Anouchka Burton is an accomplished Consultant who specialises in strengthening businesses and organisations by improving their strategic communications, influence and reach across audiences.
She built her career by working for several high profile global agencies including Hill + Knowlton Strategies, 3 Monkeys Zeno, Teamspirit and Four Communications, where she developed intelligent, research-driven communications campaigns. Her work has a heavy emphasis on supporting business transformation, corporate messaging, employee engagement, diversity and inclusion.
Anouchka started her media career writing about fashion for the student newspaper at the University of Manchester. Quickly realising it is best to ‘write what you know’, she beat heavy competition to gain an entry level job – literally, data entry – at Metro, where she worked her way up into a senior editorial role in the Arts team.
Returning to London, Anouchka joined Financial Times Group as reporter and web editor, before leaving her role as a journalist to move into PR. Despite the well-documented tensions between the two industries, she strongly believes that high standards in the media can only be maintained by journalists and PRs working together.
Passionate about the power of education to transform lives, Anouchka is a qualified TEFL teacher and keen volunteer for organisations – such as Refugee Support Network and Action Tutoring – that aim to effect positive social change, particularly among young people. She is also a volunteer communications consultant for the Black Cultural Archives and her mates’ micro-businesses.
Describe your background in 5 words?
Londoner. Citizen of the World.
How did you get into PR?
In the early 1990s I, like many, was glued to the news watching Moira Stewart and Kate Adie as they showed me that women could be real, proper journalists. Representation is so important! Fast forward a decade and I secured my first job in journalism, an entry-level role for Metro, by answering an ad in the newspaper and hand-delivering my application to my eventual boss. After several years in Manchester and London I realised just how influential PR is shaping a media narrative so I made the switch.
What do you love about your job?
I love working closely with individuals and organisations to help them articulate their reasons for existing, and communicate their passions to a range of different audiences. It’s like working as a counsellor, coach and translator all rolled into one.
What are you most proud of?
I’ve helped avert major crises, launch global campaigns and supported small businesses with equal satisfaction. That being said, many of my proudest moments have come about in my role as a senior leader, helping team members gain confidence, develop new skills, and get promoted.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Sometimes people just won’t listen to your expert advice! It’s not personal.
Who are your favourite people in PR?
Can I have a fictional one? I’ve always enjoyed Samantha Jones from Sex and the City – she’s at the top of her game and seems to have her work/life balance just about right.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the sector?
It’s always a challenge explaining exactly what I do for a living, and defending the industry against accusations of “spin” or outright lying. The communications function is an absolutely essential part of any business and we should be bolder about demanding our seat at the (Board) table.
What skill do you think every PR has to nail?
Emotional intelligence. So much of our work relies upon interpersonal relationships but these must be built upon true authenticity.
What is your favourite social network and why?
I’ve fallen back in love with Twitter recently, mainly because it’s still a good source for news, if you follow the right people.
Who is your favourite tweeter and why?
There are some very good online magazines founded by women of colour, such as @WearYourVoice and @galdemzine
Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“It’s only a bloody job.” At the time I was giving everything I had to climb that ladder, pausing only to smash yet another glass ceiling. It took years for me to understand what this person was trying to tell me: protect your emotional and mental wellbeing above all else. Work/life balance should always be weighted in favour of life.
Biggest PR fail and yay of 2017? (i.e. best and worst)
A number of big brands have proved that they need more diverse creative teams this year, let’s say. I’m enjoying the WE ARE ONE campaign for the Black Cultural Archives because it is aiming to secure a tangible recognition of Black heritage and culture in Britain.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Start early, in our education system. BME kids and working-class kids need to be given support and encouragement into our industry through targeted opportunities that help them take that first step and stay there. Paid internships, formal mentoring schemes, access through work experience rather than university and one-to-one training would be a great start.
Anouchka is one of 15 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 16 February 2018.