Ata Rahman loves all things education, engagement and community. He’s digitally driven, with a love of using technology to improve user experience, interactions and engagement and make processes more efficient. However, he doesn’t disregard that sometimes you need to go a bit old school! He’s well versed in raising the profile of small brands and doing communications for charities without a budget! He’s an active volunteer, supporting a local community school as an ESL teacher and their Communications Manager and is also part of the Pride in London press team. In May, he’s combining his love of education, community and engagement by joining an education charity as their Communications Manager.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
LGBT+ South Asian lifelong Londoner
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
By accident. I interviewed for an administrative position and had some magazine writing experience during University which they asked me about. Long story short – I ended up working for the Communications Officer for the business and took on more comms duties until eventually I was offered her position when she left the UK. It’s been a straight comms ride since!
What do you love about your job?
The opportunity to problem solve – lot of my work involves creating and crafting communications for a variety of international audiences or communicating things people don’t always want to hear or engage with. It’s finding the right channel, messaging and voice to make yourself heard, understood and desired. Getting there is a fun mix of scientific and psychological attributes – everything from people’s behaviour to analytics tracking – and I love finding the right balance between the two.
What are you most proud of?
Committing to volunteer to teach English to refugees and migrants at a local community school two evenings a week. I’ve been volunteering at the school for six years and I could never envision leaving – I now do all their Comms as well! There’s something special about the work you can do in the classroom. My favourite moment was getting an email from a student I hadn’t taught for four years telling me I’d helped her get her dream job in horticulture. She’d arrived in the UK from Spain at the age of twenty with no English, two sons – one who was severely disabled – and lost her husband shortly after. On her lonesome, she raised both of them and took herself to school to improve her English and then trained as a horticulturist. To have been a part of her journey was a blessing.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That British society isn’t as progressive as I’d like or expect in 2019. The last few years have been hard for many in the UK and I’ve definitely felt disappointed. Lately, I’m addressing the situation by getting more active in working with minority and marginalised groups, but I’m also taking time to develop my own initiatives to support these groups further. It feels more important than ever now, so I’m using it as a driving force instead of letting it discourage me.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I’ve had the pleasure of attending a wide variety of lectures and speeches from a range of senior people in PR. I’ve taken something away from each one, but hearing Edward Venning, Director of External Relations for University of the Arts London, has stayed with me longer. He mentioned a fondness for ‘big little ideas’ and I really think that is at the core of so much of the work of communications professionals.
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
Words! To quote one of my Master’s professors, “words are our bread and butter”. Without them, our profession would be defunct. We constantly revise the way we use them, but the nuances and perceptions of words are what bore the communications industry and continues to be at the heart of what we do.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Facebook. And yes, I say that as a “millennial”. It is increasingly being overlooked with the rise of Instagram and it’s decline in use amongst youth, but there’s a significantly strong community element that exists within groups that remains untapped by many brands, as well as a swathe of over 35s who still use it as their dominant or solitary platform. I view Facebook as the television of social media – it will stand the test of time, but it will never be the most future forward channel.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Niamh, of Gourmet Grazing. First, she writes about my favourite thing to talk, read and think about in the world – food. Secondly, she’s collaborative and always incorporating everyday people’s opinions into her pieces. Finally, she’s just got a very nice social media presence and is very approachable!
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Allow yourself to feel your emotions, but don’t make immediate judgements, decisions or actions based on them. I wish I’d learnt this a long time ago, but as I take on more things in my spare time and work where I am managing and leading, I think understanding and using emotions is pivotal to being more effective. I continue to explore and learn more about emotional intelligence, but this mantra will stay with me and I integrate it into my work practices, from managing staff to understanding customer behaviour.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
Maybe it’s too obvious a choice, but the Bacon Mac campaign by McDonalds stuck out to me, because it’s an effective use of the tried and trusted campaign technique – putting your customers at the heart of your campaign. In an age where user experience is so essential, it’s a solid reminder to brands that without your customers, you aren’t going to succeed.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
I’m certainly not the first person to say this, but organisations need to put their money where their mouth is. If you want a more diverse workforce, advertise in publications and on websites that target ethnic minorities. Work with organisations like the Taylor Bennett Foundation to hire your interns. Speak to any of your suppliers or partners who are doing better on diversity – ask them what they are doing and see if you can learn from their practices. You can’t afford not to – diversity is the future of the workforce.
Connect with Ata on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Ata is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. He will be mentored by Kristian Hoareau Foged, Senior Insights Analyst, Archetype.