As a director at Harvard, Ben sits on the company’s Senior Leadership Team and runs one of the B2B technology PR divisions, which has more than doubled in size during his four and half years at the company. He leads key accounts, including Dropbox, Tata Communications, and Mirakl, providing senior client counsel, planning, and messaging.
Ben is an authentic and transparent leader, consistently focused on people, their experience, and their development right across the agency. He is also a D&I leader at Harvard, responsible for the culture and engagement pillar of the company D&I people plan. In this role, he drives a consistent feedback loop through a number of initiatives to ensure people have a voice, the company listens, and relevant actions are taken.
Prior to joining Harvard, Ben worked at Weber Shandwick on the Microsoft EMEA account for over three years across regional coordination and campaign development, strategic media, crisis, executive communications and more.
Ben’s passion for technology came from his love of computer games, with a special place in his heart for the Legend of Zelda games series. He loves all things sport and is keen on fitness, though is probably at an age that he’ll have to hang up the 5-a-side boots soon.
Describe yourself/your background in 5 words max?
English-Malaysian-Welsh South Londoner
How did you get into PR/communications?
When I returned home from a few months travelling in my early 20s, my mum told me in no uncertain terms that I had to stop playing computer games and get a job. I fired off my CV to a million places and the first to take me was a small technology PR agency. I had to Google what PR was before the interview!
What do you love about your job?
Two key things for me. First is the variety – every week I’m lucky enough to work across client campaigns and plans, new business pitches, training, D&I initiatives, and so much more. The second is people management – I love helping people see their potential and then realise it.
What are you most proud of?
I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) when I was about 23 and it didn’t just prevent me from playing sport, it felt like the end of a huge part of my identity. I worked my arse off doing the excruciatingly dull rehab diligently with encouragement from friends and family, built up to running a 10k eight and half months after the operation, and got back to playing sport within the year.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
Mistakes aren’t forever and holding onto regret will hold you back.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
Those who can balance the complete bull**** that PR can be and agency life can bring with authenticity for clients and the team. Matt Tubbs and Mark Penman, both former colleagues, did this brilliantly and I still think about some of the laughable situations we found ourselves in and how we handled them!
What skill do you think every PR/comms person has to nail?
How to play nice with others. We’re always having to work with colleagues, clients, stakeholders, media, influencers, the list is endless. You can be a one-person army in terms of your skillset, but if you can’t work with others you’ll still fail.
What is your favourite social network and why?
Instagram. I like pretty pictures and am great at wasting time.
What’s your favourite podcast and why?
Guardian Football Weekly. Great analysis, brilliantly dry sense of humour, and it keeps me sane whether on a run or doing the washing up.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
Barry Glendening from the Guardian. Fantastic sportswriter with strong opinions, endless wit, and an enviable command of language to engage his audience whether writing or talking.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Back yourself. I’m not the most confident person in the world and sometimes a little reassurance can go a very long way. So, back yourself – you may surprise yourself when it comes to how much you can achieve.
Biggest PR campaign fail and yay of 2021 so far?
I couldn’t stand the Heinz Baked Beans and Weetabix breakfast Twitter thread. I find that awkward flirtation between brands to be so contrived to the point of discomfort – I couldn’t believe people were posting about and engaging with it. Awful.
I loved Macmillan’s Whatever it Takes campaign. I’m not sure it’s possible to watch the video and not cry. It’s a stunning piece of content that dances on the audience’s heartstrings as you experience the emotionally charged moments and relationships shared between Macmillan staff and cancer patients.
Finally, on the D’ word… What can the sector do to encourage diversity?
Urgently improve representation at the most senior levels. It seems like there’s a flurry of hiring diverse talent at the junior levels, but the upper echelons of management remain white only. We need a seat at the table, and we need role models.