Addy Frederick is an award-winning corporate communications professional with over a decade of experience, and is a senior corporate communications manager at Bupa, the international healthcare provider. Addy is responsible for promoting and defending the reputation of Bupa’s health insurance arm, working closely with Bupa’s UK insurance CEO and his management team, providing counsel and effective media strategies for managing reputational risk.
Addy started her career working for financial services trade bodies across internal communications, media relations, and public affairs. She has worked for a range of well-known consumer brands including Barclays and LV=, where she headed up the PR team for its Life and Pensions business.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
Baby-faced Essex National via Nigeria and Grenada
How did you get into PR?
As my first year of university was coming to an end I realised I had no idea what I was going to do with my Classics degree. I panic booked to attend a career’s talk with representatives from the world of Advertising, Marketing and PR as I quite liked the sound of advertising. However the lady who spoke about PR had so much energy and passion for her job that it piqued my interest and made me want to explore it more.
That summer I got my first taste of PR working for an agency at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and I haven’t looked back.
What do you love about your job?
As the eldest of four who loves to write and is curious about the world around her, PR is my perfect job. I still can’t believe I get paid to write, keep abreast of the news, build relationships and give my opinion.
What are you most proud of?
I love a crisis as I think that’s when comms professionals can really demonstrate their worth. It’s also gives you a great opportunity to get the ear of the most senior leaders across a business and work in an agile way.
My proudest moment was leading on the delivery of the external communications strategy for LV=’s Life and Pensions business following the Chancellor’s 2014 Budget, which changed how the pension market operated.
It presented a major challenge to how the business could be run, but we responded creatively. I worked closely with the Executive team and our Public Affairs team to raise awareness off the commercial stance we were taking amongst media, customers, insurance brokers, financial advisers and policy makers. Following our campaign, our brand tracker showed a significant increase in the percentage of stakeholders who considered LV= to be innovative and customer-centric. It also resulted in me being voted most impressive Press Officer in Ipsos Mori’s 2015 and 2014 survey of personal finance journalists.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
How to achieve the right balance between personal and professional life. When you love what you do it’s easy to get caught up and neglect other areas of your life.
Just because someone sends an email at 11pm it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to respond then.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I have been fortunate enough to work some brilliant people throughout my career including my first boss, Sandra Quinn, and the former Head of PR at LV=, Emma Banks. They massively influenced the way I work and the need to always keep a sense of perspective and a sense of humour.
Claire Foster from Direct Line who is just brilliant at her job and is a great role model, always willing to support those coming up behind her. My former mentor, Christina Kelly, and Ronke Lawal and Anouchka Burton who excel in their sectors and whose opinion I value greatly.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
You have to be able to write well, and for a variety of channels and audiences.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Even though it hasn’t innovated in ages, I still love Twitter. I signed up to keep an eye on what journalists were saying, to get a sense of what’s going on and then became a frequent tweeter. I don’t really tweet anymore, but I still love seeing who’s saying what and about whom.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
My favourite journalist is @Sathnam. I always enjoy his pieces and think he’s hilarious on Twitter. I think it’s a crying shame that Pizza Express haven’t yet made him a brand ambassador (if you know, you know…).
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
A good PR reads the papers. It’s one of the first things I was told when I was working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. We didn’t have a cuttings agency so we could only see the coverage we’d secured if we checked the papers. It also meant we could see what may have been covered instead of our client which was important for understanding what resonated with journalists.
The media landscape has evolved considerably since then, but I’m always surprised by how many PRs don’t seem to engage with the media on any platform. If you don’t know what’s going on or being said you can’t understand the risks and opportunities available to you as PR professional.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2018?
Comms is often, incorrectly, seen as a magical eraser that can make corporate problems disappear. KFC’s response to their chicken shortage was a great example of how to face into a difficult situation. They used humour throughout which helped to diffuse a major issue and it kept the public and their people on their side.
It’s been a bad year for Brexiteers who ran a much slicker and more emotive campaign than the Remain camp in the run up to the referendum. Post-referendum, the lack of a clear and consistent narrative about what a good Brexit looks like has left the many different camps looking like sixth formers taking part in a debating society exercise.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Assuming the adage ‘You Can’t Be What You Can’t See’ is true then more should be done to give PRs from diverse range of backgrounds, with disabilities and/ or from the LGBTQI platforms to speak and be seen to attract future talent to the industry.
Addy is one of 18 mentors for the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. Applications for mentees are now open – click here to find out more. The closing date for applications is Friday 15 February 2019.