Annique is an award-winning internal communications (IC) specialist currently managing employee recognition communications for over 20,000 sales and service frontline employees across EE and BT.
Her broad IC experience – gained in the healthcare, financial services and technology sectors – includes campaigns, change comms, leadership comms, content strategy and corporate events management. She holds a BSc in Psychology (UCL), a journalism postgraduate diploma (London School of Journalism) and a CIPR IC postgraduate certificate.
Annique has won several awards for her work, including the Moorfields Eye Charity Award for Innovation, Education and Research (2016) and runner-up for the CIPR Inside’s Future Leader Award (2017).
Her passion for IC led her to set up the IC Book Club in 2016, in collaboration with the CIPR, to support professional development and networking within the IC community. She regularly contributes to online and offline IC publications and has spoken at conferences about the interplay between psychology and IC. Outside of work, Annique can usually be found dancing at a music gig, playing her piano or hanging out on Twitter.
● Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
First-born, Jamaican, North-west Londoner
● How did you get into PR/communications?
It was what I call a ‘purposeful accident’. After university, I ended up doing admin work while trying out different careers for size through unpaid work placements. Journalism was at the top of my career list but with the low entry-level wages and the frequent job cuts, I decided against pursuing it.
However, the universe had other plans. While working in one of my admin roles, I plucked up the courage to submit a review for an employee event to the IC Manager where I worked. The manager loved what I wrote and asked if I could help her out by writing articles for other departments. I said yes, which turned into regular mentoring lunches during which she gave me the skinny on the IC industry and helped me work out how I was going to break in.
Within two months I’d bagged my first communications role, enrolled on an IC Certificate course and set up volunteering opportunities with two of the UK’s largest IC professional associations. And I haven’t looked back since!
● What do you love about your job?
I love the challenge of coming up with communication solutions to solve business problems – it’s why I do what I do. My role at BT is more focused on employee engagement, which is great, as it allows me to apply psychology theory. Also BT heavily invests in its people, so I have access to the budget, technology and training I need to do a great job.
● What are you most proud of?
My growth as a pianist. I had lessons when I was four-years-old for about 18 months before abandoning it to join the Brownies (the joy of youth!). However, following an inspiring conversation with a colleague, I decided to reunite with my first musical love. And so, in December 2018, I restarted my piano lesson with my childhood teacher. It’s been challenging balancing daily practice with a busy life but it’s been worth it. I’ve reconnected with my love for music and tapped into creativity – in and outside of work – that I’d forgotten I had.
● What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
The importance of negotiating your salary and knowing your value. Growing up, I was taught how to manage money effectively, but I don’t remember anyone talking to me about getting the salary you deserve. So when I moved to my first private sector role, I just accepted the salary they offered me and was completely shafted.
Thankfully, I confided in a friend who showed me the ropes. I also started thinking and talking more positively about my career journey, experience and achievements at interviews which helped. It was a hard (and costly) lesson but it taught me a lot and I’m thankful for it.
● Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Steve Prior – his Twitter takes on marketing and employee engagement are right on the money. He gets me thinking about the way I do IC which has definitely helped me grow as a practitioner.
Dania Frink – I love that she approaches communications from a place of love, creativity and curiosity about people. And she’s an amazing artist!
● What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
The ability to read people. We’re in the people business, so if you can work out someone’s motivations, emotions or desires – and use this information effectively and ethically – you can pretty much solve any business challenge.
● What is your favourite social network and why?
Twitter. It’s got everything I want: jokes, news (with additional verification, of course), social campaigning and community. Plus it’s less showy than Instagram, more substantive than Snapchat and more modern than Facebook – all of which I’ve long since abandoned.
● What’s your favourite podcast and why?
The Read by Kid Fury and Crissle. It’s a hilarious weekly review of the African American LGBTQ+ experience in all its ground-breaking, complex and shady glory. Go have a listen – it’ll change your life!
● Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Tobi Oredein, freelance journalist and founder of Black Ballad (BB), an online media publication focusing on the Black British female experience. I admire Tobi’s commitment to creating a safe space for Black British women to tell their stories on their own terms, and calling out media outlets that aren’t inclusive. I also love her openness about her life – the good and the bad – and her ability to uplift through her words. Her weekly editor letters really capture what it’s like to be a Black woman in Britain right now and are a delight to read.
● What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
“Make your own plan before you become part of someone else’s.” My mum instilled this in me from young and it hasn’t failed me yet.
● Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2019?
My 2019 Campaign Fail Award has to go to Chicken Box-gate aka the Home Office’s anti-knife crime campaign where knife crime stories were printed on chicken shop takeaway boxes across the UK. A masterclass on how to stereotype, confuse and alienate your target audience.
Greggs win my 2019 Yay Award with their ingenious vegan sausage roll campaign. It was humorous, timely and showed a strong understanding of their audience and reputation. I’ve a new-found respect for Greggs and even tried the sausage roll despite it not initially appealing to me. A mark of a successful campaign for sure!
● Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I’ve a few ideas:
– Professional membership organisations should speak to members and non-members from underrepresented communities to find out what would help them stay and succeed in the profession
– More employers should prioritise transferrable skills in the same way as they do technical skills and clearly communicate this in the job advert. Not everyone can afford to take an entry-level PR/comms role but their skills gained from other roles may make them a great candidate for more senior positions
– More conference organisers need to reach out to organisations championing diversity (like BME PR Pros) to find speakers and session hosts
– Create more opportunities for people to gain communications experience to see if it’s for them, such as paid apprenticeships or internal job swaps
Annique is one of 18 mentors for the 2020 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 14 February 2020.