Caroline Odogwu has been working in Public Relations and communications for nearly 10 years. Following a series of internships and training with Sky News and ITV Granada she started her career off as a broadcast journalist working for popular family entertainment channel OHTV, creating inspirational digital content for young people. There she learnt the art of communications, building relationships and telling people’s stories.
She later went to work as part of the press team for national suicide prevention charity, Samaritans, monitoring the national and local coverage of suicide cases in the media. Following that she ventured out into the charity sector working as the marketing and communications manager for an award- winning youth enterprise charity (Business Launchpad) for five years.
During her time there she successfully co-ordinated a visit with now Prime Minster, Theresa May. Young people from the charity were given an opportunity to sit-down and discuss their various endeavours with the PM.
After a number of years working in the third sector, Caroline has recently turned her hand and is now working in the public sector leading on housing and regeneration communications for Wandsworth Borough Council. She is responsible for promoting the Council’s strong track record of supporting housing delivery to a range of audiences.
Caroline gives back through her social venture ‘She Is You,’ where she mentors young BAME women and connects them to opportunities and resources that will enable them to thrive in their life and career, collaborating with organisations such as RBS.
Describe your background in 5 words max?
British/Nigerian, Londoner, middle-child
How did you get into PR/comms/creative?
My journey into PR and Comms has been quite colourful. I never really set out with the intention of being a communications professional. I graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a 2:1 in Journalism with a passion to become a TV presenter. However, along the way I acquired a really deep interest on all the mechanics that go on behind the scenes of the camera.
After being given an opportunity to work in the press office at Samaritans I started to realise the power of communications and developed a real passion in telling other people’s stories. I witnessed how words and certain agendas could influence and impact media coverage that would be seen by millions of people. I loved this and somehow caught the bug.
What do you love about your job?
Each day I feel challenged to really make a difference in the lives of the people I’m here to serve and I love that. I also love sharing their stories.
I work within a pretty supportive environment and often get some great pointers on good practice from the team at Westco Communications, which aids the work that I do.
What are you most proud of?
One of my proudest achievements to date has to be running the London Marathon in 2015. The opportunity came about whilst I was working for youth charity, Business Launchpad. I’ve always been into physical activity but I remember setting myself a goal when I was in my early twenties to try and complete the marathon before I turned 30, so the opportunity came up and I ran with it (quite literally!)
During my training I never once ran more than 16 miles, so some would say I wasn’t really fit to run the marathon at all, but there was something within me that decided to still go for it.
After I hit mile 20 on marathon day, everything within my body was screaming for me to STOP, but my mind was telling me to just keep going and as I steadily approached the 26th mile, the voice within my head started to get louder and louder to just keep going and it remained like that until I crossed the finish line at just under 6 hours! Whew.
Completing the marathon inadvertently taught me a great life lesson to just KEEP GOING – despite what one might be coming up against, or the obstacles along the way, strength can sometimes be found in the GOING.
This has been something I have had to apply on my career journey, to keep going despite facing redundancy or rejection when going for certain roles.
What’s been the hardest lesson to learn?
That everybody is not necessarily FOR you. I had a bit of a rude awakening in the early part of my career, coming into the sector very blue-eyed and expecting everyone to be in my court. I unfortunately experienced age discrimination, by those who were more experienced and held more senior positions to me, with statements like, “you can’t have that title” or “you can’t do that because you’re too young.” So I experienced a number of setbacks as a result.
However, I learnt some very valuable lessons during that period about knowing your worth and being fully aware of the strengths and skills that you bring to a position or organisation. There’s something about when someone says I can’t do something, that makes me want to prove that actually I can. I found my voice, took the lessons and have been able to successfully build my career and progress forward.
Who are your favourite people in PR and why?
I’ve been following Ronke Lawal for a couple of years now and I have steadily become a quiet fan of hers. I’ve always been a rooter of the underdog and local homegrown talent – she is a woman of colour doing her thing and I admire her voice and the platform she has created. Kudos to her.
What skill do you think every PR/comms/creative has to nail?
The ability to break down and communicate sometimes complex and jargon pieces of information in a concise and digestible way for the everyday person to understand.
What is your favourite social network and why?
It has to be Twitter. Twitter has become my go to place for the most up to date news. The live streams feature and tweet threads are becoming my favourite things. It’s becoming simpler to find communities and start a conversation with people who share the same interests and passions as you. Let’s not get started on the amount of jokes I catch on the timeline too.
Got to take a dose of the banter every now and again – one simple meme does the job.
Who is your favourite journalist and why?
My favourite journalist currently is Christiane Amanpour – she is a highly respected journalist. I love her ability to be able to interview and speak to people from all different walks of life. She is often not afraid to ask some of the most challenging questions but has the ability to do this in a very sensitive and dignified way.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
One piece of advice that stood out to me and is particularly very significant at this point in my career, is simple ‘Be nice.’ Though simple and slightly cringey I have learnt the power that being nice carries, both in work and in day to day life. Situations may arise where it appears as though someone else has the upper-hand, but I have never walked away from such a situation where the display of kindness and simply being nice didn’t prevail.
The world of PR can sometimes feel small, in that people know each other or might have worked with someone that you know, so its key to leave a good impression on people and places on your journey.
Best campaign of 2019 so far?
As an advocate of all things female empowerment, one of my favourite campaigns of 2019 is the Mothercare campaign aimed at challenging unrealistic images of new mothers and their bodies post-child birth. I think we’re living in an era where women are feeling more empowered and encouraged to speak out and share their stories, particularly with the Me to’ movement and rising popularity of International Women’s Day.
The campaign entitled ‘Body Proud Mums,’ featured a series of 10 images, each of a different mother with a story to share. The images depicted the raw and emotional experience of childbirth. To me this is an example of a brave campaign, with a strong message and challenging the stereotypes of what is considered to be ‘real beauty.’
Ads were displayed across tube stations in London championing diversity and motherhood. I absolutely love that.
Finally, on the ‘D’ word…What can the sector to do encourage diversity?
I believe it’s important for people from diverse backgrounds to see people that look like them in positions that they one day aspire to be in. There’s something about being visually represented in the sector, particularly at senior and Director level, because quite frankly there aren’t a lot of us up there.
I would like to see people from BAME backgrounds on interview panels during the recruitment process for middle-management, senior management roles and this be an actual requirement.
I would like to see agencies in the sector be explicit about what they are doing to encourage diversity. If something isn’t right then those of us that work in those organisations need to speak up, let our voices be heard, invite whoever needs to be a part of the conversation and take action.
Props to Monzo who delivered a superb report on diversity inclusion recently.
Connect with Caroline on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Caroline is a mentee on the BME PR Pros/PRWeek Mentoring Scheme. She will be mentored by Billie Dee Gianfrancesco, Head of Public Relations, Vardags.