of these channels is a double-edged sword. While social media offers a great way for us to get our stories ‘out there’ it also makes it harder for those messages to stick (nothing new there).
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Laura Kuennsberg – the hardest working hack on the broadcast circuit. She makes me feel tired/in awe in equal measure.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Three strikes and you’re out” when it comes to client relations, courtesy of my first boss Jonathan Simnett.
What’s your ‘yay’ and ‘nay’ campaign of the year so far?
Mastercard’s Goals for Meals immediately springs to mind. I can’t actually believe it made it through legal, marketing, corporate comms etc?! And hats off to KFC/Freud for their response to the chicken ‘crisis’. A bit obvious, but it was a masterclass in issues management.
“PR agencies only talk about diversity to win big awards and look good. But it’s just tokenistic”. Discuss.
My belief is that this is not just about social justice (or award entries), but about smart businesses harnessing talent. I’m hugely aware and concerned about the ‘eco-chamber’ we have created in this industry where we unconsciously treat everyone as white, southern and middle class. We all know that there’s not enough diversity to deliver true diversity of thought within the UK’s PR industry and it’s just not good enough to say the candidates aren’t there. We just need to make it a priority. I also know that Cirkle, just like the majority of comms agencies out there, has a long way to go before our team truly reflect audiences, but we have a plan and I know we’ll get there.
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)?
Come and work at Cirkle!!
Finally, on a lighter note… Gutted to hear you can’t make the BME PR Pros Summer Party…. Out of curiosity, what tune would have had you hitting the dancefloor?
It’s less the tune, and more the tipple.